Symposium - Challenging the ICT supply chain: from mining to procurement | Bond Beter Leefmilieu

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Symposium - Challenging the ICT supply chain: from mining to procurement

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Dinsdag 12 maart 2019



Symposium - Challenging the ICT supply chain: from mining to procurement

Content and aims of the Symposium:

In our current world Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is indispensable just for everything. However, there are large obstacles in procuring ICT in a sustainable manner. Throughout the whole supply chain, from mining to manufacturing, there are many unsustainable activities linked to ICT. How can we, as consumers and procurers of such products, aim to mitigate the negative impact the industry has on the environment and workers.

There are several steps involved in the full supply chain of ICT. It starts with the mining of the minerals used in our devices. In their rush for raw materials, mining multinationals often harm human rights and demolish the environment. Numerous instances have been recorded in which local (often indigenous) communities have been violently dispossessed. Metals and minerals such as gold, copper, coltan and cobalt are mined by both large mining corporations and by artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). While ASM creates more livelihood opportunities for local communities, it comes with its own particular set of challenges, including (but not limited to) those related to the unabated use of hazardous chemicals and the exploitation of ordinary workers. (Mining challenges will be discussed in Panel 1)

As the mined metals and minerals subsequently move through highly complex supply chains that transform raw materials into manufactured ICT-products, there exist numerous risks for the violation of environmental and labor- and human rights. Assembly often takes place in countries with a favorable tax regime and a regulatory environment that permits the use of cheap and irregular labor. Numerous problems have been recorded during the assembly phase of ICT-products, including poor health and safety, and negative impacts on the physical and mental health of workers (e.g. suicide rates in the sector are very high). Furthermore, the industry is organized in a manner that creates and expands this way of operating. Fast growing economy, corporate competition and consumer patterns are putting labor and human rights in a very vulnerable position. (ICT assembly related challenges will be discussed in Panel 2)

We strive towards a vision in which all parties in the supply chain have a secure and sustainable way of conducting their activities. The Government of Flanders targets to achieve 100% sustainable public procurement for ICT by 2020, an ambitious initiative that could set a precedent for other public buyers. Much of the responsibility lies in the hands of the consumers expecting certain qualities from the products they purchase, hence, they can use their power by requiring determinate conditions in which these products are created.

The public sector has the chance to have an impact on the supply chain in its role as consumer. Public sector organisations value social responsibility and sustainability along with transparency and fair competition. They are large consumers of ICT hardware such as portable and desktop computers, printers, display screens, and media storage, and purchase these products through long-term contracts. They can, therefore, create market opportunities for companies that commit to respect labor rights and safety standards in global supply chains, and hold them accountable for any failure to do so.

How can we as public buyers and individual consumers contribute to this process? 

The symposium will cover a broad set of questions, amongst which:

  • How does the ICT supply chain look like?
  • What effects does mining have on the lives of the people living in close proximity to the mines?
  • Where and how do corporations assemble their electronic devices, and what are the conditions that the workers face?
  • What role can the buyers and procurers play in the development of sustainable pathways with regards to ICT?
  • What initiatives are present with the goals of improving the sustainability of the global ICT supply chain?
  • How can we monitor ASM and manufactories in order to improve the local situation?
  • What are the possible mechanisms to open more dialogue, starting from the mineral extraction, where both partners are equally approached in order to make the ICT supply chain more fair? 
  • What are the strategic challenges during public procurement on how to upscale from ad hoc initiatives to a more strategic responsible/sustainable procurement policy?

The aim of this symposium is to bring together researchers, consultants, managers, policymakers, public buyers, and all individuals interested in the environmental and social impact of the ICT supply chain from extraction to procurement.

We strive towards a multi-dimensional comprehension of the complex ICT supply Chain and its stakeholders and to bring together scholars and practitioners.



09h30-10h00: Reception of the guests
10h00-10h10: Welcome - Dr. Johan Eyckmans, Dean of the faculty

Part 1: Problem definition
10h10-11h10: Panel on impact of mining
11h10-12h10: Panel on impact of assembling
12h10-12h30: Declaration of intention
12h30-13h30: Network lunch

Part 2: Hands-on sessions
13h30-15h30: 3 Round tables with introducing keynote
                      Creation of support within your institution for SRPP/GPP regulations and guidelines,
                      the bindingness of SRPP/GPP, Integration in tenders/contracts. 
15h30-16h30: Feedback on declaration of intention and concluding remarks
16h30: Network reception

The call for abstracts and registration is open to all – including those without abstracts to present.

Participants interested in giving a presentation as a contribution to the panels in the morning, should send a 300-word abstract, title, full address and brief bio by 25th of Jan 2019 to:


Conference fee is 25 euro. Please transfer before the 9th of March to IBAN: BE49 979528617871
Subject: “Symposium ICT Supply Chain”


This workshop is part of the Make ICT Fair and FAIR ICT Flanders Project.

This event is organised with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this event are the sole responsibility of CATAPA and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.