In its 2021 Impact Report, Tesla announced that it had visited the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Argentina in order to assess both environmental and social risks.
Tesla said that it has taken steps to complete social and environmental risk assessments by visiting both the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Argentina. You may remember some of the headlines in 2020 that focused on one of Tesla’s suppliers and a mine that was hijacked by artisanal miners that used child labor.
Tesla sent a delegation that included members of its Responsible Sourcing Committee to visit suppliers in the DRC and Argentina. Each trip included visits to mining locations and meetings with community representatives. In the DRC, Tesla visited a school, an orphanage, and a maternity clinic.
“The DRC trip provided a more nuanced view of the complex issue of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) and its history within the DRC. In Argentina, the trip focused on questions related to water usage and the use of new technologies to extract lithium in a more energy-efficient way.”
Tesla was able to identify risk areas along with cross-cutting topics in cobalt, lithium, and nickel supply chains that prioritized engagement. In these examples, Tesla listed the priorities along with a few examples of actions Tesla took.
Fair working conditions and occupational health and safety.
Tesla reviewed the following:
- A supplier’s occupational health and safety system.
- A supplier’s digital system to monitor the risk of unavoidable landslides.
- Evidence of progress towards the elimination of safety-related incidents.
- Minutes from community meetings to raise awareness around safety risks related to landslides and trespassing.
- A supplier’s commitment to conduct a Human Rights Risk and Impact Assessment (HRRIA).
Protecting water levels and water quality in waterways affected by supplier operations.
In this area Tesla reviewed:
- Data on water levels and water quality, including environmental surface water monitoring sheets.
- Evidence that potential sources for acid leaks were decommissioned or re-engineered.
- Minutes from community meetings to raise awareness of potential sources of water pollution and mitigation measures.
- Written assurance that water is not discharged to water sources for nearby communities.
Tesla added that its delegation met with community representatives to confirm that a supplier’s usage of fresh water is not impacting the communities’ water access.
Tesla also helped set up a committee of independent environmental experts for another supplier with a focus on both assessing and working with the supplier on environmental risk management.
Co-existence between industrial and artisanal mining operations.
In this section, Tesla reviewed:
- Evidence for a supplier’s government engagement in support of artisanal mine site legalization.
- Evidence for investments into initiatives supporting responsible artisanal mining.
Tesla added that it met with representatives of artisanal mining groups and responsible provided funding to initiatives that support artisanal mining. This is because the DRC is an important source of cobalt for Tesla’s battery. Tesla said,
“We will continue supporting sourcing from the DRC provided our responsible sourcing standards are met. While Tesla does not source cobalt from Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM), we recognize the importance of ASM for local livelihoods. This is why Tesla provides funding to, and sits on, the Steering Committee of the Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA), a multi-stakeholder initiative to support the improvement of conditions in communities impacted by artisanal mining.”
Tesla is doing this through the following:
- Occupational health and safety awareness-raising campaign for mine workers.
- First aid training for mine workers and selection of safety captains.
- Distribution of protective equipment to washerwomen.
- Creation of savings groups for mining community members paired with financial literacy training.
- Development of a referral system for children engaged in mining activities, including child labor notification protocol, remediation solution packages, and guidelines for case managers on remediation steps, in collaboration with the NGO, Save the Children.
- Trainings related to child rights.
- Electrification of five schools covering students through the distribution of solar-chargeable portable lamps.
- A marketplace and football field selected for the placement of lighting poles.
Protection of forests and biodiversity.
In this area, Tesla looked over:
- A supplier’s area of operation in relation to nearby forest areas.
- A supplier’s reforestation and rehabilitation plans.
- Written assurance that mining activities did not take place in rainforest areas.
- Environmental impact assessments.
Community consultation and engagement and protection of indigenous rights.
Tesla noted that it is engaged directly with representatives of communities that were affected by mining operations. This was so that it could review the regular engagement and that takes place and ensure that the needs of the community are responded to consultation.
Along with the above, Tesla also reviewed the following:
- Meeting minutes to ensure communities were regularly consulted.
- Evidence for a best-practice Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) process, including in coordination with responsible government authorities.
GHG emissions reduction and air pollution.
Tesla pointed out that its approach to greenhouse gas emissions data collection is currently being implemented. Tesla provided the chart below in its Impact Report
Tesla added that the data it collects will help it develop the necessary actions to reduce its Scope 3 emissions.
“Based on an initial review, 15 refiners and mine sites in Tesla’s supply chain disclosed that they conducted an LCA.”
Tesla shared that all of the risk areas it identified across, it reviewed its suppliers’ audit frameworks to ensure that any upcoming audits will cover all areas identified in the above sections. There were a total of 55 corrective actions agreed to with suppliers related to suppliers’ environmental and social management processes.
Tesla also expanded its environmental and social requirements in supplier contracts. An example is responsible for mining standards, LCAs, and greenhouse gas emissions footprint disclosure along with transparent and proactive risk disclosure.
Tesla also developed a formal technical collaboration on sustainability with one of its suppliers.
Tesla’s Collab With Industry Initiatives
Tesla also shared details on its collaboration with industry initiatives, noting that although many of the social and environmental issues in the global EV supply chain don’t concern only Tesla, it’s actively engaging in multi-stakeholder forums and industry groups to find solutions.
According to Tesla, the questions and solutions are:
Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA): Tesla joined IRMA as a member in 2021 to support responsible mining practices and transparent and robust audit processes that emphasize community interviews. It is important to Tesla that NGOs and communities actively participate in third-party audits of mines against the IRMA Standard, as their perspectives provide greater context on mining operations and the impacts of extraction, while also increasing accountability and identifying opportunities for improvement.
Global Battery Alliance (GBA): Tesla has been involved in the GBA since 2020 and has served on the GBA Board and Battery Passport Steering Committee since 2021. Tesla’s goal as part of the GBA is to advocate for high standards for responsible battery materials sourcing, align with EU regulatory requirements, and support the development of actionable guidance related to GHG emissions data collection, recycling, and in-country environmental and social projects.
“Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI): Tesla is a member of the RMI to support the RMI’s responsible refiner audit programs and industry-wide sourcing dialogue.
IFC Net Zero Roadmap Working Group: Tesla has participated in the IFC Working Group since early 2022 to provide a downstream perspective in the development of actionable guidance for mine sites to reduce carbon emissions.
Re|Source: Tesla participates in the supply chain-wide Re|Source consortium to pilot blockchain-supported traceability in the cobalt supply chain. Tesla offers insights from an OEM perspective on metrics critical to traceability efforts and works with the consortium towards the first end-to-end blockchain-enabled tracing of cobalt material starting from Tesla’s supplier in the DRC to Gigafactory Shanghai.”
Tesla’s support of the Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) was also mentioned. You can read the full Impact Report here.
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