Tag Archives: environmental compliance

Leading EHS Audit Organizations Comment to SEC on Conflict Minerals Regulations

Prior to the November 1 closing of the reopened public comment period on SEC’s proposed conflict minerals regulations, several companies and individuals filed new or updated comments.  Among the commenters are two organizations serving environmental, health and safety auditing practitioners.

The comments support (a) the use of Performance Audits as an appropriate audit standard for the Conflict Minerals Reports under SEC, and (b) appropriate auditor expertise and certification beyond ISO19011 for various audits within a conflict minerals management system.

The Auditing Roundtable is a professional organization dedicated to the development and professional practice of environmental, health, and safety (EHS) auditing.  Founded in 1982, the Roundtable represents the voice of the profession with more than 800 members.  The Roundtable’s comments can be read here.

The Board of Environmental Auditor Certification (BEAC) is an independent, nonprofit corporation established in 1997 to issue professional certifications relating to environmental, health, and safety auditing and other scientific fields. BEAC was originally created as a joint venture between the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) and The Auditing Roundtable.  BEAC is a member of the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB), a third-party accreditation board, and is recognized by the American Chemistry Council (ACC); the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA); the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE); the Auditing Association of Canada (AAC) ; the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI); and the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA).  BEAC’s comments can be read here.

 

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US State Department Issues Conflict Minerals Traceability Statement

Last Friday, the US State Department issued its statement on conflict minerals supply chain traceability.  Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act requires that the State Department – in parallel with the SEC – provide guidance on due diligence activities to companies.

The Department stated that

… it is critical that companies begin now to perform meaningful due diligence with respect to conflict minerals. To this end, companies should begin immediately to structure their supply chain relationships in a responsible and productive manner to encourage legitimate, conflict-free trade, including conflict-free minerals sourced from the DRC and the Great Lakes region. Doing so will facilitate useful disclosures under Section 1502, as well as effective responses to any discovery of benefit to armed groups.

The Department specifically endorses the guidance issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and encourages companies to draw upon this guidance as they establish their due diligence practices. We encourage companies, whether or not they are subject to the Section 1502 disclosure requirement, that are within the supply chain of these minerals to exercise due diligence based on the OECD guidance and framework as a means of responding to requests from subject suppliers and customers.

Companies should no longer be in a “wait and see” mode.  Basic planning, assessment and program development can – and should – begin now.

If nothing more, companies should evaluate whether the OECD Guidance is the appropriate reference point.  As we pointed out in an earlier post, that guidance contains a number of pitfalls and auditor impairments that may deter its use by many companies.

Voluntary Environmental Management Standard Turns Into Third Party Whistleblower

It is not uncommon for EHS auditors to be asked (or ask themselves) “If you find a noncompliance during your audit, do you report it to the regulators?”

The answer depends on the company and audit program, but a recent news item caught our attention due to a variation on the theme.

We have no information other than what is publicly available here, but it appears that an organization managing a voluntary electronic waste management certification program found alleged significant non-conformities at a specific company seeking certification.  As a result, the organization declined to issue its certification to that company.

So far, so good, but the story doesn’t end there…

In its declination letter to the company, the organization states:

Further, there is substantial reason to believe that such exports may violate Public Act 095-0959 (Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act, recycler requirements) of the State of Illinois, the Federal CRT Rule, (40 CFR Parts 9, 260, 261, 271; Cathode Ray Tubes; Final Rule) as well as the waste importation laws of Hong Kong/China. Further, while it is not our policy to disclose the results of certifying body audits, we can state that the audit only further substantiated all of our concerns.

In an apparent contradiction to the “policy” referred to in the above statement, the organization’s cc’d “Selected news media”, the Illinois State Environmental Protection Agency and the US Environmental Protection Agency Enforcement on its letter, which can be seen below the signature block.

It is certainly possible that the company themselves had made prior disclosure to the regulators on this issue.  But this event may cause companies pursuing voluntary programs/certifications to carefully consider how the company and auditor will manage regulatory non-compliances that are found or alleged in the course of related audit activities.

UPDATE:  Reports today indicate that the company is taking legal action against the certifying organization stating that the allegations on which the organization based its decision – as well as its disclosure to the press and regulators – are false.

Elm Launches Groundbreaking Low Cost Conflict Minerals Audit Preparation Tool

The Elm Consulting Group International LLC today announces a groundbreaking cost effective tool to support companies preparing for conflict minerals traceability audits or customer inquiries.

The delay in SEC’s final rule triggered many questions from companies about planning and pre-audit preparation.  This led us to a solution that is valuable in almost any foreseeable final regulation scope/content and companies planning responses to customer inquiries – yet significantly reduces costs during this period of uncertainty.

