Ten leading car companies including BMW and Volkswagen have pledged to address the ethical issues around their use of raw materials as production of electric vehicles ramps up.
Demand for minerals such as cobalt, graphite and lithium is forecast to soar in the coming years as governments crack down on vehicle pollution and carmakers step up their investments in electric models.
Drive Sustainability, a partnership of the automotive companies, said it would set up a “Raw Materials Observatory” to “identify and address ethical, environmental, human and labour rights issues in the sourcing of raw materials.”
The partnership was facilitated by lobby group Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Europe after a meeting with the car makers in Brussels last week.
Stefan Crets, CSR Europe's Business Network communications director, said the group would look to identify the risks of materials used by the group.
“The alliance will assess the risks posed by the top raw materials, such as mica, cobalt, rubber and leather in the automotive sector,” he said.
“This will allow Drive Sustainability to identify the most impactful activities to pursue to address issues within the supply chain.”
The move follows a report about child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which provides over half of the world’s supply of cobalt, a critical metal for most electric car batteries.
Around 20% of cobalt is mined by hand and sold to local traders, with children as young as seven reportedly mining the mineral in the DRC, according to Amnesty International.
Amnesty International’s report ranked electric carmakers that buy cobalt from the DRC according to five criteria based on guidance from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
It said the best performer was BMW, while Daimler and Renault scored the worst. It added that Tesla was showing signs of potential on the back of its human rights investigations practices but there was still a lack of information about how it addresses risks in its supply chain.
Drive Sustainability said it would unveil it action plan to address risks in the supply chain at the beginning of next year.
Other members of the group include Daimler, Ford, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Scania, Toyota Motor Europe, Volvo Cars and Volvo Group.
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