“Lead The Charge” Campaign Calls On Automakers To Capitalize on the EV Transition to Clean Up Their Supply Chains

A diverse coalition of leading climate, environment, and human rights organizations announced today the launch of an auto supply chain industry Leaderboard and global campaign calling on automakers to capitalize on the unprecedented opportunity offered by the electric vehicle (EV) transition to clean up their supply chains. The Leaderboard analyzes the publicly available official reporting of 18 of the leading automotive manufacturers in the world, ranking their efforts to eliminate emissions, environmental harms, and human rights violations from their supply chains.

The leaderboard  found that, while the automotive industry still has a long way to go, action to ensure clean and equitable supply chains is not only possible, but is already underway. The leaderboard ranks Mercedes as leading the charge overall—demonstrating that automakers can take effective action on both emissions and human rights in their supply chains—while Volvo is leading the way on clean steel and aluminum, and Ford on human rights. However even these industry leaders still have a lot of work to do and many other automakers are lagging far behind. Toyota, the original green leader now EV laggard, is even further behind on supply chains, and while EV leader Tesla has been taking some positive steps on battery supply chains, they are behind overall. No company scored well on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, with two thirds of automakers scoring 0%.

“Auto manufacturers must be held accountable to not only deliver zero-emission vehicles but also to ensure that their supply chains respect human rights, protect the environment, utilize more recycled materials, and adopt fossil free manufacturing processes and practices. The Lead the Charge’s Leaderboard reveals the progress the auto industry has made — and how far we urgently have to go,” said Hebah Kassem, Director of Sierra Club’s Living Economy program. “Automakers and their suppliers must avoid continuing the harms of the fossil fuel industry and instead chart a new course toward socially and environmentally sustainable supply chains.”

This leaderboard is part of a new global campaign called “Lead The Charge”, which seeks to raise awareness of the human rights, climate, and environmental impacts that occur throughout auto supply chains, focusing in particular on steel, aluminum and batteries, and to encourage automakers, as they make the transition to EVs, to also radically transform their supply chains to be equitable, sustainable and 100% fossil free.

“The auto industry is going through a moment of huge industrial transformation as a result of the long overdue transition to electric vehicles. This transformation presents automakers with an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild their supply chains so  their vehicles are built without fossil fuels, environmental harms or human rights abuses.” said Julia Pioliscanova, Senior Director Vehicle and Emobility, Transport and Environment. “A transition to truly clean cars means ditching not only the tailpipe but also the often dirty, abuse-ridden supply chains that came with it.”

The transition to EVs is eliminating the biggest source of transport emissions, the tailpipe. However, as the EV transition accelerates, the emissions profile of the auto industry shifts to supply chain emissions. It is clear that automakers won’t meet their climate goals unless supply chain emissions are also tackled with urgency. At the same time, the industry must tackle human rights abuses from mining, refining, and manufacturing in their supply chains. These practices not only harm workers, local communities, and Indigenous Peoples, but also pollute local ecosystems and exacerbate the climate crisis.

“As the world scrambles to address the climate crisis, a new ‘green’ economy is rapidly emerging. However, in this transition, Indigenous Peoples are facing a new wave of extractivism for transition minerals such as copper, nickel, cobalt, and lithium, which are key in battery development for electric vehicles and other technologies. Indigenous lands, territories, and resources are under direct threat as the demand for these minerals increases. Indigenous Peoples also want to see an end to the climate crisis, but this needs to be achieved in a way that respects their rights.” said Galina Angarova (Buryat), Executive Director of Cultural Survival. “For decades, auto supply chains have been riddled with climate, environmental and human rights abuses. The EV transition is an opportunity to change that, but so far it’s still business-as-usual for their supply chains, which continue to harm people and the planet. Automakers can stay ahead of the curve by acting now to transform their supply chains and ensure the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and all rights-holders, are respected.”

The coalition’s campaign will engage the automotive industry and supply chain decision-makers, investors, and policy stakeholders. The coalition also plans to raise the awareness of consumers, and the public at large and build momentum for change.

“Automakers wield a huge amount of influence and purchasing power in global supply chains. It’s time to use this leverage to shift the steel, aluminum and battery industries away from fossil-fuels and towards practices that benefit workers, Indigenous Peoples, and local communities. Lead the Charge’s Leaderboard shows exactly which supply chain issues and what timelines are needed for the auto makers to demonstrate urgent climate leadership.” said Anna Song, Steel Lead, from the Korean climate NGO, Solutions For Our Climate.

Lead the Charge is a diverse network of local, national, and global advocacy partners working for an equitable, sustainable, and fossil-free auto supply chain. Organizations that have contributed to its development include Cultural Survival, Earthworks, First Peoples Worldwide, Industrious Labs, Investor Advocates for Social Justice, Mighty Earth, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Solutions for our Climate (SFOC), Transport and Environment (T&E), The Sunrise Project and others.

Lead the Charge Leaderboard key findings:

  • Mercedes leads the charge with many of the best human rights policies and practices and some of the more comprehensive mapping of their transition minerals supply chain.
  • Volvo is the stand-out steel and aluminum leader and overall on fossil-free and environmentally sustainable supply chains – but disappointingly came out lower on human rights, including insufficient attention to workers rights and no reference to Indigenous Rights at all.
  • Ford shows affordable automakers can do it too, ranking top on human rights overall, principally due to its scores on human rights due diligence, responsible sourcing of transition minerals and worker rights.
  • Toyota, the former green darling now biggest EV laggard, is way behind on their supply chain too.  Toyota’s supply chain targets and claims seem token at best and as the lowest ranked automaker for their climate lobbying record by InfluenceMap, they get dragged down even more.
  • Tesla, the original and still EV leader, has some problems piling up.  They already have new competitors snapping at their heels, a fluctuating stock price, investor discontent, and SEC and worker rights investigations – but they also have significant gaps in disclosure and action on fossil free and environmentally sustainable supply chains.
  • Warren Buffet-backed BYD and #2 EV maker, despite their vertical integration, is also far behind.  With their extensive overseas market ambitions, BYD is quickly grabbing market share but the further BYD reaches, the more they will be exposed to new regulations and expectations, particularly in Europe.
  • Hyundai-Kia, now the third-largest automaker in the world and snapping up EV market share, makes sustainable material claims but misses the bigger picture – and opportunity.  Sadly, despite slightly outperforming EV leader Tesla in some areas, Hyundai-Kia are trailing overall and have a host of supply chain issues bubbling up, including child labor at suppliers and a subsidiary in the US, and air pollution from steel manufacturing in Korea.
  • Lack of disclosure from Chinese automakers meant they scored very low overall – but Geely shows a glimmer of what could be on fossil-free and environmentally sustainable supply chains.  They are the leader amongst East Asian automakers on fossil free and environmentally responsible supply chains, on which they also outperform several of their competitors in Europe and the U.S.
  • Importantly, while there is some movement by incumbents, like Mercedes and GM, and EV leader Tesla, automakers across the board are falling far short on Indigenous Rights. Mercedes was the company with the highest score, but scored only 17%. With a new era of industrial expansion underway, respecting Indigenous Peoples’ self-determination and right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent is more important than ever given how many transition minerals are located on or near Indigenous lands.

Blagojce Krivevski

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