Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Apple Improves Conflict Mineral Accounting

Smartphones are made of metal. Every smartphone contains about 40 different minerals, including tantalum, tungsten, copper, iron, nickel, aluminum, tin, silver, chromium, gold and palladium. Each performs a different role. Some of those minerals may come from mines or smelters and refineries associated with conflicts in unstable parts of the world; in that case, those so-called conflict minerals violate U.S law.
Conflict mineral compliance can be a cloudy affair

Apple hasn't been at the forefront of conflict mineral tracking for ethical or legal compliance, but their 2015 Supplier Report indicates the company is making progress.

"All tantalum smelters known to be in our supply chain remained verified as conflict-free throughout 2014," says the company in its recent report. Note the qualifying phrase, known to be in our supply chain; that phrase highlights both the central snag in supply chain material disclosure and one of the more popular loopholes. (It's what you don't know that can't hurt you. In theory.)

In early 2014, Apple says it introduced a deadline to smelters: be verified conflict-free or in the process by the end of 2014. If the deadline were missed Apple threatened to remove them from the supply chain.

Apple reports it more than doubled the number of verified conflict-free smelters to 135 in 2014, and another 64 are in the process of verification by the Conflict-Free Smelter Program (CFSP) or an equivalent independent third-party audit program.

According to Apple's 2015 report, four smelters were unwilling or unable to commit to be audited by a third party. Apple says it put those smelters "on notice" that they will be removed from the Apple tree.

It would be interesting to see a list of those four smelters.

It turns out, you can. Starting in 2011, and not a moment too soon, Apple began encouraging its supply chain smelters to comply with the CFSP (or an equivalent independent third-party audit program). To drive accountability and help stakeholders track progress, the company publishes a quarterly list of the names, countries — and CFSP participation status of the smelter and refiners in the supply chain.

The following smelters and refiners are suppliers to Apple that Apple has listed as "Not Participating" in third party audits despite pressure to do so from Apple. It looks like more than just the four they mentioned.

Apple Smelters / Refiners Not Participating in 3rd Party Audits

Name, Country, Metal
Bauer Walser AG, Germany, Gold
Caridad, Mexico, Gold
Chugai Mining Co., Ltd., Japan, Gold
Daye Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Ltd., China, Gold
Do Sung Corporation, Republic of Korea, Gold
Doduco GmbH, Germany, Gold
Gansu Seemine Material High-Tech Co. Ltd., China, Gold
Guangdong Jinding Gold Ltd., China, Gold
Hangzhou Fuchunjiang Smelting Co., Ltd., China, Gold
Hunan Chenzhou Mining Group Co., Ltd., China, Gold
Hwasung CJ Co. Ltd., Republic of Korea, Gold
Korea Metal Co. Ltd., Republic of Korea, Gold
Lingbao Gold Co., Ltd., China, Gold
Lingbao Jinyuan Tonghui Refnery Co. Ltd., China, Gold
Luoyang Zijin Yinhui Metal Smelting Co. Ltd., China, Gold
Penglai Penggang Gold Industry Co. Ltd., China, Gold
Samwon Metals Corp., Republic of Korea, Gold
Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group Holdings Co., Ltd., China, Gold
Torecom, Republic of Korea, Gold
Yunnan Copper Industry Co. Ltd., China, Gold
CNMC (Guangxi) PGMA Co. Ltd. China Tin
Gejiu Kai Meng Industry and Trade LLC, China, Tin
Gejiu Zi-Li, China, Tin
Huichang Jinshunda Tin Co. Ltd,. China, Tin
PT Seirama Tin investment, Indonesia, Tin
Jiangxi Minmetals Gao’an Non-ferrous Metals Co., Ltd., China, Tungsten

From the Apple Quarterly Smelter List, February 2015, in the Apple Supplier Responsibility synopsis. For more information about Apple’s Supplier Responsibility Program, visit www.apple.com/supplier-responsibility.

