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Sustainable Drive, Sustainable Supply: Priorities to Improve the Electric Vehicle Battery Supply Chain

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

Growing demand for the mineral inputs for battery production can provide an opportunity for mineral-rich countries to generate fiscal revenues and other economic opportunities. But where extraction takes place in countries with weak governance, the benefits expected by citizens and leaders may not materialize; in some cases extraction can exacerbate corruption, human rights abuses and environmental risks.

To address these questions, the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at U.C.-Berkeley and NRGI are conducting a 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.

This report "Sustainable Drive, Sustainable Supply: Priorities to Improve the Electric Vehicle Battery Supply Chain" shares the major conclusions of this multi-stakeholder convening and accompanying 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 priorities as industry, government and nonprofit leaders respond to these challenges:

  • Industry leaders, governments and civil society 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, governments and civil society 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 authors of this report 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.

Read the related frequently asked questions briefing here.