The Clean Cobalt Framework is a project announced by Eurasian Resources Group (ERG) late last year. It aims to boost the industry’s sustainability and to protect children’s welfare in mining countries. Benedikt Sobotka, CEO of ERG, says the company is fully committed to improving social inclusion and building a sustainable and responsible business.
Sobotka pointed out that “the social inclusion, particularly in the battery supply chain, is an important part, because materials going into the batteries are produced by artisanal mining, which is very difficult to control, to check, and to make sure it is done in a proper, legal, safe and an environmentally-sustainable way.”
A vital component of lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles and storage systems for renewable energy, cobalt is a key driver of the global transition to a low carbon economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is estimated that the number of EVs worldwide will jump from 3.2 million in 2017 to 130 million in 2030, with cobalt demand increasing by as much as 47 times by that point.
More than 65 percent of cobalt’s global supply comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a figure which is set to increase further. While providing significant growth opportunities, this natural resource comes with its own set of challenges, including unethical business practices.
“Our operation is industrialized. We do not use artisanal mining; we never do that,” Sobotka said. “Probably 20 percent to 30 percent of the batteries we use today are from mines that are not certified, that are illegal, using child labor. That’s one of the reasons we should look at, to make sure these practices improve. To make sure some of the values are distributed to the very beginning, to the very poor end of the production chain….how to make sure that people who live in conditions like in the 17th or 18th centuries can benefit from what has been created by the 4th Industrial Revolution. We have to work on that.”
ERG is one of the founding members of the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance, an initiative that aims to accelerate action towards a socially responsible, environmentally sustainable and innovative global battery chain.
“We are very active at the WEF this year. We are active in partnership and corruption initiative, in global battery-manufacturing lines, which is very much about a sustainable value chain, traceability of the value chain and social inclusion…we talk about how we can distribute the value created as part of the global industrial 4.0 to everybody. The original idea of the forum is how to create a sustainable future. Sustainability is all about equal and fair participation; [so] people can keep their dignity,” Sobotka explained.
Sobotka also noted that China is one of the biggest wealth creators and better income distributors in the world. He indicated that “it is a system that is completely different than what we have in Europe or the U.S.”
He added more efforts should be made to build a more appropriate and effective system to eradicate poverty and to create better social inclusion.