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28 June 2023

On June 23, the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney convened a symposium to discuss the challenges of delivering a responsible, trusted and circular battery value chain.  ASI CEO, Dr Fiona Solomon, presented as part of a panel exploring the role of traceability and certification programs for supporting social and environmental outcomes for battery minerals and materials within a circular economy.

The value of an inter-disciplinary discussion on these issues was clear.  The roles of regulation, voluntary schemes, researchers, technology developers, collectors and recyclers, in both the national and international context, are complex and overlapping.

European battery regulations, expected to come into force in August 2023, will require supply chain due diligence processes for sourcing (including chain of custody systems), static and dynamic data flow in a digital product passport, and product and material circularity.  There are still challenges to solve in these:  including data security and access, calculation methods for resource efficiency, recycled content and carbon footprint, and financial support for regulatory implementation.

Research presented included digital twinning of production plants and processes to go beyond carbon footprint allocation and consider a broader range of indicators, including exegy.   Traditional life cycle assessment is constrained by often outdated data and the significant impact of boundary assumptions.  In effect it compresses a complex system – time, space and causality – into a single number (e.g. carbon footprint).

The governance dimensions of “renewables extractivism” were also discussed.  A wide range of initiatives that set standards, share information, issue certification and/or convene stakeholders make for a complicated space of parallel and intersecting work.  This even seems to be accelerating, as the issues become more urgent, groups of stakeholders coalesce around a more manageable subset of issues, and there is decreasing time to make connections across and between efforts.

For ASI, our work programs on standards and assurance, partnerships, data and research and beyond certification, including with Indigenous peoples, are designed in recognition of these challenges.  However, the need to simultaneously tackle the micro, meso and macro scales of sustainability for the aluminium value chain requires us to think dynamically and at a systems level.


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