Global Battery Alliance Pledges to End Child Labor

Global Battery Alliance Pledges to End Child Labor

June 11, 2021
Lithium-ion batteries depend on access to cobalt and two-thirds of global reserves are located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is often associated with child labor.

The Global Battery Alliance (GBA) announced on June 8, its 2021 Action Pledge to End Child Labor in the Battery Supply Chain, as part of the Alliance 8.7’s campaign to encourage significant and meaningful actions in the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor.

Child labor in the battery supply chain is an escalating issue as the demand for batteries grows rapidly to contribute to the goals for a low carbon transition. Lithium-ion batteries depend on access to cobalt and two-thirds of global reserves are located in the copper belt of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and often associated with human rights issues including child labor. 

“The elimination of child labor in the global battery supply chain is at the heart of our work at the Global Battery Alliance to ensure that the soaring demand for batteries is responsible and sustainable,” said Benedikt Sobotka, CEO of Eurasian Resources Group (ERG) and Co-chair of the Global Battery Alliance Supervisory Council.

This Pledge builds upon GBA’s existing commitments to strengthen the transparency of sourcing materials across the value chain and facilitate a safe and sustainable future for mining communities in the DRC, the world's largest producer of cobalt.

"It is vital that the supply of clean energy does not come at the expense of the world’s most vulnerable communities and, to ensure this, we look forward to collaborating with all relevant stakeholders and executing initiatives like the Battery Passport, which promises a fully traceable, responsible and sustainable battery supply chain.” said  Benedikt Sobotka, CEO of Eurasian Resources Group (ERG) and Co-chair of the Global Battery Alliance Supervisory Council.

Separately, lead-acid batteries (LAB) constitute approximately 72% of the world rechargeable battery capacity (in GWh) for cars, including electric vehicles, industrial batteries, and for off-grid energy renewable energy storage, especially in developing countries.  The informal sector of lead recycling via unregulated, unlicensed and often illegal economic activity includes significant use of children in the collection and hazardous recovery of lead from batteries, especially in emerging economies.

“Global Battery Alliance members are committed to a battery supply chain, from responsible mining to recycling, that’s clean, green, safe, and free from child labor,” said Stephen D’Esposito, CEO of Resolve and vice-chair, Global Battery Alliance Board of Directors.

“This will take policy reform, corporate commitments, and a community-based development strategy. The diverse membership of the GBA is uniquely positioned to deliver results.”

The GBA has developed a multi-year roadmap towards 2030 based on 10 principles to which all of its members commit, including Principle #8: “Immediately and urgently eliminating child and forced labor, strengthening communities and respecting the human rights of those employed by the value chain.”

To achieve these goals, the GBA is focusing on four areas of action:

  • Development of a digital Battery Passport to track and authenticate the absence of child labor in the sourcing of cobalt and sustainability criteria of the battery. The Battery Passport will require companies to demonstrate they have no child labor along the value chain by reporting on child labor indicators, leading to greater transparency and monitoring.
  • Participation in the Cobalt Action Partnership (CAP), which contributes to the sustainable development of responsible artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) and surrounding communities, and the respect of human rights of those affected by the cobalt value chain. The CAP will support the implementation of standards at mine sites in the DRC that will prohibit child labor.
  • Aiming to raise US$ 21 million from public and private partners over the next three years for The Fund for the Prevention of Child Labor in Mining Communities – A Global Battery Alliance Collaboration, to address the root causes of child labor in mining communities through multisectoral initiatives, and in cooperation with the government and civil society organizations in the DRC.
  • Convening policymakers to accelerate adoption of best practices to formalize lead-acid battery recycling. Formalizing lead recycling would help eliminate the participation of children in recycling and the direct and indirect exposure of children to lead.

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