In closing, conflict mineral compliance is not the easiest thing to achieve. But it can be done. And Apple can do it. It might not be the most desirable compliance activity in terms of logistics. But others have done it, and Apple, with cash reserves now topping $178 billion, is not without resources.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bee Bop BPA

Bisphenol A (BPA) is being considered by California again for possible listing on Proposition 65. Last time it was listed was for "developmental" toxicological endpoints. BPA was removed from the Prop 65 list after a lawsuit fought by the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

"We do not believe there is a scientific basis for including BPA on the Proposition 65 list and we look forward to our case being heard on the merits sometime this summer,” said Steven G. Hentges, Ph.D., of the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group.

This time the listing is based on female reproductive toxicity.

The Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee (DARTIC) has its next meeting on May 7, 2015. DARTIC is essentially California's "experts" for determining whether a chemical has been clearly shown through scientifically / generally accepted principles to cause reproductive toxicity.

At that meeting in May, stakeholders will consider whether BPA has been clearly shown to cause female reproductive toxicity.

The URL for the webcast (not active until the day and time of the meeting) is here, if interested. If the DARTIC does not complete its deliberations on May 7, 2015 the meeting will be continued on May 21, 2015 at the same location. The agenda for the May 7 meeting will be provided in a future public notice published in advance of the meeting.

Here's the US EPA BPA findings.
More info here.

Friday, February 20, 2015

West Coast Ports Remain Stalled

[UPDATED] Tuesday February 24, 2014 -- West Coast ports began operating at full capacity on Monday. Dock workers and port owners reached tentative contract late Friday night. It figures, right after I blog about affects of closed ports, they open right up again! #MurphysLaw  Anyway, what we've written below still stands in terms of consumer implications.


West Coast dockworkers and their employers had not yet reached a labor deal yet today, Friday February 20.

James McKenna, the president of the Pacific Maritime Association, told Bloomberg recently that delays at many of the ports are leading to a "coast-wide meltdown." It is a serious situation, as anyone can see. It may affect the consumer sooner rather than later.

Take the auto industry. Global car companies rely on shipped inventory rather than having warehoused stock and parts.

Honda said it will slow production beginning Monday at plants in Ohio, Indiana and Canada because of shortages of "several critical parts," including "electronics, and some larger assemblies such as transmissions" that arrive via West Coast ports, reported in Auto News.

Even if automakers airlift parts to factories to bypass ports, it's a more expensive process. All this means higher prices for consumers.

Hopefully this won't require a tax-payer bailout....

We'll keep an eye on it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Living in a Material World: Lists and Compliance

It's a challenge for companies today to keep up with rapidly changing expectations on chemical use and chemical management in products, in processes, in facilities and in a supply chain.

Retailers and manufacturers in a supply chain face increasing scrutiny over material use. Whether it's ongoing compliance related to international laws and regulations such as Europe's REACH regulation, or new expectations around disclosure of conflict minerals, companies must have robust and effective tools in place to keep them out of trouble.

We live in a material world

In addition to staying on top of existing and emerging regulations, companies must also continuously evaluate and respond to their customers' demands for disclosure about green chemistry, materials stewardship, and chemicals management.

Over the last year, major retailers such as Walmart have started identifying chemicals for suppliers to eliminate. Similar lists are expected to pop up everywhere.

Managing these lists — not just the regulatory, not just the industry-specific but also the company-specific a la Walmart — by hand is one way. At a certain point it becomes desirable to automate not just tracking substances in a supply chain but tracking the restricted lists as well!

Supplier data management software should contain at a minimum these features:
  1. Data collection from and about suppliers
  2. All data is inter-connected but accessible by permission only
  3. Product stewardship and risk assessment dashboard tools
  4. REACH, RoHS, WEEE (and more) compliance assurance
  5. Compliance with hundreds of regulatory lists
  6. Disclosure management down to the substance level
  7. Ability to set threshold quantities for substance analysis
  8. Document management / central relational database
  9. Reporting capability, customizeable
  10. Conflict mineral tracking and reporting functionality
  11. Ingredient data management for compliance
  12. Mechanisms for bill of materials (BOM) for analysis down to the substance level to pinpoint regulatory issues
  13. Bill of materials (BOM) scrubbing and data consolidation
  14. Automatic upload, parsing and analysis of the latest EICC GeSI supplier template
  15. Ease-of-use for increased supplier usage and faster response times
  16. Audit trail of requests and responses including supplier material declaration sign-off
  17. Supplier dashboard / performance at-a-glance
  18. Visibility into substances in the supply chain
  19. Suppliers kept hidden from one another
  20. Technology updates are fairly easy
  21. No demanding consultant fees -- mind the racket ;)
Look at Actio Software for Material Disclosure, their new website has good downloadable assets that are useful for gathering requirements for software decisions.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sears Leads Companies Improving Cotton Sourcing

