Challenging the sustainability of the global ICT supply chain: from mining to procurement

donderdag, 8 maart, 2018 - 12:00 tot 18:00

KU Leuven and CATAPA invite you to a symposium on how consumers and public buyers can contribute towards more sustainable procurement and a circular economy. The symposium will be focused towards the global ICT supply chain and the inherent problems therein.

Content and aims of the symposium

In our current world Information and Communication Technology (ICT) are an indispensable resource just for everything. However, there are large obstacles in procuring ICT in a manner that is sustainable. Throughout the whole supply chain, from mining to manufacturing, there are many unsustainable activities linked to ICT. How can we, as consumers and procurers of such products, aim to mitigate the negative impact the industry has on the environment and workers.

There are several steps involved in the full supply chain of ICT and it starts with the mining of the minerals used in our devices. The mining industry often operates in an extremely extractive manner and is the cause of both environmental and social disasters. Many of these operations takes place in land inhabited by indigenous groups, hence, further exploiting a group that is already exposed. Furthermore, mining corporations often use their influence to threaten and harass people that are defending their lands.

The minerals mined is shipped around the world to be assembled in countries that generally have poor work standards. Due to cheap and unregulated labour and low tax costs such locations are highly beneficial for the tech companies to operate in. Furthermore, the industry is organized in a manner that creates and expands this way of operating.

In the last step, the finished product is shipped around the world for public consumption. The same products are also a key part of many institutions around the world and especially in Europe and North America.

We strive towards a vision where all parts of the supply chain will receive a more secure and more sustainable way of conducting these activities. The Government of Flanders targets to achieve 100% sustainable public procurement by 2020, a very ambitious initiative that could set a precedent for other public buyers. Much of the responsibility lies in the hands of the people demanding the product that a supplier provides, hence, the same people also has power in deciding how that product is created.

The public sector has the chance to have an impact on the supply chain in its role as consumer.  Public sector organisations value social responsibility and sustainability along with transparency and fair competition. They are large consumers of ICT hardware such as portable and desktop computers, printers, display screens, and media storage, and purchase these products through long-term contracts. They can, therefore, create market opportunities for companies that commit to respect labour rights and safety standards in global supply chains, and hold them accountable for any failure to do so.

Therefore this symposium is going to focus on how this supply chain can be made more sustainable. How can the security of the local population where the mines are located be ensured? How can the workers of the manufacturing companies be provided with a safer work environment and reasonable pay? And how can we as public buyers and individual consumers contribute to this process?

The symposium will cover a broad set of questions, amongst which:

  • What does the ICT supply chain look like?

  • What effects does mining have on the lives of the people living in close proximity to the mines?

  • Where and how do corporations assemble their electronic devices, and what are the conditions that the workers face?

  • What role can the buyers play in the development of a sustainable pathways with regards to ICT?

  • What initiatives are present with the goals of improving the sustainability of the global ICT supply chain?


  • 12:00- 13:00: Network Lunch and Poster Session

  • 13:00: Introduction by Prof. Marc Craps and Charlotte Christiaens

  • 13:15 - 14:30 The social and environmental impact of mining (Moderator: Marc Craps)

    • Mariana Gómez (Yes to Life, No to Mining)

    • María Fernanda Soliz (Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar)

    • Lieven De Smedt (InnoTune)

  • 14:30 - 15:30 Manufacturing (Moderator: Viktor Lingslunde)

    • Video: “IT workers still pay the price for cheap computers”

    • Peter Pawlicki (Electronics Watch)

  • 15:30 - 15:50 Break

  • 15:50 - 17:00 Public procurement (Moderator: Peter Pawlicki)

    • Chris Jarvis (People and Planet)

    • Christophe Ramont (Ghent Municipality)

    • Karen De Geyndt (Procurement office at KU Leuven)

  • 17:00 - 17:20 Closing speech

    • Prof. Dr. Ir. Karel Van Acker (Chair of Sustainable Council KU Leuven)

  • 17:20 - 17:30  Wrap-up

  • 17:30 - 18:00 Reception

Practical Information

All participants should subscribe by sending an e-mail to before the 26th of February. All participants should also pay the 25€ fee before the 1st of March to bank account CATAPA: BE49 9795 2861 7871, mark the payment with symposium and your name.


KULeuven - Campus Brussel

Building Hermes Room 63.03 (conference) and room 63.031 (foyer)

Stormstraat 2


Disclaimer: This event has been funded with support from the European Commission. This event reflects the views only of the organiser, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.