Conflicted...the Summit is Behind Us...

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The weeks following a Summit are always kind of sad. The euphoria of the event is over...the anticipation of seeing colleagues and friends behind us. But the things we take away from the event--the new peer relationships, the insightful things we learn--carry on for years to come. I attended some incredible sessions on topics I knew little about previously. One such session was with Ernst & Young (EY) and Caterpillar on Conflict Minerals. In the sourcing world, the term has become fairly well known, but for those unfamiliar, conflict minerals are minerals--namely tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold (aka columbite-tantalite, cassiterite, wolframite and gold)--that, much like "blood diamonds," are mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, most namely in the Congo and adjoining countries. To me this was still a little ethereal until I dug a little deeper and learned that the "miners" are often hired by gunpoint or physically forced to do this work to protect themselves or their families. The work conditions are horrific and in themselves may result in death to the miners. In fact, more people have died in Congo Civil Conflict than in the U.S. Revolution, Vietnam War and Korean War COMBINED. Without more transparency in the supply chain, consumers don't have any way of knowing if their purchases, primarily in industries like electronics, aerospace, industrial products, automotive and jewelry, are funding armed groups that are widely known to commit human violations and mass atrocities unfathomable to most people. To address this, Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was written that requires companies to identify where the minerals used in their products originated from. The Dodd-Frank Act has successfully reduced the amount of revenue militias are receiving by around 65% by dissuading companies from engaging in trade that supports regional conflicts. According to an EY paper on Conflict Minerals, it is estimated that the cost of compliance will be between US $3-4 billion with annual costs thereafter of US $200-$600 million. The data management associated with compliance is likely to be a nightmare at best, and according to our presenters at the Summit, those who master it first will have a decided advantage. My key takeaway? We have a lot we still need to learn...and there are companies who just don't know how to get started. I highly recommend the EY paper that helps companies figure out where to begin and how to be in compliance. If you're interested, I found a few other articles on Conflict Minerals to be helpful and straightforward, including this one and this one specifically discussing conflict minerals in electronics. That session was just one of MANY that are worth writing about. If you attended one and would like to share your learnings with other delegates by way of our blog, please let me know! We couldn't be in every room and would love guest bloggers willing to share what they learned. What we do know is that the knowledge sharing was incredible. In fact, we heard from delegates that this was "the best Summit ever" and the ratings show it. It’s hard for me to judge because: (a) I'm biased; and (b) I find something I love about each and every one. The comments we have gotten certainly support the idea that this event was world class. One of my favorites came from Karen Coker, Director of Corporate Procurement for the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation who said, "Where do I start? Let's put it this way...I felt like I was in first class on a transatlantic flight." Thank you Karen! We love comments like that and believe our members deserve to feel celebrated at every one of our events! Join us in Nashville for our next Summit where you can continue to feel the love!

Sarah Holliman, Vice President of Marketing, SIG