Sustainable cobalt mining.

The sustainability strategy of the BMW Group (online) – sustainable, resource-efficient supply chain
The BMW Group will significantly increase supply chain transparency and resource efficiency by 2020.

How exactly is this goal pursued?

November 2018. The BMW Group and its stakeholders place enormous value on compliance with environmental and social standards along the entire value chain. Since our supplier network with around 12,000 suppliers accounts for around 80% of our value chain, it is of crucial importance for resource efficiency and safeguarding social standards. We therefore work closely with our direct suppliers to increase transparency in our supply chains.

High-quality lithium-ion batteries are particularly important for electric vehicles. Cobalt is required for their production because this metal ensures high energy density in the battery. The BMW Group currently only obtains cobalt indirectly through the purchase of battery cells. However, since cobalt mining harbours high risks, particularly in the area of human rights, we monitor the origin of the raw material cobalt very closely and critically. This applies above all to the Democratic Republic of Congo where two thirds of all quantities required worldwide come from.

To prevent cobalt mined under difficult social and ecological conditions from being used for the batteries in the BMW i3 or BMW i8, for example, the BMW Group only accepts companies who obtain cobalt from mines that are committed to respecting human rights. In addition, we regularly publish information on cobalt smelters and the countries where this raw material is sourced.

The BMW Group is involved with numerous other companies and organisations, such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in the Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI). One of its goals is to come up with common measures to manage social and environmental risks within the cobalt supply chain.

However, the BMW Group takes this a step further and in 2018, alongside other companies, it commissioned Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) to test ways in which the living and working conditions in artisanal mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo can be improved over a period of three years. Various measures are implemented in a targeted manner in a pilot mine. These include workshops and training courses on occupational safety and environmental conservation. The priority is not the fast mining of the metal but rather improved safety, e.g. with regards to the statics in tunnel construction. Local partners such as mining cooperatives are involved in the implementation of measures from the outset. Not least because these changes are worthwhile for them on a social and economic level.

Little by little, this should bring about an improved working standard for artisanal cobalt mines, which will then be carried forward by local actors and can serve as a model for other mines in the Congo. In addition, programmes aiming at simplified access to educational opportunities and improving the living conditions in the neighbouring communities are being run in parallel.