Samsung under fire over use of Indonesian tin

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By Joanna Gough

Samsung has come under fire from Friends of the Earth this week after it was revealed that traces of tin found only in the tropical forests and coral reefs of Bangka Island, Indonesia had been used in Samsung’s mobile phones.

In November last year an investigation by the environmental charity found that smart phones sold by best-selling brands almost certainly contain tin from Bangka Island where tin mining is harming forests and farmland, damaging the coral reefs, tearing apart many communities and destroying fishermen’s livelihoods.

Samsung’s profits have soared recently despite the uncertain business environment created by concerns over the U.S. fiscal cliff.  Samsung’s overall operating income for 2012 hit $7.04 billion which is an eye watering 91% increase on last year and an all-time record for the company.

Their profits were double what they  expected with the 76 per cent rise hitting another record high. This year Samsung has also beaten rival Apple to become the world’s biggest seller of smart phones. Experts expect Samsung to enjoy another sustained rise in smart phone sales again this year.

Friends of the Earth, however, feel Samsung’s success could come at too high a cost to the environment. Their Head of Campaigns, Andrew Pendleton, is calling for change.

“Samsung’s profits may be soaring, but do they come with a cost? The company has yet to explain whether the tin it uses in its phones is ravaging the tropical forests and coral reefs of Bangka Island, Indonesia.

“Research shows that tin from Bangka is almost certainly in Samsung’s products.

“New rules are needed to make all companies disclose their supply chains – starting with a Europe-wide law next year.”

Friends of the Earth in their recently launched Make It Better campaign are calling for new legislation to be introduced which would require large companies operating in Europe to report on the full human and environmental impacts of their operations.  This would include indirect impact by contractors and suppliers such as greenhouse gas emissions and accidental pollution.

The Make It Better campaign is putting pressure on the leading smart phone makers to reveal whether their merchandise contains tin from the Bangka Islands. Companies would also be asked to disclose how much water, land and raw materials they use.  The campaign also plans to celebrate the positive changes and steps companies take to ensure they are moving towards running a more planet-friendly production.