Tech giant IBM has teamed up with battery maker LG Chem, the Ford Motor Company and others to use blockchain technology “to trace and validate ethically-sourced materials” for batteries and other products.
The group, which includes Chinese mining firm Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt and auditing specialist RCS Global, is starting with a pilot focused on cobalt sourced in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The move comes amid increasing pressure on electric vehicle producers and their battery suppliers to ensure an ethical approach for procuring raw materials— and hot on the heels of another ‘sustainable cobalt’ initiative launched by South Korea’s Samsung SDI and Samsung Electronics, Germany’s BMW and chemicals group BASF.
IBM said its pilot— scheduled for completion by mid-2019— is under way and will help to “infuse more transparency into global mineral supply chains”.
“For this pilot based on a simulated sourcing scenario, Cobalt produced at Huayou’s industrial mine site in the DRC will be traced through the supply chain as it travels from mine and smelter to LG Chem’s cathode plant and battery plant in South Korea, and finally into a Ford plant in the US,” IBM said.
Participants in the network will be “validated against responsible sourcing standards” developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Other supply chain networks will be encouraged to join the network— which IBM said is expected to extend beyond cobalt into other battery metals and raw materials.
Mining firms, smelters and consumer brands have traditionally relied on third-party audits “to establish compliance with generally accepted industry standards”, IBM said. “Coupled with these assessments, blockchain technology offers a network of validated participants and immutable data that can be seen by all permissioned network participants in real time.”