Responsible sourcing of transition minerals
The transition to electric vehicles requires significant quantities of minerals such as cobalt, nickel, lithium, copper, manganese, and zinc. The sourcing of these materials carries significant human rights and environmental risks, including damage to water, land and other natural resources that local communities depend on. Some of these minerals are also sourced from areas characterized by armed conflict, otherwise known as conflict-affected or high risk areas (CAHRAs).
In order to address and mitigate these risks, automakers should develop and implement responsible mineral sourcing policies, which should include measures to identify, prevent, mitigate, account and remedy abuses in their supply chains caused by the sourcing of minerals.
The OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, together with their Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, can provide a framework for such responsible sourcing policies that can be applied to all minerals in EV supply chains.
One important initiative in this area that should be supported by automakers is the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), the only third-party certification of industrial-scale mine sites for all mined materials that is governed equitably by the private sector, local communities, civil society, and workers. Automakers can support this initiative by joining it directly but also by prioritizing sourcing from mines audited by IRMA and requiring their own suppliers to be audited by IRMA.
What can automakers do?
- Develop standalone responsible minerals sourcing policies and/or include sections on responsible sourcing of transition minerals and metals in their human rights policies, that apply to all salient minerals and metals in their supply chains.
- Include human rights clauses in contractual arrangements with suppliers and require them to undertake due diligence in accordance with the OECD Due Diligence for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High Risk Areas, and put in place processes to monitor / audit suppliers for compliance with these diligence requirements and to respond with corrective measures if non-conformances are found.
- Put in place processes to map their supply chains back to the point of extraction.
- Disclose the transition minerals risks in their supply chain and where they are located.
- Engage smelters and refiners so as to build their capacity to conduct due diligence.
- Become members of IRMA, require their suppliers to be audited by IRMA and disclose commitments to source minerals from IRMA audited mines.
- Put in place grievance and remedy mechanisms that are easily accessible to rights-holders impacted by their transition mineral supply chains