Sporting goods giant Nike has warned that some 'conflict minerals' in its products may come from the Democratic Republic of Congo or neighbouring countries – and that it intends to work with suppliers to obtain information on their origin. 

In a filing late Tuesday (1 June) the athletic apparel and footwear firm said it "had reason to believe that a portion" of the tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold (collectively termed 'conflict minerals' or 3TG) "necessary to the functionality or production of some of the athletic footwear, apparel, and equipment products that we contracted to manufacture may have originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or its adjoining countries" instead of from recycled or scrap sources.

Nike said that despite conducting a due diligence process, it did not have enough information to determine the country of origin for a portion of the conflict minerals in each of its in-scope products.

The company said it plans to continue to work with suppliers to obtain current and accurate information regarding the conflict minerals supply chain, and will engage with non-conflict free compliant smelters.

It stressed: "We do not purchase 3TG directly from mines, smelters or refiners. In addition, Nike does not have manufacturing operations producing products subject to the Conflict Minerals Rule. Our products are contracted to be manufactured for us [and] our supply chain with respect to these products is complex.

"There are many third parties in the supply chain between the ultimate manufacturer of the products containing Covered 3TG [those necessary to the functionality or production of the products] and the original source of the Covered 3TG. As a result, we must rely on our supply chain to provide information regarding the origin of Covered 3TG in our products."

Nike has an internal management team supporting supply chain due diligence, including a conflict minerals and chemistry manager, a conflict minerals and chemistry coordinator, and representatives from our global sourcing and manufacturing, sustainable sourcing and manufacturing, product safety, controlling, corporate audit, operations, communications, and legal business units.

Conflict minerals are those whose production is deemed to be financing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and nine adjoining countries: Congo Republic, Central Africa Republic, Tanzania, Sudan, Burundi, Zambia, Rwanda, Angola and Uganda.

In apparel and footwear they may be found in buttons, zippers, and other fasteners, in metallised yarns, in rivets and eyes, shoelace grommets, and as a stabiliser in PVC or other rubber/plastic materials.