Responsible procurement of cobalt in bus batteries

Swedish cities are moving towards public bus electrification, which helps to reduce urban air pollution and tackle climate change. But producing the cobalt-containing lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles can also create serious social and human rights impacts, since the majority of global cobalt supply comes from conflict mineral mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This study for the traffic authority Skånetrafiken analyses how they can move towards bus electrification while reducing the social sustainability risks of cobalt procurement in electric buses

Summary

This report analyses the issues of cobalt as a potential conflict mineral in electric bus procurement, how it relates to the traffic authority Skånetrafiken (based in southern Sweden) and their goal to shift towards bus electrification, and how they can reduce the social sustainability risks associated with raw material procurement. It mapped out Skånetrafiken’s potential supply chain for cobalt in bus batteries and the sustainable mineral procurement policies of supply chain actors, with focus on traffic operator companies as first-tier suppliers. The study found that most first-tier traffic operators did not have policies on conflict minerals or cobalt. This may be due to limited consumer demand and low public awareness of cobalt conflict mining issues. However, a number of supply chain actors are taking action on sustainable cobalt mineral sourcing. This is mainly concentrated among vehicle manufacturers and major battery cell and pack makers. The study recommends that Skånetrafiken integrate responsible mineral sourcing in their tendering processes, include wording in supplier contracts to cover sustainable cobalt sourcing more explicitly, and actively engage with their first-tier and upstream suppliers to collaborate on tackling conflict mineral issues.

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Last updated: 2021-05-05

IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

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