Our activities in the lithium supply chain.

Extracted in a sustainable manner

Our activities in the lithium supply chain.

The mining of the battery raw material lithium often attracts criticism due to social and ecological aspects. To ensure the responsible sourcing of lithium, Mercedes-Benz emphasizes this raw material to be extracted in a sustainable manner, and in the future will only come from mines that have been audited in accordance with the mining standard of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA).

Responsibly sourced and processed raw materials are an major basis for a sustainable Mercedes-Benz electric fleet. For this reason, Mercedes-Benz is working to identify and avoid risks and negative impacts at an early stage as part of the Human Rights Respect System (HRRS). As a first step, the lithium supply chain was made transparent. One part in our lithium supply chains comes from Australia, another from Chile.

Based on a collection and analysis of data, but also through dialog with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), we identified Chile in particular as a country of origin with increased risk. The risks are primarily associated with lithium mining through brine extraction and include various negative environmental impacts as well as adverse impacts on indigenous peoples and communities.

In order to address the environmental consequences of lithium mining and the impact on the local population, we are in contact with our direct suppliers and sub-suppliers. An important aspect is to involve the local people, and to establish a dialogue between them and the local decision-makers. We also maintain an exchange with relevant stakeholders such as NGOs and development organizations. We use the impulses from these dialogues with the aim of working towards a sustainable improvement of the situation for the local population and environment.

High standards for a sustainable supply chain

Mercedes-Benz is not only committed to socially and environmentally compatible raw material extraction, but in addition to risk assessment in accordance with international standards, we also attach great importance to active participation in industry initiatives. They help to make complex supply chains more responsible through joint measures - including the lithium supply chains.

To achieve this, Mercedes-Benz Procurement is making the industry-wide recognized "Standard for Responsible Mining" of the "Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance" (IRMA)  one of the key criteria for supplier decisions and supplier contracts. With the company’s contracts, partners commit to using only lithium in their own supply chain that comes from mines audited in accordance with the IRMA mining standard. The most important criteria of this standard include both human rights aspects and the environmentally friendly mining of raw materials. The standard also takes into consideration further social and societal aspects that are related to the consequences of industrial mining.

Our focus, however, is not only on the mines and raw material extraction. We are committed to ensuring that human rights are respected and that the raw material is processed in an environmentally friendly manner throughout all stages of the value chain. Since 2022, we have therefore been working together with the audit and consulting company RCS Global to create transparency across the entire lithium supply chains of our battery cells and have them audited across all stages on a risk-based basis in accordance with OECD due diligence guidelines. This effort is based on initial progress in the cobalt supply chains and has been extended to other battery raw materials, including nickel, graphite, manganese and copper in addition to cobalt and lithium. You can find more information here.

Working together

In addition to our own activities, we consider it important to participate in industry initiatives. They help us to make complex supply chains more responsible through joint measures - including the lithium supply chains.

The Mercedes-Benz Group has been participating in the Automotive Industry Dialogue, a support measure of the German government from the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP), since 2020. As part of the Lithium pilot project , representatives from various stakeholder groups are developing country-wide quality and action recommendations  (Document available in German language only) for responsible lithium mining. The quality recommendations address lithium mining companies directly and describe the common expectations of the stakeholders of the Automotive Industry Dialogue for responsible lithium mining. The recommendations for action show possibilities how the companies of the German automotive industry can support an ambitious implementation of the quality recommendations in terms of the UN Guiding Principles in the mining areas. The aim of the project is to publicize and disseminate the quality and action recommendations in exchange with external stakeholders. Through dialogue with external stakeholders - in particular companies in the lithium supply chain and civil society actors in the mining regions - we promote the quality recommendations together with other representatives, deepen selected aspects of content and build influence.

While Mercedes-Benz's involvement in the NAP industry dialog focuses on transnational risks, the brand with the star has also defined specific measures to address the identified risks in Chile.

Study on lithium mining in Salar de Atacama

In 2020, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen commissioned a study to better understand the risks of lithium mining in Chile and to address them effectively and in a targeted manner. The study was conducted by various experts on-site in Chile and in Salar de Atacama-including interviews with mining companies, government authorities and ministries, as well as with the indigenous population and local NGOs. The study identified the following key risks related to lithium mining in Salar de Atacama:

  • Adverse environmental impact
  • Threats to indigenous people and communities
  • Incomplete understanding of the human-environment system

Therefore, Mercedes-Benz decided to initiate the “Responsible Lithium Partnership” together with several other companies-an initiative to promote the sustainable use of resources in the Chilean Salar de Atacama. This cross-industry initiative is financed by BASF SE, BMW Group, Daimler Truck AG, Fairphone, Mercedes-Benz Group and Volkswagen Group. The partnership intends to foster a dialogue among local stakeholders, generating and synthesizing scientific facts and seeking solutions in a participatory manner.

This article was last updated in September 2023.