Cleaning up battery supply chains

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The Global Battery Alliance aims to safeguard workers, ban child labour, eradicate pollution, promote re-use and recycling and unlock innovation for green energy storage.

The challenge

"It is almost certain that your smartphone or electric vehicle contains cobalt that comes from child workers in artisanal mines."
Benedikt Sobotka, Chief Executive Officer, Eurasian Resources Group

Batteries are a critical enabler of today’s world. We can’t use smartphones, laptops, gadgets, electric vehicles or renewable energy storage without them.

Analysts say a 12-fold increase in battery capacity is needed to meet consumer demand and the promise of a low-carbon economy; the market is likely to reach $100 billion by 2025 and batteries installed in homes and businesses will account for 57% of the world’s energy storage capacity by 2040.

There are, however, enormous human and environmental costs; an Amnesty International report highlighted the prevalent use of child labour in the mining of cobalt. Materials such as lithium, nickel, manganese and graphite have been linked to pollution, water shortages and other environmental and social concerns.

Meanwhile, a recycling challenge looms over the huge quantities of spent lithium-ion batteries forecast to be discarded because the infrastructure in place to enable a circular economy for batteries is limited.

Some promising activities to address these issues are under way, but these are fragmented and need increased scale and accelerated timetables.

The strategy

The World Economic Forum has helped launch the Global Battery Alliance, a public-private coalition dedicated to achieving an inclusive, innovative and sustainable battery value chain. The alliance will:
– Mobilize and accelerate action towards a responsible supply of the raw materials needed for batteries
– Support a move towards a circular economy for batteries
– Unlock innovation across the battery value chain

The Global Battery Alliance is part of three Forum System Initiatives:

System Initiative
Shaping the Future of
Economic Progress

How can the world strengthen growth and equality at the same time?

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System Initiative
Shaping the Future of
Energy

How can effective transition to a more sustainable, affordable, secure and inclusive energy system be enabled?

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System Initiative
Shaping the Future of
Environment and Natural Resource Security

How can the world achieve inclusive economic growth while combating climate change and other natural resource challenges?

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The impact

Launched at the Sustainable Development Impact Summit in New York in September 2017, the alliance has already formed a coalition comprising technology, mining, chemical, manufacturing, electronics, automotive and energy businesses, United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the African Development Bank, other international organizations, NGOs and academia.

Together, these stakeholders have the potential to achieve the inclusive, sustainable and innovative battery value chain needed to power the Fourth Industrial Revolution.