Sustainable Cobalt Sourcing

With the strong emphasis on sustainable mobility in many regions in the world, a global new industry is emerging, serving the electrification of transportation. Li-ion battery technology is crucial for this transition. Umicore is a well-recognized supplier of active cathode and anode materials. Attention for different sustainability aspects of the battery supply chain is increasing. In particular, the conditions in which cobalt is mined and processed for the battery industry are a point of attention. 

Umicore was one of the first companies to proactively address issues such as human rights, child labor, occupational health and safety conditions and environmental impact related to the extraction of cobalt. Twelve years ago, Umicore made the decision to exclude from its supply chain cobalt obtained from Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) and to establish its specific sustainable procurement framework for cobalt. 

Since then, Umicore has acted as an industry leader to promote a responsible and sustainable supply of cobalt and became the first supplier of battery materials to have a reputable third party reviewing its supply chain framework in accordance with the OECD Due Diligence Guidelines. Supplier screening and actual supply performance are constantly monitored and evaluated against the set requirements. Ultimately, our actual performance against the sustainable procurement framework is annually audited by PWC and the compliance report is made available in our annual report under the risk management section. 

As suppliers and processors might handle products of diverse origins, Umicore has developed elaborated tools to monitor the content and quality of its supply chain. 

Detailed chemical fingerprinting, frequent on the field checks and operations reviews allow for the needed traceability and allow us to ensure that cobalt supplied to or processed for Umicore fulfills the requirements of our sustainable procurement framework.

Umicore has a general policy not to disclose names nor to comment upon specific supplier or customer relationships for all sectors of our businesses. We are convinced however that our customers and other value chain partners are offered detailed insights in our management approach applied in sourcing of critical materials and our actual performance against the implemented internal standards. In conclusion, materials processed and sold by Umicore are exempt not only from ASM but also from abuses of the environment, workers health and their safety.

With the rapid growth in demand for rechargeable battery materials, many players in the value chain including the general public are concerned about the origin of the material. Umicore commits to supply battery materials, including cobalt, in a sustainable way and makes great efforts to gather a full understanding of its supply chain.  While we understand that certain of our suppliers have multiple activities and production streams, we have ensured that our supplier relationship is exclusively relying upon production streams that fully meet our ethical and sustainability criteria.

Finally, Umicore is conscious of the challenge that cobalt extraction may represent in some parts of the world and it has engaged both locally and internationally in social assistance projects.