Pomona's Committee for Socially Responsible Investment voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of a proposal that would pre-commit the college to vote “yes” on shareholder resolutions in favor of conflict-free minerals.
According to Peace and Justice Coalition member and proposal co-author Daniel Low PO ’11, the pre-commitment is necessary because of the large influence mineral supplies have in conflict zones.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Low said, has seen “essentially the greatest violence in the world.” Since 1998, an estimated 7 million people have died, and almost 250,000 women have been raped in the eastern part of the country.
Yet rebels in control of mining sites take in an estimated $185 million a year for their supply of gold, tungsten, tin, and tantalum—minerals that are used heavily in most electronics.
The goal of the proposal, according to Low, is to pressure electronics companies to start caring about where their minerals come from.
“If you have big investors like Pomona saying this is an issue that is important to us, the electronics companies are going to have to start acting to make a difference,” Low said.
The proposal must now pass through President David Oxtoby's office before being accepted.
“This is a great example of students learning about issues and bringing them to our attention,” said Oxtoby.
If Oxtoby's office accepts the proposal, Pomona College would follow in the steps of Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, Westminster College, and the city of Pittsburgh, which have passed similar resolutions. Stanford was the first to adopt such a resolution, which it did in summer 2010. The California State legislature is also considering a senate bill (SB 861) that would accomplish a similar goal.
Currently, businesses are not required to track where their minerals come from, but the Dodd-Frank Act, signed by President Barack Obama last summer, will lay out specific guidelines for companies to do so. The Dodd-Frank act will take effect July 15, so businesses should be releasing information before the end of 2012, Low said.
“I would really encourage Pomona to invest and buy from companies that make this a priority,” he said.
“We are directly connected to this issue,” Low added. “We often see these huge human rights abuses throughout the world, and sometimes you think, ‘How does that relate to me?’ It's an interesting and unique opportunity that we actually can do something [about], and as such, I think that it is our moral responsibility to do so.”