Introducing our Trustees – Carla Neefs

Trustees 17 Jun , 2021

Hello everyone, my name is Carla Neefs, I am happy to be in the Board of Trustees of The Impact Facility.

I believe in the power of business to raise millions out of poverty, including for people working in artisanal and small-scale mining. Thousands of rural communities are literally sitting on a mineral endowment – gold, diamonds, or cobalt – worth billions of euros. And yet, they seldom succeed in capturing the potential of this natural wealth for themselves, and instead look on as commodity traders, refiners, jewellers and electronic companies use these precious metals and gemstones they have carved out of the ground to make consumer products and profits. There is an imbalance here that can’t and shouldn’t be solved by development aid alone. Instead, the solution is a fundamental change in value distribution along the supply chain and a shift to more equitable business models. This is good for rural communities, but good too for sustainable modern businesses engaging a more ethical consumer market.

In my work with Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) I explored deeply the cobalt supply chain, together with Fairphone and Huayou (Chinese cobalt refiner) to find ways to build a fairer supply chain. I mapped the Signify supply chain for products like batteries and emergency lights, and found the way through to the battery suppliers, the anode and cathode suppliers, to the cobalt refiners, and, finally to the cobalt mines. At the mines we saw a similar picture as elsewhere in artisanal and small-scale mining: poor working conditions and poor earnings alongside environmental and social problems. In my current work with Solidaridad I encounter these issues in the gold supply chain, and at the artisanal and small-scale gold mines that provide 20% of the world’s gold. Even though gold is valuable, and its price forever rising, the benefits fail to accumulate with the miners and mining communities as much as they should in a world, we strive to be fairer. This is something we all know, however. The trials of artisanal gold miners are well documented, and any business sourcing gold has some knowledge of supply chain imbalances. With this knowledge, we can act. It is incumbent on all business in the supply chain to take some responsibility and act collectively with their peers to address these problems, even if they seem distant and unconnected to everyday work.

Solidaridad has long term experience in working with artisanal and small-scale gold miners and has completed much research on the topic. We have found that there are three key factors stopping artisanal and small-scale miners developing responsible, profitable small businesses: access to capital, equipment and formal markets. The solution to gaining access to these is exactly what The Impact Facility stands for.

I hope we can continue to attract impact investment capital, and downstream buyers’ commitment through The Impact Facility and I am proud to be in the position to contribute to its success.