Ford is working with its international nonprofit and grantmaking partners to support and promote a pilot program that will empower women working in the copper and cobalt supply chains in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The region has emerged as a key resource for critical metals that have become the keystone of the energy transition as the automotive industry electrifies more vehicles.
The Promoting the Empowerment of Women in Copper and Cobalt Mineral Supply Chains program aims to increase access to profitable, sustainable enterprises by training women on financial education, business management, mining innovation and leadership, and formalizing women’s Artisanal Small Mines cooperatives that allow equal access to market opportunities. The program will track the impact of and inform future public policy and private programs through an analytical study on women in cobalt and Artisanal and Small Mines supply chains.
“This program will help minimize poverty of women in the cobalt supply chain and address one of the root causes of child labor,” said Sue Slaughter, purchasing material cost and supply chain sustainability director. “Built with feedback from women in the DRC, this is a positive step in developing the skills and capabilities of women in the region, helping them compete fairly, and ultimately, supporting future generations of women who aspire to have their own businesses. The pilot project is an example of how the auto industry can improve mineral supply chains, empower women, and protect the rights of the most vulnerable.”
The program demonstrates how Ford is already taking action in response to the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Global Compact’s Action Pledge for the Elimination of Child Labour, which describes actions companies can take to eliminate child labor around the world by 2025. In signing the pledge, Ford commits to respect human rights by extending policies and due diligence processes outlined in the company’s human rights policy that prohibit child labor to its suppliers and business partners, and is implementing a new Supplier Code of Conduct. Ford will also engage with the Responsible Business Alliance and other multi-stakeholder groups to encourage others across industries to adopt best practices to end child labor.
“As the first major U.S. automaker to sign the pledge, Ford is taking this opportunity to show leadership within the industry to eliminate child labor not just in our business, but also in our supply chain,” said Mary Wroten, director of global sustainability and ESG. “By holding our suppliers and partners to the same high standards, we can work towards building a better world.”
Ford Motor Company Fund, the company’s philanthropic arm, is supporting the program in collaboration with the Ford Purchasing group. Through its global grantmaking partner, GlobalGiving, Ford Fund and Ford Purchasing selected a responsible mineral sourcing project under the administration of the Oil and Mining Governance Center, a nonprofit that operates within the governance of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, a leader producer of cobalt, exported approximately 70% of global demand in 2020. Of these exports, 14% are estimated to be from Artisanal and Small Mines, much of which have been associated with child labor. Given the production capacity, the Democratic Republic of Congo occupies a central place in the upstream supply chains for these minerals. Increasing demand for cobalt offers economic and social opportunities to communities surrounding the metal’s extraction.
Women are employed in all sectors of the cobalt and copper ore supply chains in the provinces where the program is being organized. Oil and Mining Governance Center’s field observations report many of these women experience frequent discrimination and abuse, and do not have equal access to financial education or opportunities to manage small and medium-sized enterprises.