Comment: how Blockchain could trace the production of cobalt

There is a cobalt rush, a relatively rare metal that fuels technologies like Tesla vehicles and iPhones. Approximately 65% ​​of the global supply comes from one of the poorest countries in the world, the Democratic Republic of the Congo or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a deep-rooted culture of corruption and violence makes mining operations and surveillance difficult. But the most disturbing thing is that the Congolese children are involved in the extraction of cobalt, as described in a report exclusive published Thursday.

Last autumn the difficulty of evaluating the offer against demand and against human rights was illustrated. when Volkswagen failed to secure a long-term supply of cobalt for its electric car batteries. His talks with the mining giant Glencore broke not only on supplies and costs, but also on transparency and sustainability. Now, Volkswagen is competing against phone and car manufacturers to secure multi-year contracts directly with cobalt miners amid fears of a shortage of material

Of particular concern for companies like Volkswagen is making sure that the Child labor does not go "clean" "Cobalt: this is possible, provided they take giant steps in the following areas:

Sustainable innovation

Companies must learn how to convert natural materials into products that humanity needs without creating unwanted consequences, such as damage to public health or the environment, companies are rethinking entire production processes to achieve real sustainability

The depletion of cobalt mines means that replacement technology is essential At this time, scientists are learning how to recycle metals from lithium ion batteries Fettose, a cheaper and more efficient alternative to the mining industry. Meanwhile, automakers like Toyota, Honda and Volkswagen plan to create electric vehicles using solid-state batteries, reducing the need for cobalt and other metals.

Full transparency

Total transparency requires more sophisticated accounting of actual production costs. When designing and rethinking their business models, companies will have to anticipate the total costs of goods over the monetary amount. Take for example the production of raw materials such as cotton and natural gas, which require large amounts of water. The cost of water can not be incorporated into the price of the product, but its use creates a social impact around the source of water.

When problems arise in the supply chain of a product, journalists and citizens are increasingly holding companies accountable through social media and other public platforms. Companies can no longer simply neutralize their harmful actions through corporate social responsibility or philanthropy efforts. They need to radically re-examine if they are open enough about their business practices.

Blockchain of the supply chain

Blockchain is becoming an increasingly powerful tool to monitor supply chains. In the diamond industry, a gem receives a digital "fingerprint" drawn from the register distributed at every step, ensuring that its past was devoid of bloody conflicts.

In the DRC, Amnesty International is examining the blockchain as a way to ensure cobalt extract has not been the product of child labor. The ongoing conflict and corruption in the country ensures that traceability remains a challenge. But companies that use cobalt should still pursue a blockchain system, as it could guarantee the integrity of the supply chain that consumers demand.

Peter Seligmann is president of Conservation International and founding CEO of Nia Tero, a global collaboration with a mission to advance indigenous peoples and the management of the local community of vital ecosystems around the world. Follow it on Twitter .

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