Women miners attending building sessions

Ford and Ford Fund to Support, Promote Responsible Mineral Sourcing Pilot Program to Empower, Assist Women

Ford and Ford Fund to support a pilot program that will empower women working in supply chains in the Democratic Republic of Congo

  • Ford and its philanthropic arm, Ford Fund, working with international partners to support and promote program that’s empowering women working in copper and cobalt supply chains in Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Demand is increasing for these critical metals as the automotive industry electrifies more vehicles; region is a key supply site
  • Program sets up education, training sessions, formal cooperatives, and policy support for women in the region, allowing them to access available opportunities
  • Ford is first major U.S. automaker signing an Action Pledge supporting the United Nations’ International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour


DEARBORN, Mich., June 22, 2021 –Ford is working with its international nonprofit and grantmaking partners to support and promote a pilot program that will empower women working in the copper and cobalt supply chains in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The region has emerged as a key resource for critical metals that have become the keystone of the energy transition as the automotive industry electrifies more vehicles.

Artisanal miner washing cobalt
Women Artisanal Miners in Biwaya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, attended capacity building sessions organized by Oil and Mines Governance Center. Sessions include financial, small business, innovation, and leadership training to help women participate in a successful mining co-operative.

The Promoting the Empowerment of Women in Copper and Cobalt Mineral Supply Chains program aims to increase access to profitable, sustainable enterprises by training women on financial education, business management, mining innovation and leadership, and formalizing women’s Artisanal Small Mines cooperatives that allow equal access to market opportunities. The program will track the impact of and inform future public policy and private programs through an analytical study on women in cobalt and Artisanal and Small Mines supply chains.

“This program will help minimize poverty of women in the cobalt supply chain and address one of the root causes of child labor,” said Sue Slaughter, purchasing material cost and supply chain sustainability director. “Built with feedback from women in the DRC, this is a positive step in developing the skills and capabilities of women in the region, helping them compete fairly, and ultimately, supporting future generations of women who aspire to have their own businesses. The pilot project is an example of how the auto industry can improve mineral supply chains, empower women, and protect the rights of the most vulnerable.” 

The program demonstrates how Ford is already taking action in response to the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Global Compact’s Action Pledge for the Elimination of Child Labour, which describes actions companies can take to eliminate child labor around the world by 2025. In signing the pledge, Ford commits to respect human rights by extending policies and due diligence processes outlined in the company’s human rights policy that prohibit child labor to its suppliers and business partners, and is implementing a new Supplier Code of Conduct. Ford will also engage with the Responsible Business Alliance and other multi-stakeholder groups to encourage others across industries to adopt best practices to end child labor.

“As the first major U.S. automaker to sign the pledge, Ford is taking this opportunity to show leadership within the industry to eliminate child labor not just in our business, but also in our supply chain,” said Mary Wroten, director of global sustainability and ESG. “By holding our suppliers and partners to the same high standards, we can work towards building a better world.” 

Ford Motor Company Fund, the company’s philanthropic arm, is supporting the program in collaboration with the Ford Purchasing group. Through its global grantmaking partner, GlobalGiving, Ford Fund and Ford Purchasing selected a responsible mineral sourcing project under the administration of the Oil and Mining Governance Center, a nonprofit that operates within the governance of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Artisanal miner washing cobalt
Artisanal Miner washing cobalt in Biwaya, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, a leader producer of cobalt, exported approximately 70% of global demand in 2020. Of these exports, 14% are estimated to be from Artisanal and Small Mines, much of which have been associated with child labor. Given the production capacity, the Democratic Republic of Congo occupies a central place in the upstream supply chains for these minerals. Increasing demand for cobalt offers economic and social opportunities to communities surrounding the metal’s extraction.

Women are employed in all sectors of the cobalt and copper ore supply chains in the provinces where the program is being organized. Oil and Mining Governance Center’s field observations report many of these women experience frequent discrimination and abuse, and do not have equal access to financial education or opportunities to manage small and medium-sized enterprises.

To learn more about Ford’s sustainability leadership, progress and commitments, visit sustainability.ford.com.

About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan, that is committed to helping build a better world, where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams.  The company’s Ford+ plan for growth and value creation combines existing strengths, new capabilities and always-on relationships with customers to enrich experiences for and deepen the loyalty of those customers.  Ford designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of connected, increasingly electrified passenger and commercial vehicles:  Ford trucks, utility vehicles, vans and cars, and Lincoln luxury vehicles.  The company is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, connected vehicle services and mobility solutions, including self-driving technology, and provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.  Ford employs about 186,000 people worldwide.  More information about the company, its products and Ford Motor Credit Company is available at corporate.ford.com.

About Ford Motor Company Fund
As the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, Ford Fund’s mission is to strengthen communities and help make people’s lives better. Working with Ford employees, dealers and nonprofit partners in more than 50 countries, Ford Fund provides access to opportunities and resources that help people reach their full potential. Since 1949, Ford Fund has invested more than $2.1 billion in programs that support education, promote safe driving, enrich community life and encourage employee volunteering. For more information, visit www.fordfund.org or join us at @FordFund on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.