German automotive maker BMW has pledged to work for a more sustainable and transparent cobalt supply chain for battery manufacturing.
BMW said companies using cobalt as a raw material face tackling issues related to environmental standards and human rights that “cannot be completely eliminated in cobalt mining”.
However, the car giant said it plans to release information on smelters and the country origin of raw materials to show increased transparency of its own supplies of cobalt.
The move follows increasing calls for an ethical approach to procuring raw materials, including the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists urging companies that source lithium-ion batteries for electronic products such as electric vehicles to commit to using only “ethically-sourced materials”.
Meanwhile, BMW said it is working with others to study the feasibility of sustainably improving the social and ecological situation through “model mines” for artisanal mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The study will specifically evaluate whether localised model projects could be implemented with the potential to scale-up activities later.
BMW said it has also signed up to the Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI), launched in 2016 and backed by other firms and international bodies including the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
BMW’s head of sustainability and environmental protection Ursula Mathar (pictured) said: “The BMW Group does not procure any cobalt itself; it only comes into contact with this raw material through the purchase of battery cells, for example.
“However, we are well aware that growing demand for electric vehicles also goes hand-in-hand with a responsibility for the extraction of relevant raw materials, such as cobalt. As a premium manufacturer— and in the interests of our customers we aim to establish a transparent and sustainable supply chain that meets the highest standards.”