Cobalt is an essential element in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that are used for smartphones, laptops and electric vehicles. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the world’s biggest supplier of cobalt, children work in dangerous and unhealthy conditions.
Recent reports show that children are working in cobalt mines under very poor and dangerous circumstances in the DRC, where 60% of the world’s cobalt is produced. These are often artisanal mines that operate outside legal frameworks. Companies that are using cobalt in their supply chains must take these issues seriously.
According to the OECD, companies should investigate their supply chain and at least identify the smelters in their chain. If companies manage to identify the smelters, there are several steps they can take in order to address the issue of child labor. Companies can, for example, join an industry association in order to collectively push cobalt smelters to adhere to international standards. The Responsible Cobalt Initiative is one of such industry association.
While the responsibility for due diligence lies within the companies, engagement with governments and other stakeholders is crucial to protect human rights and prevent risks.
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