World Bank has decided not to investigate a link between their loans and government-organized forced labor in Uzbekistan. The choice not to investigate is "alarming," the Cotton Campaign said yesterday.

The World Bank Inspection Panel has another view. They decided that World Bank management and the Uzbek government are doing enough to address the problem, particularly since the government promised to respect labor standards in its loan agreements. The Bank has committed to suspend any loans if it finds child or forced labor in project areas.
Global cotton sourcing:
the price is right?

Meanwhile, another party says many companies are improving on actions to remove cotton sourced with forced labor from supply chains.

This bright note is from the Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN) in a new report.

Not for cotton

For decades, the Government of Uzbekistan has been forcing its citizens to work in the cotton harvest each year – cotton that eventually ends up in global supply chains for consumer goods.

Early last year, RSN published a report which surveyed 49 home goods and apparel companies. RSN compiled a report on what those companies were or were not doing to ensure Uzbek cotton picked with forced labor was absent from their products.

This was a sort of forced supply chain material disclosure. Which is not everyone's favorite, but it often does make a point.

With new actions taken and additional information provided, RSN has published an updated 2015 Cotton Sourcing Snapshot: 2015 Addendum. The document offers a fresh look at the companies that previously scored the lowest. The report profiles improved scores, trends, and best practices. (You can download the report here or visit www.sourcingnetwork.org/cotton-sourcing-snapshot if interested.)

Sears leads

Companies showing large improvements in their scores include Sears, which increased its original score more than ten-fold; Kering's score increased seven times; and Hanesbrand's score increased 5.5 times. However, some companies retained scores that lag behind the industry, including All Saints and Urban Outfitters with scores of zero.

Transparency is increasingly important to consumers and investors, says the Harvard Business Review,and just about everyone else. This is especially so when transparency has to do with an egregious practice such as forced labor or money from labor going to fund egregious human rights transgressions.

RSN's Cotton Pledge asks companies to ensure that child and adult forced labor is not embedded in their products. The pledge has been signed by 165 brands and companies. Sears is a recent signatory to the Cotton Pledge; Sears also showed the most improvement in the updated survey scores. To some, this highlights the fact that outreach and consumer pressure can have an impact on company behavior.

For manufacturers of consumer goods where cotton is a part, this is an important topic. Consumers are taking increased interest in sourcing practices. So manufacturing would be wise to take the cotton out of your supply chain ears (couldn't resist, sorry) and listen to the sound of the future.

In every sector, supply chain transparency is coming on fast.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cisco Says Goodbye to Traffic Jams

Mobile applications and devices now allow cities and people to interact. For example, a smartphone can already alert you when there's an accident ahead and advise an alternate route. Imagine if it could find a parking spot, too (it can, actually). Zooming out, imagine if a gadget could eliminate a large number of traffic snarls.

An integrated system where this functionality is reliable and expected is the crux of a smart city.

Tomorrow's cities are here today
Smart cities attract businesses and visitors. The attraction is because it's easier to get around, to do business in such an environment. It's easier to shop. It's easier to find your way to the game, to the opera, to the warehouse.

How do cities get smart? By investing in tech infrastructure. There's no way around that. "Expand, enhance and transform," says one smart city evangelical video. In other words, find some budget for this. Big budget.

Costs depend on what's in place already and what the goals and timeline are. Keep in mind that sometimes it's better to have very little in place in terms of infrastructure. Creating a new smart system from scratch can be a simpler implementation than tethering advanced protocols onto old.

Of note:  there's a conference and expo dedicated to smart cities, slated for November in Montreal. It's a global affair, not always held in North America, so Montreal is relatively close for a lot of us. (Maybe see you there, as this is getting very interesting indeed.)

