The United Nations estimates that 168 million children globally are engaged in child labor, some against their will. Poverty is the major reason, and the UN International Labour Organization describes child labor in mining as one of the worst forms. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development guidelines are firm that no company tolerate or contribute to this pervasive problem.
We at Microsoft agree. We are deeply committed to operating ethically, responsibly and with a commitment to human rights. Our Supplier Code of Conduct extends this commitment to the furthest reaches of our supply chain, including the responsible sourcing of raw materials. We are committed to creating products made of responsibly sourced materials and are working to help eradicate human rights abuses in mining of all materials, including tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold and cobalt.
This starts with eliminating child labor in our own supply chain. We do this through mapping our supply chain, requiring our suppliers comply with our policies and conducting audits to ensure they — and their upstream suppliers — comply. But this is a global issue requiring a global response beyond the actions of any one single company.
That is why today we are announcing a deepened, long-term partnership with Pact, a leading nonprofit international development organization. This commitment will enable Pact to expand its critical work in the Democratic Republic of Congo to reduce child labor in mining.
This partnership builds on our existing work with Pact, with whom we’ve worked since 2015. Through this partnership, the successful Watoto Inje ya Mungoti (Children Out of Mining) project was launched; it uses interventions that are deeply embedded in communities and local institutions to address the economic and social root causes that lead to child labor in mining. In mines where the project has been active, Pact has found a reduction in child labor between 77 and 97 percent over the course of the project to date, with variation influenced by seasonal factors and the influx of new conflict-displaced families, among other factors.
Through our expanded partnership, we will work with Pact to provide more direct support to children and adolescents and the local organizations that support them. Activities will include developing an apprenticeship program for older adolescents, improving the capacity of local orphanages, assessing state child protection and welfare services, and supporting home-based day care for younger children of miners.
The data and personal stories of change outlined in Pact’s most recent report make it clear that these localized intervention strategies are effective at driving change on the ground in mining communities. And they reaffirm and support our overall strategy to responsible sourcing.
“At the heart of Pact is the promise of a better tomorrow. Through our long-term partnership with Microsoft, we are making continued, meaningful progress toward addressing the economic and social root causes that lead to child labor in mining.”
—Yves Bawa, Pact country director for DRC, Rwanda and Burundi
Microsoft has developed a holistic and multifaceted approach to promote safe, ethical working conditions. We act with our own suppliers and supply chain, which is a prerequisite to effecting change from the top down. But we also couple these efforts with bottom-up approaches driven by our NGO partners. We believe this integrated approach is the most effective way to improve conditions for the people working in raw material supply chains.
Pact is a critical piece of this approach, and we’ve also partnered closely with organizations including the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance and Alliance for Responsible Mining to address human rights concerns in artisanal mining of the “3TGs”— tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold — and cobalt. We are providing financial support, as well as technology donations, to advance their work to develop best practice standards and a global system to audit and verify implementation of these standards across multiple mine types and ores.
There is no place for child labor in mining. We believe important and meaningful progress toward its elimination has been made through our efforts with our suppliers and NGO partners. But much more work remains to be done.
The expansion of our work with Pact represents an important step forward to eliminate child labor in mining. This relationship builds on Microsoft’s ongoing investment in Africa to fully harness innovation’s capacity for enablement and make a real impact for a better Africa. These efforts include $24 million donated in software, 625 startups supported by BizSpark and 19 million youth in 20 countries (including Congo) empowered by digital access and skills. We hope that today’s commitment will encourage others to join us and our partners in driving even greater change.
To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to responsible sourcing and human rights, please view our latest Corporate Social Responsibility report.