Elm’s Self-Implemented Conflict Minerals Audit Preparation© (SICMAP℠) is conceptually similar to a self-audit checklist.  SICMAP℠ is a spreadsheet tool that maximizes the use of internal company staff for cost reduction and implementation flexibility to develop and review conflict minerals programs in advance of third party auditing.

SICMAP℠ focuses on basic program elements equally relevant to companies responding to customer inquiries/procurement requirements and those working to comply with the upcoming SEC regulations on conflict minerals.   Successive and more complex tasks – for both program development and audit preparation – are identified based on initial SICMAP℠ findings, lessons learned from working through the SICMAP℠ process, and the final regulatory requirements once they are known.  The final rule, when published, will clarify the level of detail for some of the efforts.

Screenshots (which can be enlarged by clicking on them) show some of the features and functionality in SICMAP℠ include:

  • “At a glance” color-coding indicates progress/status of both program development and audit preparation
  • Live links to reference materials on the internet
  • Summaries of language from the U.S. legislation (which will not be changed by SEC’s final regulations)
  • Step-by-step pragmatic guidance on specific program elements
  • Highlights of emerging international initiatives in comparison/contrast to SEC audit standards

Sample Page Showing Detailed Guidance

Topics covered in an intuitive and pragmatic way include:

  • Initial scoping
  • Reasonable assurance and representative sampling concepts reflecting SEC auditor standards
  • Information management systems
  • Internal controls
  • Supply chain mapping
  • Communications planning and content
  • Scrap materials – special definitions and challenges in traceability efforts
  • Considerations in selecting an auditor and preparing for the site visit

Summary Tracking Page With Color Coding. This image shows covered topic tabs along the bottom.

The tool is based on Elm’s experience as one of four firms worldwide that have completed conflict minerals traceability independent audits. Elm’s tantalum traceability audits in 2010 resulted in the first ever “Conflict-Free Smelter” designation*, covering sites in the US and Japan.

We continue to recommend that companies move forward with planning activities, but defer third party audits until planning is substantially complete and the SEC regulations are final.  As with almost any new management program, a formal third party audit should be the last step of the implementation process – not the first.

SICMAP℠ will be commercially available beginning June 6, but feel free to contact us beforehand with questions.

* Issued by the industry association sponsoring the audits.  The Conflict Free Smelter (CFS) program is emerging as the leading conflict minerals third party certification program for smelters by the electronics industry.

Elm to Make Major Conflict Minerals Service Announcement May 31

On Tuesday May 31, The Elm Consulting Group International LLC will formally announce a major development in our conflict minerals traceability services.

Lawrence Heim, Elm Director and leader of the firm’s conflict minerals services:

SEC’s delay in promulgating their final conflict minerals rule has resulted in a significant amount of uncertainty within affected companies.  Many of these companies are challenged by cost constraints as they seek information, guidance and solutions to yet-unknown compliance standards.  Our announcement next week provides a highly cost-effective solution in balancing these challenges.

If you would like to receive the announcement and related information directly, send an email to Lheim@elmgroup.com.

Elm Featured in iPhoneLife Magazine for iPad Use

The new issue of iPhoneLife magazine highlights Elm’s use of iPads for environmental, health and safety audits in a short feature.

Unfortunately, the article indicates we use them for energy audits, which is not the case.  We have contacted the editor to inform them of their error.

Interestingly enough, the current issue also reviews various notetaking apps for anyone interested in reading up on the subject.

New Guide Published on Conflict Minerals

MetalMiner.com, one of the world’s foremost on-line publications on global procurement of metals and related products, including global pricing trends, capacity constraints, supply market M&A activity, today published its guide to planning compliance with the US Conflict Mineral Law and the (soon to be final) implementing regulations under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

This guide, titled What Your Company Should Know About Conflict Minerals, is a concise resource containing:

  • Elm’s insights from having conducted audits under a leading industry association program for conflict minerals supply chain traceability, and
  • MetalMiner’s expertise in metals trading/sourcing, with a unique perspective on how the scrap loophole may become exploited by operations in the conflict region.

The date is looming for SEC promulgation of the final regulation and over 160 comment letters were submitted to SEC on the proposal.  To help you prepare for these new program requirements, this report provides valuable substantive information based on first hand knowledge of conflict minerals programs and issues.

MetalMiner.com was founded more than four years ago and since then has become a recognized leader in providing unique insight, analysis, and tools for buyers, purchasing professionals, and everyone else for whom metals and their related markets matter.

Click here to obtain a copy of this report from MetalMiner.