“Cars are driven by people,” reads Volvo’s corporate mission statement. “The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo, therefore, is and must remain: safety.” That means the safety of Volvo’s passengers, the safety of the cyclists and animals that they share the road with, an– increasingly— the safety of the people who manufacture Volvo Cars. That’s why Volvo is turning to blockchain technologies in order to ensure that its hybrids and EVs do not rely on conflict minerals or child labor.
In an emailed statement sent Friday, Volvo Cars explained that it had completed its first trial of blockchain tracking using recycled cobalt in China. “It tracked cobalt from a Chinese recycling plant to Volvo Cars Zhejiang over a two-month period to June 27,” Volvo said, adding that its aim was, “full transparency and traceability.”
The technology Volvo is using was developed by British blockchain specialist Circulor, using technology from US company, Oracle, and is expected to be rolled out company-wide later this year. That timing is important, as Volvo will be pushing hard to meet its self-imposed goal of offering an electrified version of every new car it sells after 2019, with as many as 50% of its vehicles being pure electrics by 2025— so, you know, time is running out to meet that goal. That’s especially true if they’re trying to meet that production goal ethically.
“No technology can completely replace due diligence,” explains Doug Johnson-Poensgen, CEO of Circulor. “What it will do is improve enforcement of standards by highlighting when things are not working as intended,” which is particularly challenging in regards to EV materials like cobalt because around two thirds of the global supplies are sourced from Democratic Republic of Congo, where governance challenges are extreme.
Volvo joins fellow automaker, Ford, as well as technology giants IBM and LG Chem in this “umbrella” project overseen by responsible-sourcing group, RCS Global. In an email to Reuters, an RCS Global spokesperson said the group was pleased that Volvo Cars was joining its efforts to achieve “quantifiable and continuous” improvement of supply chains, which includes everything from monitoring Cobalt sources to streamlining and certifying cross-border banking payments to ensure that everything involved in the manufacturing of next-generation electric cars stays above-board.
What do you guys think? Is this level of monitoring overkill for a massive company like Volvo/Geely, or is this kind of what it takes to ensure that all the parts of the electric future are both sustainable and equitable for everyone involved? Scroll on down to the comments section and let us know what you think there!