When Volvo Cars wanted to verify whether materials in its batteries were sourced ethically, its managers visited the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s leading producer of cobalt, where some mines use child workers, according to organisations such as Unicef and Amnesty International.
“We had to make sure sites were protected, workers got the right safety gear, and there were no children,” says Martina Buchhauser, Volvo Cars’ head of procurement. “What we were missing was a technological way of tracing back and making sure that cannot be fiddled around after the fact.”
But what was once a near-impossible task — tracking the materials and individual components in auto supply lines through multiple providers — is now becoming easier with blockchain.
Volvo is using the technology to track the supply of cobalt on its journey from the mine through suppliers and into the car itself. The carmaker recently invested in Circulor, a blockchain provider, to track a wider range of minerals.
Blockchain allows the business to track parts as they flow through its supply chain without the need for physical checks at every stage. Ms Buchhauser says Volvo has already axed at least one supplier from its network for non-compliance exposed by…