Major car manufacturer Mercedes Benz and Blockchain startup Circulor have joined forces to roll out a pilot for tracing carbon emissions in the cobalt supply chain. According to a press release on Jan 30, this partnership will be part of the Autobahn initiative. The Autobahn initiative is a startup that seeks to identify next-generation automobiles. The companies will deploy Blockchain to trace the emissions of climate-relevant gases. The technology will also trace the amount of recycled materials along the complex supply chains of battery cell manufacturers. Mercedes intends to use data collected during the pilot to develop its new carbon-neutral passenger car fleet.
The project will first focus on tracking cobalt supplies. Cobalt supplies have been problematic because they have consistently raised issues related to provenance and ethics. Cobalt is crucial when it comes to making Lithium-ion batteries, with the majority of the production coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The DRC has been the subject of scrutiny for its unethical cobalt mining conditions. A 2017 United Nations report estimated that 168 million children were working in exploitative conditions globally, with around 40,000 children in cobalt mines in the DRC. The alarming report highlighted the need for companies to know the origin of their supplies.
The blockchain pilot will help trace the production flow of the materials and associated carbon emissions, as well as record how-much recycled material gets used in the supply chain. The technology will inform Mercedes of the activities of their partner companies. It will help determine whether these partners observe sustainability requirements. Mercedes is not the first car manufacturer to turn to the blockchain for issues of sustainability and product sourcing. Volvo also had a partnership with Circulor to trace the supply chain of its battery manufacturer. Last September, Indian Automobile outfit Tata Motors announced plans to integrate blockchain in internal processes. Tata wants to integrate the blockchain into various aspects of their operation, including parking marketplace, real-time monitoring and demand prediction algorithm.