Volkswagen Joins IBM-Backed Blockchain Platform for Cobalt in Electric Cars

Volkswagen has joined a blockchain scheme to ensure the cobalt used in lithium-ion batteries for its electric vehicles is responsibly sourced.

The German car maker hopes the technology, built on the IBM Blockchain Platform, will “increase efficiency, sustainability and transparency in global mineral supply chains.”

In smartphones to cars, cobalt has become a crucial component for consumer products, but according to an IBM blog, two-thirds of global production comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where an estimated two million miners face “profound challenges including human rights violations.” In 2017, Reuters reported that some cobalt mines use child labor and are controlled by insurgent militias.

The new platform, powered by the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric, aims to ensure major companies can “trace and record the flow of minerals across the supply chain in near real-time.” In describing how a permanent, secure record will help Volkswagen meet responsible sourcing requirements, the company’s announcement adds:

“Traditionally, miners, smelters and consumer brands had to rely on third-party audits and laborious manual processes to establish compliance with generally accepted industry standards.”

LG Chem and the Ford Motor Company are among the other multinational corporations to have joined the platform so far. The group will expand to include companies from the aerospace, consumer electronics and mining sectors in future.

The blockchain solution, built in partnership with MineHub Technologies, was announced in January 2019.

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