Publication - Advice and guidance

Conflict minerals: sustainable procurement guidance

Published: 1 Nov 2018

Guidance for public bodies covering the purchase of products that may contain conflict minerals.

Conflict minerals: sustainable procurement guidance

Fairly and ethically traded: conflict minerals

This guidance is concerned with the procurement of products or equipment that may contain conflict minerals. 

It is part of a series of guides which support the sustainable procurement duty tools to help public sector organisations embed sustainability into their procurement processes.

Description of risk or opportunity

  • are there concerns regarding minerals used in the manufacturing of goods or equipment that may be mined in conflict-affected or high risk countries/areas?
  • are there opportunities to ensure that any raw materials used within goods or equipment are verified as conflict free?


Conflict minerals can include:

  • cobalt
  • copper
  • diamonds
  • gold
  • illegal timber from rainforests
  • tantalum
  • tin
  • tungsten

Conflict-affected or high risk countries/areas will have one or more of the following:

  • on-going conflicts/hostility/war
  • political instability
  • widespread corruption
  • high prevalence of human trafficking and exploitation/modern slavery or other labour/human rights violations
  • week or a lack of enforcement of social, environmental and labour laws

Countries/regions/areas affected (not a definitive list) are:

  • Afghanistan (parts of)
  • African Great Lakes region
  • Bangladesh
  • Central African Republic (CAR)
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
  • Ethiopia
  • India
  • Myanmar
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Russia
  • Thailand
  • Venezuala
  • Zimbabwe

Conflict minerals can make their way into:

  • electronic equipment including ICT and mobile phones
  • GPS systems
  • aircraft and cars e.g. engine parts
  • packaging
  • lithium–ion batteries
  • chemical compounds (e.g. fire proofing cloth, pesticides, wood preservatives)

Role of procurement

The relevant National Outcomes and Indicators within the National Performance Framework focus our activity around ‘creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through sustainable and inclusive economic growth’. This includes tackling conflict minerals through relevant procurement processes. 

The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 (the Act) places a Sustainable Procurement Duty on a contracting authority before they buy anything, to think about how they can – though their procurements - improve the social, environmental and economic wellbeing in Scotland, with a particular focus on reducing inequality. 

The Act also requires organisations to develop an organisation procurement strategy and report against its delivery at the end of each year.

This includes a requirement to include a statement of the authority’s general policy on the procurement of fairly and ethically traded goods and services and report on progress.

Contracting authorities are likely to have different social and ethical policy objectives, for example tackling/eradicating conflict minerals within their supply chains.

If a buyer intends to incorporate ethical policy objectives into their procurement they must ensure these are clearly articulated. 

A clear policy objective in the commodity strategy aligned with their organisational procurement strategy will help demonstrate how the requirement is relevant to the subject matter of the contract.

The public procurement regulations allow a contracting authority to exclude companies from tendering for public contracts for not meeting certain conditions i.e. breach of any obligations in the fields of environmental, social or labour law; and select the most suitable bidders based on technical ability and previous experience in relation to the subject matter of the contract. This is done through the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD (Scotland)). 

The public procurement regulations also permit contracting authorities to ask for tenderers to be registered under a certain social label scheme - as long as the circumstances outlined later in Specification Development and Award apply. 

There is frequently a perception that procurement has a limited ability to apply control or influence throughout the supply chain beyond tier one suppliers. 

The procurement process provides opportunities to map supply chains, incorporate relevant and proportionate criteria and specification requirements, and it is possible to work with suppliers to improve social and ethical performance.

Risks and opportunities for sustainable procurement can be identified by undertaking in depth market and supply chain analysis and for example, through the appropriate use of the sustainability test and prioritisation methodology, and the application of relevant and proportionate contract requirements.

Further information on how to tackle risks/opportunities at various stages of the procurement process is provided in this guidance. 

This guidance is provided to support the embedding of relevant and proportionate contract/framework requirements and the information and examples are provided in good faith. To the extent that this guidance contains any information concerning procurement law such information does not constitute advice to you.

The contents of this guidance is not to be construed as legal advice or a substitute for such advice, which you should obtain from your own legal advisers if required. Scottish Government is not and shall not be held responsible for anything done or not done by you as a result of this guidance.