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December 29, 2011
Shareowner Engagement Leads to Adoption of Human Rights Policy at OM Group
    by Robert Kropp

The company operates a cobalt smelter in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a 2007 workplace accident at a joint venture partner killed three children.

The Jesuit Conference of the United States announced last week that its four-year engagement with OM Group has resulted in the adoption by the company of a human rights policy for its employees, including miners at its cobalt smelter in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

According to the Jesuits, their engagement with OM Group began after a visit to the company's smelter in Lubumbashi raised concerns about worker safely at an adjacent site owned by a joint venture partner. In 2007, three children were killed in a workplace accident there.

Cobalt is a metal used in many electronic devices. Because minerals smuggled out of the DRC have funded a conflict in which more than five million people have lost their lives, investors have
called on companies with operations in the region to ensure that conflict minerals do not enter their supply chains.

In addition, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act directed the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require companies to disclose whether they use conflict minerals originating in the DRC or adjoining countries. While
concerns have been raised over the lengthy delay in implementing the regulations, the United Nations Group of Experts on Congo observed in October that "a higher proportion then before of tin, tungsten and tantalum mined in the DRC is not funding conflict" since Dodd-Frank was signed into law.

A shareowner resolution filed last year by the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus requested that OM Group develop a human rights policy that conforms with the
Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June. The resolution gained 43% of the shareowner vote at the company's annual general meeting.

The Guiding Principles state, "Business enterprises should have in place…A policy commitment to meet their responsibility to respect human rights; a human rights due-diligence process…and processes to enable the remediation of any adverse human rights impacts they cause or to which they contribute. Business enterprises need to know and show that they respect human rights."

OM Group's human rights policy acknowledges its responsibility "to promote and protect human rights and freedoms by establishing clear ethical standards for ourselves and foster similar standards in all third parties who act with us or on our behalf."

"We believe that this is a good beginning but there is much work to be done to make this human rights policy comprehensive," said John Kleiderer, policy director for the Jesuit Conference.

John Sealey of the Chicago-Detroit Province said, "Global expectations of businesses to respect human rights also confer a responsibility on the company to have its joint venture partners remediate human rights risks like the unsafe conditions around the Lubumbashi smelter where artisanal miners are routinely injured."


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