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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Top car makers unite over ethical mineral purchases

Alliance 'will assess the risks posed by the top raw materials [such as mica, cobalt, rubber and leather] in the automotive sector'

An electric Volkswagen Passat car at a VW dealer in Berlin, Germany. Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters
An electric Volkswagen Passat car at a VW dealer in Berlin, Germany. Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Leading car makers including Volkswagen and Toyota pledged on Wednesday to uphold ethical and socially responsible standards in their purchases of minerals for an expected boom in electric vehicle production.

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 car makers step up their investments in electric models.

To cover its plans for more than 80 new models by 2025, Volkswagen (VW) alone is looking for partners in China, Europe and North America to provide battery cells and related technology worth more than €50 billion (Dh181.98bn).

Talks with major cobalt producers, including Glencore, at VW's Wolfsburg headquarters last week ended without a deal.

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More than half of the world's cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country racked by political instability and legal opacity, and where child labour is used in mines.

On Wednesday, a group of 10 leading passenger-car and truck manufacturers announced an initiative to jointly identify and address ethical, environmental, human and labour rights issues in raw materials sourcing.

The partnership dubbed "Drive Sustainability" consists of VW, Toyota Motor Europe, Ford, Daimler, BMW , Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo Cars and truck makers Scania and Volvo.

The alliance "will assess the risks posed by the top raw materials [such as mica, cobalt, rubber and leather] in the automotive sector," said Stefan Crets of the CSR Europe business network.

"This will allow Drive Sustainability to identify the most impactful activities to pursue" to address issues within the supply chain.