As the demand for electric vehicles and other new technology continues to rise, there’s been a surge in battery production and “gigafactories”. Now, the EU has proposed new legislation to improve sustainability.
The proposed legislation is designed to make sure all the materials for batteries are sustainable and sourced in an ethical way. The European Commission says it hopes this move will push up global standards and make Europe a “trailblazer” in the industry.
This proposal was put forward in December 2020 and, if approved, would be the first sustainable battery law in the world.
At the moment, problems in the battery industry include human rights abuses of workers and environmental issues within the supply chains. Producing batteries means extracting precious metals, and this process is linked with environmental degradation and poor working conditions.
Reports have linked the industry to child labor in some cases in countries that have cobalt mines, which are a major source of precious metals.
Applying the new EU battery laws to companies operating in Europe could help address some of these issues in the industry. For example, companies would be required to address any of these problems or they would face a ban in European countries.
As it would be difficult for companies to do business without operating the European market, which is the world’s largest trading bloc, the introduction of these rules would force them to comply with the requirements.
The proposals would follow OCED guidelines for the ethical sourcing of all battery materials and labor throughout the supply chain. And, this would require third-party verification to make sure companies were preventing labor and environmental abuses.
Leaders in the industry have welcomed the proposals. However, there have been some criticisms. Some have argued that the proposals don’t go far enough. Others have warned that, unless sufficient time is given for the industry to adapt, the new system could backfire.
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