Between 12-20 June, Drive Sustainability engaged with key stakeholders like the DRC Chamber of Mines, the Employer Federation of Congo, mining companies and development agencies in the Democratic Republic of Congo to enhance collaborative solutions for the responsible sourcing of raw materials.
Europe’s green transition depends on the production of electric vehicle (EV) batteries, without which the ambitious goals of electrifying mobility by 2035 and becoming the first climate neutral continent by 2050 would be unattainable. However, this exponential growth in battery production comes hand in hand with an ever-increasing demand for essential raw materials. To ensure a smooth transition, securing a steady supply of crucial minerals such as lithium, graphite, nickel, cobalt, and rare earth elements (REE) has become an utmost priority for numerous countries engaged in the production and manufacturing of EV batteries and cars. The urgency of this matter is reflected by recent policy developments, exemplified by initiatives such as the EU Critical Raw Materials Act, as well as the Critical Material Strategies implemented by the United States and Australia.
As the world grapples with the pressing need for raw materials, it is imperative to address the human rights and environmental implications inherent in their extraction. The relentless pressure to produce critical minerals has unfortunately exacerbated social tensions, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation in many developing nations. At the same time, for countries at the forefront of mineral production, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Argentina, and Bolivia, among others, this commodity boom presents a unique opportunity. These nations can leverage the increasing demand to foster socio-economic development and improve the lives of their citizens. Striking a balance between economic growth, social progress, and environmental stewardship is a challenge that governments, industries, and civil society must confront to avoid the pitfalls of “the Dutch disease” – corruption and predatory behaviours triggered by the influx of wealth from resource exploitation – and pave the way for a truly sustainable and equitable future.
Drive Sustainability’s approach to responsible sourcing
Upcoming regulatory measure, including the European Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), ask Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to identify, mitigate, and address human rights violations and environmental issues arising from their business activities. These, however, often occur in distant geographies, within the deep supply chain, and are intertwined with deficiencies in political and economic institutions. To comply and have a positive impact on the communities involved in the value chain it is necessary to tackle the root causes. It is with this mindset that Drive Sustainability engaged with upstream actors and local stakeholders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The complex structure of the automotive supply chain, with automotive manufacturers often several tiers removed from mining companies, presents challenges related to transparency and individual leverage. While engaging with Tier-1 suppliers and incorporating sustainability requirements into contracts is crucial, Drive Sustainability’s OEMs have developed new approaches to engage with lower tiers of the mineral value chain, including the definition of sustainability standards, due diligence programs, and the adoption of collective supplier engagement.
Firstly, Drive Sustainability Partners set up Raw Material Outlook, a unique online platform designed for the collection of data and identification of risks associated with crucial elements such as Nickel, Rare Earth Elements, Aluminium, Iron Ore. The primary objective of this tool – available to Drive Sustainability partners for free and to Drive Sustainability supporters on-demand – is to assist OEM by:
- • Prioritizing risks and identifying key stakeholders, actors within the value chain, and affected communities.
- • Enabling collective and/or individual company actions by leveraging the identified points, further strengthened through engagement and risk monitoring.
Secondly, Drive Sustainability started to engage with mining companies and suppliers operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the framework of the project Extractives for Sustainability. Funded by the German Development Agency (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by CSR Europe, this project complements current efforts for responsible sourcing and due diligence in the minerals and metals sector with a practical on-the-ground approach aimed at empowering local actors. The project supports existing local business networks, such as the Chambers of Mines in DRC, in enhancing the capacities of local large- and medium-scale mines in managing sustainability issues. The sustainability network’s objective is to facilitate the exchange of responsible sourcing practices among mines and their subcontractors, as well as to identify and nurture collaborative action.
Through stakeholder dialogues, sustainability ateliers, and field visits to mines, operators, and communities, the following challenges associated with Large Scale Mining (LSM) in the DRC were identified:
- • Working conditions and respect for workers’ rights
- • Labor conditions and relations with subcontractors
- • Local socio-economic development, community impact, and the approach to CSR provisions in the DRC Mining Code
- • Relations between large-scale mining and artisanal mining, and how to ensure security.
- • Corruption, bribery, and the broader governance and rule of law agenda
- • Professional skills development and lack of structural support for the education system
Following the identification of the above issues, LSM prioritized 4 topics – (1) integration/training of local labour; (2) the Cahier des Charges and the 0.3%, (3) investments in local SMEs and their involvement in mining operations; (4) coexistence of artisanal and large scale mining – which were addressed at dedicated workshops in Kolwezi in November 2022 and in Lubumbashi on the 12th and 13th of June 2023. The dialogue sessions were co-organized by Fortunat Kande, President of the CSR Commission of Chambre des Mines/FEC, and facilitated by its members. Over 50 stakeholders – including mining companies (EGR, Kipushi Corporation, Cimoc, etc.), suppliers, subcontractors, OEMs, local civil society organizations, innovation centres, development agencies, and international organizations – attended each atelier.
From a downstream perspective, the atelier provided a unique opportunity to understand the complex dynamics on the ground and the role played by different actors. These valuable inputs were then used by Drive Sustainability’s OEMs to enhance their risk identification processes and incorporate the perspectives of workers, local communities, and civil society through grievance channels. At the same time, the ateliers also opened the door for collaborative solutions amongst different stakeholders.
Responsible mining is not solely an upstream challenge; it requires engagement from the entire value chain. Establishing direct and local engagement with the upstream stakeholders is crucial in comprehending the underlying causes of ESG issues that OEMs are expected to address and rectify. To maximize their impact, participants should strive to avoid fragmentation by identifying relevant stakeholders and existing initiatives, engaging with them, and fostering a common understanding and alignment of approaches. This collaboration can lead to synergies and complementary actions, ultimately scaling up the positive outcomes.
For more information:
Luciana Rendace, Senior Project Manager Drive Sustainability, CSR Europe