The Washington Post published results of their investigation into cobalt sourcing, specifically for industrial battery manufacturing. Regardless of whether you agree with the findings or not, it is valuable reading as it continues to demonstrate the expansion of supply chain responsibility.
We increasingly refer to this as You Are What Your Suppliers Do, so you need to have full confidence in your supplier due diligence and audits. And if you haven’t done so already, read what Harvard Business School published on the pragmatic aspects of getting meaningful and useful CSR/supplier audits.
It is worth pointing out, however, that the issues related to cobalt mining that WaPo reports – however horrific – are different from the criteria under Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act to be considered a “conflict mineral.” The law specifically limits the expansion of the term to “any other mineral or its derivatives determined by the Secretary of State to be financing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo or an adjoining country.” Child labor not directly associated with financing such conflict and environmental degradation from uncontrolled mining are outside the definition.
While internal conflict minerals due diligence processes can generally be easily adapted to address cobalt (beyond funding conflict), doing so is voluntary or in response to customer requirements only.