Self-Certification and the European Union's Responsible Sourcing Initiative

May 29, 2014Kirsten Wallerstedt

Earlier this month, I gave a webinar on the European Union’s Responsible Sourcing initiative. The EU Proposal contains many synergies with the U.S. conflict minerals law and should be of interest to companies operating in the EU or the U.S., and would also be of interest to suppliers and distributors to these markets. Here are some follow-up insights on the proposal based on audience questions during that presentation.

Several questions from the audience centered on the self-certification process that is proposed under the EU Responsible Sourcing proposal. Here are some important insights about the proposed process to become a “self-certified” responsible importer in the EU:

  • It’s the process that matters. Rather than require companies to achieve a (sometimes impossible) goal of being “conflict free,” the EU initiative focuses on implementing supply chain due diligence and a risk management strategy. This approach takes into account the fact that suppliers in the supply chain often change sources or sub-suppliers without your knowledge. It also accounts for the constantly evolving state of which regions will qualify as a conflict-affected or high-risk area under the law. The goal of this proposal is for a company to be agile in keeping track of the sources of materials in its supply chain, and to have a robust system for identifying and addressing red flags as they arise.
  • Companies are self-certified – not products.
  • Only importers of products listed in Annex I are subject to the certification processnot products that contain these materials or parts. This is a much more narrow scope than the U.S. law, which applies to products that contain any trace of these minerals.
  • As drafted, there is only a process in place for EU importers of Annex I products to get self-certified – there is no allowance for other companies to self-certify as “conflict free”.
  • Audits of your self-certification are required, and companies may be subject to ex-post checks by a Member State competent authority if there is relevant information received, such as substantiated concerns from third parties.

The EU Responsible Sourcing initiative proposes a process by which any importer of the Annex I listed products – minerals or metals containing tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold – may self-certify as a responsible importer by declaring to a Member State competent authority that it adheres to the supply chain due diligence obligations set out in the regulation. The proposal will be debated this Fall.

For more information about the initiative and some insights into how it may impact your company, please view the free webinar here.