Volkswagen (VW) has joined a group that sets environmental and social standards in mining in an attempt to ensure its raw materials are sustainable, especially in electric vehicles (EVs).
VW has signed up to the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), joining other auto manufacturers including General Motors and Ford.
IRMA, which launched in 2006, includes both buyers and producers of minerals, investors, labour unions, community representatives and independent experts.
“In many cases, it is not the Volkswagen Group itself that is going to purchase the raw materials,” said Murat Aksel, VW’s board member for purchasing.
“But we want to know where they come from and under what conditions they are mined and processed.”
VW is making a concerted push to increase EV output and has boosted spending in the area by around half to 52 billion euros, compared to the previous five-year rolling investment plan, it said in December.
Cobalt, a key component in EV batteries, has been in particular focus because the bulk of production comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has a large informal sector with a legacy of unsafe working practices and child labour.
VW is participating in a pilot project in Congo with a mine operator to test new certification standards developed by another organisation, CERA, Aksel added.
He said VW also supported a European initiative to develop domestic sources of supply for critical minerals, which has targeted rare earth magnets used in EVs and wind turbines as its top priority.
“The development of sustainable supply chains for raw materials is a core strategic goal for us. We believe that strengthening our European supplier network plays an important role in this,” he said.
In 2020, Volkswagen and Daimler launched a study to push for more “sustainable” mining in Chile of lithium, another key EV battery ingredient.