Fairphone wants to increase global supply of responsible gold
Last Monday, members of the Fairphone team were in The Hague for the signing of a gold covenant, which aims to increase the supply of responsibly sourced gold. We were one of the signatories celebrating the kickoff of this initiative spearheaded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and co-signed by a variety of parties with an interest in the gold sector, including HIVOS/Stop Child Labour, Philips, Closing the Loop, and the Dutch Gold and Silver Federation (FGZ), as well as many other parties like trade unions, importers and recyclers.
The signing of this gold covenant signifies a pledge to an agreement, which you can read in full here: “Agreement on International Responsible Business Conduct of Companies in the Netherlands with Gold or Gold Bearing Materials in their Value Chains (in Dutch and English).”
Gold everywhere! But not the real thing. A kilo bar like this one would cost more than €35,000, a bit too costly as event decoration.
The agreement represents a commitment to improving every step of the gold supply chain, from mining to recycling, with a focus on human rights and the environment. We see the gold covenant as a great step to raising awareness of more responsibly sourced gold, and an invitation to other companies to pledge their commitment and sign the covenant.
Monique Lempers, Fairphone Commercial and Value Chain Director, signs the gold covenant, formally called the “Agreement on International Responsible Business Conduct of Companies in the Netherlands with Gold or Gold Bearing Materials in their Value Chains.”
Why focus on gold?
As you may remember from our Smartphone Material Profiles Report, gold is used in a number of sectors with jewelry being the largest user, along with investments, central banks and the electronics industry. Yes, there is gold in your smartphone!
So why exactly the focus on gold? Gold mining has a wide range of social and environmental problems, from dangerous working conditions and child labor to pollution and toxic waste. These issues can be especially pronounced in artisanal and small-scale mines (ASM), which often lack the oversight and regulations of larger-scale mining operations. In addition, the gold trade has also been associated with financing armed conflict in certain parts of the world.
The gold covenant is a progressive step towards raising awareness and addressing the issues within the gold supply chain in the Netherlands and beyond. In line with Fairphone’s approach to drive change in the electronics industry, the covenant focuses on increasing transparency throughout the gold value chain, implementing OECD due diligence guidelines and creating positive impact on the ground.
Value Chain Program Manager Laura Gerritsen talking with Peter D’Angremond, CEO of Max Havelaar, the Dutch Fairtrade organization.
Putting the gold covenant into practice – tackling child labor
To put the high-level goals of the covenant into concrete action, Fairphone has created a special partnership with other parties that signed the gold covenant.Together with Philips, HIVOS/SCL, UNICEF, Solidaridad and Fairtrade International, we have agreed to collaboratively develop activities to improve working conditions in artisanal and small-scale mines, and to set up a more responsible gold supply chain.
The partners will work with an existing mine in Uganda, with a specific focus on eliminating child labor. The resulting gold from this mine will be integrated into Fairphone and Philips’ supply chains to create an economic incentive and ensure a sustainable market for more responsibly mined gold.
The partnership is already underway and activities in Uganda will commence in the coming months. While this partnership was initially created with the electronics sector in mind, the overall goal is to provide a clear example of what can be achieved by aligning with the principles in the gold covenant. The partners intend to evaluate and share the final results so that this initiative can be replicated in other industries and supply chains and industries.
Fairphone’s Commercial and Value Chain Director Monique Lempers shakes hands with the Dutch Minister of Trade and Development Lilianne Ploumen to seal the deal.
What’s next after signing the gold covenant?
The signing of the gold covenant is only the beginning. We want to applaud all the organizations that have already signed and invite all interested organizations who share our values to sign the covenant. Also, if you want to become a partner in our Uganda gold pilot program, or want to integrate fair gold into your supply chain, you can contact Fairphone directly.
And as a smartphone owner – you are a huge part of raising awareness of the social and environmental issues in the gold supply chain. Keep supporting the brands who have signed the agreement, and ask your favorite brands to sign now!