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Major Automakers Promise Ethical and Socially Responsible Materials Sourcing

automakers ethical sustainable materials sourcing
Credit: CSR Europe on YouTube

A partnership among 10 top automakers called Drive Sustainability announced plans to set up a Raw Materials Observatory as a way to identify and address ethical, environmental, human, and labor rights issues in the sourcing of raw materials within the industry.

Representatives from approximately 70 automotive companies, automotive suppliers, NGOs and EU institutions met in Brussels last week to discuss the observatory. Leaders from Drive Sustainability presented the initiative and gathered stakeholder feedback, according to the partnership. The business network CSR Europe coordinates Drive Sustainability.

“The Raw Material Observatory will assess the risks posed by the top raw materials such as mica, cobalt, rubber, leather, and others in the automotive sector,” CSR Europe executive director Stefan Crets said in a press release. “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.”

Each vehicle contains tens of thousands of parts made by thousands of suppliers, CSR Europe explained in a video about the partnership. “On average, an automobile is made up of 47% steel, 8% iron, 8% plastic, 7% aluminum, and 3% glass,” BusinessGreen reported, “with other materials such as platinum, palladium, silica, rubber, copper, and rhodium making up the remaining 27%.”

Materials sourcing for the automotive industry promises to grow more fraught as production on electric vehicles is expected to increase, Reuters’ Andreas Cremer reported. “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,” Cremer wrote.

Green Car Reports writer Mark Stevenson suggests that the sourcing of materials from politically unstable regions and states with little or no protections for workers and children will likely be of particular interest to the partnership. “For instance, approximately half of the world’s cobalt supply in mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where UNICEF estimated 40,000 children worked in mines in 2014.”

Next, Drive Sustainability’s leaders say that the sustainability advisory firm The Dragonfly Initiative will perform a risk assessment of top materials in the automotive industry and present those results before the new year. In early 2018, Drive Sustainability will share an action plan to address those risks.

Drive Sustainability partners:

  • BMW Group
  • Daimler AG
  • Ford
  • Honda
  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • Scania CV AB
  • Toyota Motor Europe
  • Volkswagen Group
  • Volvo Cars
  • Volvo Group

We are accepting submissions for the 2018 Environmental Leader Awards. The final deadline is December 15, 2017. Learn more here.

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