Social assessment and management of conflict minerals: A systematic literature review

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


Purpose: The necessity to assess and manage supply chains to be free from social problems such as human and labour rights abuses has become particularly apparent since the introduction of conflict minerals regulations in the United States (Dodd-Frank Act) and the European Union. Similarly, stakeholders demand that products are free from social problems. Ever more companies are therefore challenged to assess and manage social issues in their supply chains. At the same time, the increasing literature on assessment and management of social issues is disperse and an overview missing. This paper aims to provide an overview of the existing literature on social assessment and management approaches relating to conflict minerals and connected to social issues in supply chains. Design/methodology/approach: A review of the academic literature on social assessment and management of conflict minerals to provide an overview is currently missing. This paper addresses this gap by systematically reviewing the existing research literature on approaches for the social assessment and management of conflict minerals from a supply chain perspective. Findings: The systematic literature review found 21 social assessment and 30 social management approaches with reference to conflict minerals, with the most referenced approach being the OECD guidelines. Overall, the conflict mineral related literature discusses rather general social assessment and management approaches, such as codes of conduct, while the effectiveness of the approaches is not analysed in depth. The paper finds that an analysis of the effectiveness and interlinkages of different approaches is missing. The large variety of social and human rights issues addressed in the academic literature ranges from corruption to violence, going beyond the scope of regulations focused on conflict minerals. This indicates that regulations on conflict minerals and the consequences for management are seen as a specific case with wider implications for future regulations and the necessity for management to solve social problems in supply chains in an effective way. Research limitations/implications: The review paper is conceptual and develops a framework to classify social assessment and management approaches for conflict minerals, drawing on the supply chain management literature. Practical implications: The overview reveals that research refers to broader social assessment and management approaches indicating wider implications for assessing and managing social issues in supply chains in general, irrespective of whether they are conflict mineral related. Research has, however, so far not addressed the effectiveness and interlinkages between social assessment and management approaches. The aim of the emerging regulations, however, is to foster more effective management of social issues in supply chains. Management is therefore challenged to develop and implement innovative approaches to effectively reduce social problems in supply chains beyond conflict minerals. Conclusions are drawn for management and research. Social implications: The paper highlights the need for collaboration with NGOs, industry associations and suppliers, recommending to engage in supplier development. Originality/value: The paper conducts the first systematic review of academic literature on conflict mineral related social assessment and management approaches. A framework is proposed to classify social assessment and management approaches based on supply chain management literature. While conflict minerals often represent a small fraction of components in a product, they can have huge and costly implications for companies, which require (potentially) large changes for the sourcing and supply strategy of a company. Conflict mineral regulations represent the first attempt to regulate social and human rights abuses in supply chains holding companies responsible for misconduct caused by suppliers abroad.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)157-182
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 08.03.2019