Volkswagen Group, BASF, Daimler AG, and Fairphone are to start working on a new initiative that seeks to promote the sustainable development of lithium mining in Chile and improve natural resource management.

Several companies have initiated a “Responsible Lithium Partnership” aiming to work towards responsible natural resource management, including lithium, in Chile’s Salar de Atacama. The cross-industry partnership is funded at its inception by Volkswagen Group, BASF, Daimler AG, and Fairphone.

The partnership intends to foster a dialogue among local stakeholders, generating and synthesising scientific facts and seeking solutions in a participatory manner.

Due to the expansion of e-mobility and digitisation, the demand for lithium as key material in batteries is expected to grow rapidly.

The world’s largest lithium reserves and large parts of the total production are located in the Salar de Atacama region of Chile. The region’s ecosystem is seen as fragile and there is a lack of consensus regarding the impacts and risks of lithium mining and other economic activity in the region. Potential risks derived from water and brine table shifts could potentially harm the ecosystems and affect local livelihoods. Addressing such water-related risks effectively requires the collaboration of stakeholders.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, commissioned by the companies, will coordinate the partnership seeking to find common ground by building a multi-stakeholder platform among all relevant actors in the Salar watershed – ranging from civil society groups including indigenous communities, government institutions, mining companies and beyond.

The platform aims to facilitate a common understanding of the status quo and jointly develop a shared vision for the future of the Salar de Atacama watershed. In addition, it intends the co-development of a joint action plan to improve long-term integrated natural resource management and undertake the first implementing steps.

Another aim is to synthesise and verify available technical data, improve on it if necessary, and increase accessibility. The Responsible Lithium Partnership will commence in spring 2021, with a planned duration of 2.5 years. It does not intend to facilitate the sourcing of lithium nor the purchase or selling of any raw mineral.

The financing companies BASF, Daimler AG, Fairphone, and Volkswagen Group say they are aware of their responsibility along the entire supply chain, including their human rights due diligence for raw material sourcing and production. They have, therefore, initiated the “Responsible Lithium Partnership” to promote sustainable development, contribute to the reduction of potential negative impacts and strengthen the protection of human rights.

VW said the “Responsible Lithium Partnership” is part of the Volkswagen’s human rights due diligence activities in raw material supply chains. All these activities can be found in Volkswagen Group’s first “Responsible Raw Materials Report” 2020 .The report gives an overview of the company’s activities in 2020 in the area of responsible raw material sourcing. It was drafted based on OECD guidelines.