Building a Sustainable Electric Vehicle Battery Supply Chain

July 2020

The global transition from fossil fuel-powered vehicles to battery electric vehicles (EVs) will require the production of hundreds of millions of batteries. This massive deployment frequently raises questions from the general public and critics alike about the sustainability of the battery supply chain, from mining impacts to vehicle carbon emissions.

To address these questions, CLEE and the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) are conducting an stakeholder-led research initiative focused on identifying strategies to improve sustainability and governance across the EV battery supply chain. CLEE and NRGI convened leaders from across the mining, battery manufacturing, automaker, and governance observer/advocate sectors, to develop policy and industry responses to human rights, governance, environmental, and other risks facing the supply chain.

The new report “Sustainable Drive, Sustainable Supply: Priorities to Improve the Electric Vehicle Battery Supply Chain” identifies the following key challenges to ensuring battery supply chain sustainability through a multi-stakeholder approach, based on our outreach to experts in the field:

  • Lack of coordinated action, accountability, and access to information across the supply chain hinder sustainability efforts
  • Inadequate coordination and data sharing across multiple supply chain standards limit adherence
  • Regulatory and logistical barriers inhibit battery life extension, reuse, and recycling

The report recommends the following priority responses that industry, government and nonprofit leaders could take to address these challenges:

  • Industry leaders could strengthen mechanisms to improve data transparency and promote neutral and reliable information-sharing to level the playing field between actors across the supply chain and between governments and companies

  • Industry leaders and third-party observers could ensure greater application of supply chain sustainability best practices by defining and categorizing existing standards and initiatives to develop essential criteria, facilitate comparison and equivalency, and streamline adherence for each segment of the supply chain

  • Governments and industry leaders could create new incentives for supply chain actors to participate in and adhere to existing standards and initiatives, which may include sustainability labeling and certification initiatives

  • Industry leaders could design batteries proactively for disassembly (enabling recycling and reuse), and industry leaders and governments could collaborate to build regional infrastructure for battery recycling and transportation and create regulatory certainty for recycling

The responses to the supply chain challenges outlined in this report seek to provide guidance on the initial actions stakeholders can take to make this broader vision of implementation a reality, ensuring a more robust future for communities around the globe as well as for all-important electric vehicle adoption to meet climate change goals.

As the first step in this initiative, in April 2020 CLEE and NRGI prepared a background brief to address key questions such as:

  • What does the supply chain for EV batteries comprise?
  • How do carbon emissions from EVs compare to those from traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles?
  • What are the most significant challenges associated with managing the mineral extraction processes necessary for the EV supply chain, and what sustainability and human rights initiatives apply to these challenges?
 
The FAQ brief includes a number of preliminary findings, such as:

  • The greenhouse gas emissions benefits of EVs are clear and will grow as global electricity supplies become increasingly less carbon-intensive.
  • The supply chain is complex and subject to a number of potential bottlenecks where few countries or companies are responsible for dominant shares of production.
  • Various stages of the supply chain in locations around the world present sustainability risks, from low-level corruption to displacement of local populations, but these risks are not unique to EV mineral extraction–and a number of global initiatives are working to address them.
  • However, supply chain players will need to significantly improve coordination and data-sharing efforts to achieve long-term sustainability.

Watch the Webinars

 
Building a Sustainable Electric Vehicle Battery Supply Chain
July 23, 2020

Speakers: 

  • Patrick Heller, CLEE and Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI)
  • Michael Maten, General Motors
  • Daniel Mulé, Oxfam
  • Payal Sampat, Earthworks
  • Moderator: Ethan Elkind, CLEE
  • Moderator: Ted Lamm, CLEE
 
Lunch & Learn: Q&A with CLEE’s Ethan Elkind, Patrick Heller, and Ted Lamm
May 13, 2020

Speakers: 

  • Patrick Heller, CLEE and Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI)
  • Ethan Elkind, CLEE
  • Ted Lamm, CLEE
  • Moderator: Jordan Diamond, CLEE

 
Contact Ethan Elkind or Patrick Heller for more information.
 
This initiative is funded through support from the ClimateWorks Foundation.
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