What's so smart?

Simply put, a smart city employs digital technologies to enhance performance and well-being of citizens; using apps and wireless and networks to engage more effectively and actively with visitors and residents alike.

The Internet of Everything (IoE) is behind the revolution. Connected parking, lighting, and transit is what makes cities smarter. CiscoSiemens and Schneider Electric are on the leading edge.

To start, Cisco, the tech giant behind digital connectivity and networks, wants to make real world traffic jams a thing of the past. Clearing traffic jams may be the cornerstone of a smart city. Here's why.

It turns out that over 25% of traffic congestion is "non-recurrent," according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). This means 25% of all traffic congestion is incident related — an accident, a weather event, perhaps delivery trucks un/loading or a throng of people arriving at the same time for the same event. Really, just try to get something delivered in Boston just before or after a Red Sox game. It's easy to appreciate how solving congestion could elevate an urban experience.

How the Internet of Everything (IoE) is awesome

From a logistics point of view, the interesting thing about eliminating traffic jams is that it would mean faster goods transport, more reliable shipment and arrival times. Seems simple from an overview.

But how does it work? Optimal traffic management comes together in four areas, as follows:
  1. Traffic Monitoring: View color-coded, live traffic conditions on a map, including overlays of camera feeds. Prioritize camera feeds based on high-incident areas. Make it easier for citizens to report traffic hazards and incidents.
  2. Incident Detection and Management: Use video feeds and analytics to verify and detect traffic incidents, traffic flows, and violations. Create incident records and collect all data regarding the incident lifecycles.
  3. Administration: Easily configure and manage sensors, video infrastructure, and policy rules.
  4. Analytics: Report traffic incident distribution over time, day, and location to aid planning. Identify areas with recurring traffic and flow issues.
You can download a brochure for more information on the guts of this, credit to Cisco, who have quite a lot of great information and references on their website.

Awesome security concerns

The security aspect of an Internet of Everything is not lost on anyone. How risky is it? Very.

Consider this piece by John Chambers, published January 21st, addressing the Internet of Everything and security. In the article, Chambers says that developing and implementing the Internet of Everything represents a $19 trillion global opportunity. And that there are risks.

In a startling statement he says that there are two kinds of businesses in this world: ones that have been hacked and ones that don't know they've been hacked. This has obvious parallels for smart city technology users. Any network you connect with is a relationship to be assessed, whether it's a .gov or otherwise.

We put our faith in companies that build smart city infrastructure, assuming that security measures will protect us. The question is, how much risk are we willing to assume to get our goods delivered faster?

The answer is: we want our goods delivered faster, full stop.

And that — in so many ways — is the bottom line.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Breast Cancer and Endocrine Disruptors

There's some buzzing about worker exposure to endocrine disruption and how it might contribute to the onset of certain breast cancers. The American Public Health Association (APHA) is a fairly momentus organization, with some 30,000 members throughout the world, The association has issued a new appeal for recognition of the occupational nature of some breast cancers.

In the view of APHA, research on the occupational and environmental causes of breast cancer must become a priority.
Until recently, women's occupational health hazards continued to be mostly invisible, studied inadequately and infrequently despite women's long-time participation in the workforce. This lack of gender perspective comes at a price: working women's health.
Bernard Fontaine, Jr., CIH, CSP, AIHA Fellow of the Windsor Consulting Group posted a summary saying that industries using endocrine disruptors chemicals are accordingly encouraged to evaluate their workplace and supply chain for potential occupational health risks. This includes raw materials, operations/process, waste discharge, and consumer use to protect workers, public, and the environment.

(Many companies are doing this already, for a variety of reasons. Supply chain traceability is king in 2015.)

Product substitution is encouraged wherever possible. Otherwise, administrative controls and the use of properly selected personal protective equipment and respirators can be used to mitigate potential risk. Biological monitoring and medical surveillance ought to be considered for high risk workers.

It's true that all stakeholders can be trained and educated relative the hazards and controls of endocrine disruptors. This an opportunity for all industries manufacturing and using these chemicals to do "the right thing" and hopefully, reduce the risk of breast cancer and other forms of cancer.