Top car manufacturers launch sustainable raw materials partnership

Some of the world's biggest global carmakers, including BMW, Ford and Toyota, have teamed up to launch a project to address the sustainability issues in the sourcing of raw materials.

The Raw Materials Observatory is the product of a five-year partnership, known as Drive Sustainability, between 10 leading car manufacturers which aims to improve sustainability in the automotive supply chain.

The new commitment, signed by Daimler AG, Honda, JLR, Scania, VW, Volvo Cars and Volvo Group, will see the group adopt a common approach to tackle environmental, human and labour rights issues within the supply chain.

More than 30,000 individual components are needed to manufacture a standard car, which makes for an extremely complex supply chain. Raw materials such as aluminium, mica, cobalt and rubber are associated with environmental and social risks such as labour and human rights violations and environmental degradation across developing countries.

Cross-sector actions

The Raw Material Observatory will assess the risks posed by the car industry’s top raw materials.

“This will allow Drive Sustainability to identify the most impactful activities to pursue in order to address the human, ethical and environmental issues within the supply chain,” said Stefan Crets, executive director of CSR Europe, which oversees Drive Sustainability.

The group has already agreed a joint approach to monitor compliance and promote the principles through the procurement process, as well as to organise capacity building actions such as supplier trainings and local supplier networks.

Crets revealed that Drive Sustainability is in talks with the Responsible Mica Initiative to support its ambition to reach a 100% responsible Indian Mica supply chain over the next five years.

“For Drive Sustainability this is an occasion to contribute to cross-sector actions to tackle child labour issues and unacceptable working conditions in the raw materials supply chain,” Crets said.

Supply chain risks

As the demand for raw materials grows over the next 15 years, experts have warned that EV manufacturers will need to prepare for greater supply chain risks or face brand damage and regulatory penalties from emerging legislation.

The production of lithium-ion batteries, commonly used for EVs, requires the use of materials such as cobalt, copper, nickel and bauxite, which are often sourced from a number of high-risk countries.

For instance, concerns exist around cobalt production in DR Congo – leading world producer of the metal – where a multitude of labour and human rights violations, including the exploitation of up to 40,000 children, have been reported in connection with the industry.

George Ogleby

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