The heart of a battery is the battery cell. Its production involves a wide range of materials – including cobalt and lithium. Both are at times strongly criticized in terms of human rights as well as environmental aspects.
Our aim is to further reduce the use of critical raw materials. In the coming generations of battery cells, for example, the cobalt content is already being reduced to less than ten percent. The long-term objective is even to be able to dispense with materials such as cobalt entirely through post-lithium-ion technologies with new material compositions.
Procurement of battery cells with cobalt and lithium from certified sources
Part of a comprehensive approach being taken by Mercedes-Benz for its overall battery strategy is a decision by the Mercedes-Benz Procurement promoting the socially acceptable and environmentally sound extraction of cobalt and lithium.
The company will in future only source battery cells with cobalt and lithium from certified mining sites. To achieve this, the Mercedes-Benz Procurement will in future only work with suppliers who purchase raw materials from certified sources in accordance with the recognized mining standard of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) and who comply with their due diligence obligations along the supply chain in accordance with OECD guidelines. 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. The supply chains will in the future also be regularly monitored.
Mercedes-Benz deliberately has decided not to generally exclude countries of origin viewed as high-risk - such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo - as sources of supply. Instead, the holistic approach aims to improve the local situation for the people working there and to strengthen their rights. This is the only way to achieve long-term social changes.
By doing so, the company is also following the recommendation of non-governmental organizations, governments and other relevant interest groups not to withdraw from high-risk countries in general. The principle of “using leverage before withdrawing” is a maxim of action that can be found in different forms in various frameworks for respecting and upholding human rights, on which Mercedes-Benz is oriented, for example in the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights of the German federal government.