Revised standard supports ethically-sourced cobalt

24 August 2021

The Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) and the Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI) have collaborated to improve cobalt sourcing standards. 

The RMI and RCI have revised the Cobalt Refiner Supply Chain Due Diligence Standard, originally released in 2018, to support companies’ responsible production and sourcing activities within cobalt supply chains.

The revised standard comes after a multi-year review into the process and the results of independent third-party assessments including feedback from refiners, auditors and customers.

Cobalt is an essential material in the construction of batteries for electric vehicles. It is said to be critical for the transition to renewable energy, and cobalt usage is predicted to increase by 60% by 2025. 

However the material has previously come under fire after it was found by Amnesty International that children as young as seven were being used to mine the material in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sun Lihui, chairman of the RCI, acknowledged that increased use of the material meant there was greater public interest in ensuring it is ethically sourced.

He said: “The standard will effectively guide the companies’ responsible procurement practice, advocate the up and downstream companies to collaborate along the supply chain, and govern the risks in the supply chain in line with the principles of continuously improving, and addressing both the symptoms and root causes.”

The standard requires suppliers to report annually on their supply chain due diligence to allow for greater transparency, allowing for third-party assessments and establishing risk assessments on all cobalt sourced.

It also encourages suppliers to consider ways to effectively engage with local communities when sourcing cobalt, with a long-term view to establish relationships between miners, local communities, and non-governmental organisations by providing vocational and skills development training opportunities and creating employment opportunities for local workers.

Rob Lederer, CEO of the Responsible Business Alliance, said: “Expectations on companies to demonstrate responsible cobalt production and sourcing are increasing worldwide.

“Implementation of this revised standard will enhance responsible cobalt trade by setting clear and progressive requirements for companies in the cobalt value chain.”   

Mining firm Glencore recently announced it will be supplying cobalt to tech-start up Britishvolt, which is in the process of building a £4bn factory in Northumberland to make batteries for electric vehicles.

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