Social Risk and Social Performance Evaluation of Battery Raw Materials

Main Presenter: Marzia Traverso 

Co-Authors: Mankaa Nangah Rose Davis Jose

In the production of electric vehicles, natural resource supply chains are frequently complicated and are rooted worldwide. Electric mobility, which is powered by lithium-ion batteries, requires more natural resources than cars powered by internal combustion engines, therefore it is reliant on the extractive industries. Demand for cobalt could more than double, from 110,000 t in 2017 to as much as 225,000 t in 2025, according to the German Mineral Resources Agency (DERA) at the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), while demand for lithium could increase by a factor of six, from 35,000 t in 2015 to 224,000 t in 2025.

With the increase in demand comes an increased social impact on workers, communities, and society from the mining and processing of these minerals. There is therefore need to comprehend the extent of the social burden involved, to choose less-impacting alternatives. In this paper, Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA), a robust approach in line with the ISO 14040/44 standardised Life Cycle Assessment methodology was applied according to the UNEP Guidelines of S-LCA of products recently revised in 2020 and ICMM mining principles 2020. The main raw materials used in Li-NMC (Lithium – Nickel Manganese Cobalt) batteries were considered along the entire life cycle including the mining and refining operations at country level and company level. The results suggest a significant social effect based on Social Risk and Social Performance assessments, indicating a significant negative impact related with parameters such as child labor, health, and safety, and forced labor in the mining and
refining industries. The results have been embedded in an interactive map for responsible sourcing of raw materials. This visual representation is a user-friendly tool to enhance decision-making for responsible sourcing of battery raw materials needed to build a sustainable mobility and a digital economy.

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