Mercedes Will Use Blockchain to Track Carbon Emissions in Cobalt Supply Chain

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Major car manufacturer Mercedes Benz and blockchain startup Circulor are jointly rolling out a pilot aimed at the tracing carbon emissions in the cobalt supply chain.

According to a Jan. 30 press release, the project by Mercedes and Circulor comes as part of the Startup Autobahn initiative, aimed at identifying next-generation automobiles. The companies will deploy blockchain to trace the emissions of climate-relevant gases and the amount of recycled materials along the complex supply chains of battery cell manufacturers.

Mercedes eventually intends to use data collected during this pilot to develop its new carbon-neutral passenger car fleet.

But first is cobalt

The project will initially focus on cobalt supplies, which have recently raised issues related to provenance and ethics. Cobalt is a key mineral for making lithium-ion batteries, with the majority of cobalt production comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a region criticized for its unethical cobalt mining conditions. In 2017, the United Nations estimated that 168 million children were in exploitative working conditions globally, with around 40,000 children in cobalt mines in the DRC. That means it’s especially important for companies to know where the materials for its products are coming from.

A blockchain-based pilot program will map the production flow of these materials and their associated carbon emissions, as well as record how much recycled material gets used in the supply chain.

This will purportedly help Mercedes determine whether its partner companies comply with its sustainability requirements, especially when it comes to human rights.

Automakers are gradually embracing blockchain

Mercedes is not the first car manufacturer to turn to blockchain technology on issues of sustainability and ethical product sourcing. Volvo also partnered with Circulor to trace raw materials through the supply chain to its battery manufacturer, and then to Volvo cars.

Indian automobile manufacturer Tata Motors announced its intention to integrate blockchain solutions into its internal processes last September. The firm wants to apply blockchain-based solutions in various aspects of the automotive industry, including parking marketplace, demand prediction algorithm and real-time monitoring of fuel quality.

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