Your essential conflict minerals policy checklist

Chris McClure, Crowe; Michael Littenberg, Ropes & Gray
Your essential conflict minerals policy checklist

The conflict minerals filing deadline is May 31 – are you ready? This checklist can help you catch common mistakes and prep for next year.

2021 marks the ninth reporting year of the U.S. Conflict Minerals Rule (the Conflict Minerals Statutory Provision), and the annual filing deadline is fast approaching. While the law has remained relatively consistent, there are some important updates to consider as you prepare your disclosures this year.

Also, as stakeholder pressures continue to mount regarding the quality of your organization’s policies and their integration into your overall environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy, it’s a good time to review and update your conflict minerals policy and program. This checklist can help your organization prioritize needs for the current filing and prepare for the coming year.

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Catch (and correct) common errors in your conflict minerals filings

Here are some of the common errors that occur in conflict minerals filings and how you can address them:

  • Repair broken links to policies and grievance mechanisms. Links frequently change with website updates, so it’s a good idea to review your filings and make sure all links are live.
  • Correct inaccurate reasonable country-of-origin inquiry (RCOI) or due diligence descriptions. If you modified any procedures over the last year or two, you’ll want to update descriptions to reflect those changes.
  • Remove references to future program enhancements that were never implemented. Make sure you speak to your company’s current goals – and that those goals are achievable.
  • Look for outdated references to industry initiatives. Just as your company’s initiatives might have changed, so have certain common terms in the industry. Update any old references to the Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative – now the Responsible Minerals Initiative – and adopt newer language on conformant smelters and categories of countries of origin.
  • Update your business descriptions. As your business changes, so will your descriptions. Make sure your filing reflects the latest in alignment with your 10-K or 10-Q form.

Review and update your conflict minerals policy

Your organization can ask these questions to help assess current policy and make necessary improvements:

  • Does our policy reflect what we’re currently doing? Without regular review, policies can grow stale. Confirm that your conflict minerals policy aligns with your corporate responsible sourcing policies and practices.
  • Does it reflect our current supplier expectations? Supplier expectations have intensified, so determining what suppliers expect from your policy can help prevent misunderstanding.
  • Does it align with commercial customer requirements? Many conflict minerals policies are out of sync with customers’ needs. Make sure to review those regularly.
  • Does it sync with our supplier code of conduct and human rights policies? If you’ve created or updated these policies, you’ll want that reflected in your other ESG-related policies.
  • Does it read as an old policy? ESG is rapidly changing, so consider other policy enhancements that reflect those changes.

Refine your conflict minerals program

Once your filing is submitted, your organization can take these steps to help prepare for next year:

  • Evaluate and refine your due diligence approach. Target any additions to your supplier base or existing blind spots to help make sure your due diligence is evolving – and that it’s not just “same as last year.”
  • Educate your new team members. Communicate your policies and procedures broadly and often because your program depends on quality and accuracy.
  • Refine your smelter lists. Consult with industry references and filter out any inaccurate information.
  • Identify ways to increase spend coverage in your data collection. You can also encourage your suppliers to increase their response rates to improve overall accuracy.
  • Monitor Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and other sanctions and regulations. Staying abreast of changing and new regulations can help identify any additional due diligence or operational adjustments you might need.
  • Incorporate conflict minerals and other compliance requests into your business. Including these requests in supplier meetings and other business interactions can help reinforce their importance.
  • Address new concerns. It's now a good time to address concerns about Russian smelter sanctions and imports from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), potentially banned by the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.

Taking the proactive steps in this checklist can help your organization prioritize immediate and long-range filing and policy needs and get positioned for success.

Our responsible sourcing team is here to help

If you’re struggling with your conflict minerals filing – or if you just need some questions answered – our team is here to help. Reach out to our conflict minerals specialists to see how we can help you finish up your filing and get ready for next year.
Chris McClure - social
Christopher McClure
Partner, ESG Services Leader