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As the globe transitions to cleaner sources of energy, the human rights abuses in electric vehicle (EV) battery supply chains must be urgently addressed. In a new report published today (16 May 2023), the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre found salient human rights risks in the supply chains of nickel, an essential component of EV batteries.

Human rights abuses were identified in two important nickel supply chains in the Philippines and Indonesia – and linked these abuses to companies such as Panasonic, Tesla and Toyota. The report provided evidence to hold end-user companies accountable, however, the opacity of EV battery supply chains makes it difficult to do this. Without supply chain transparency, companies and investors appear distanced from the abuses lower down the value chain and can get away with not addressing these risks.

The case studies included in the report are the Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (Rio Tuba) in the Philippines and two Chinese companies operating in Indonesia (Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt and CNGR Advanced Materials). The report stressed the urgent need for government regulation over these supply chains, as well as robust human rights due diligence and engagement by mining companies, EV companies and their investors.

In a bid to save our planet from climate crisis-related destruction, global efforts to meet emissions targets will see the demand for EVs increase more than four-fold, accounting for 18% of global car sales in 2023. As the globe transitions to these cleaner sources of energy, companies must recognise their role in mitigating the endemic human rights issues in EV battery supply chains – and must use their leverage to hold suppliers accountable for risks in their value chains.

Pochoy Labog, Southeast Asia Researcher, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said: “Responding to the climate crisis is the most urgent priorities of our time, with a shift to renewable energy at the forefront of this. The globe has already begun transitioning to cleaner sources of energy, with decarbonised transport seeing significant investment. The US, EU and China have already introduced incentives to increase the automobile market share of electric vehicles and rising oil prices across the globe will also continue to contribute to this increased demand.

“While this shift to greener sources of energy must be encouraged, now is the time to start asking serious questions about the human rights abuses in electric vehicle supply chains. Our research has already revealed the extent to which the extraction of nickel, one of the essential components of electric vehicles, is riddled with abuses. But the opacity of these supply chains makes it difficult to identify, understand and remediate these abuses. Without supply chain transparency, battery manufacturers, end-user companies and investors can get away with not addressing these risks.

“The positive momentum towards electric vehicles risks being derailed by these unaddressed abuses, which have been known to delay projects and bring about unexpected costs. The human rights abuses in electric vehicle supply chains needs to be urgently interrogated and mitigated if a just transition to renewable energy is to be achieved – and supply chain transparency and accountability must be at the heart of this.”

Press release originally published on the website of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.