BMW first automaker to join IRMA, highlights efforts to source ethically mined resources

January 10, 2020

BMW has been making a point lately, highlighting a commonly held misconception that electric cars are more eco-friendly than not. A lot goes into making an electric vehicle that, surprising to some, can be considered harmful to the environment -- and that’s something all automakers need to address.

For instance, the mining of rare earth materials used in batteries is often even more damaging to the environment than internal-combustion cars. BMW announced in late 2019 that it will be sourcing all the elements needed for its batteries ethically and that, in the near future, BMW-developed batteries won’t need rare earths at all. This week another step was made in that direction.

According to BMW News, BMW announced it will be the first automaker to join the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA). The goal of this association is to transform the industrial mining sector toward more responsible practices according to IRMA’s standards. “Sustainability is an important aspect of our corporate strategy and we are fully aware of our responsibility in mineral value chains,” said Dr. Andreas Wendt, a member of the board of management of BMW.

“For the BMW Group and its stakeholders, it is of the utmost importance that environmental and social standards are adhered to throughout the entire value chain. Raw materials form the basis for every industrial production process and our need will continue to grow accordingly. We believe that IRMA, with its ambitious certification standard, will contribute to enhancing responsibility in global value chains and improving environmental and social performance,” he added.

IRMA measures performance of mine sites against their Standard for Responsible Mining, which defines good practices for what responsible mining should look like at an industrial scale. IRMA executive director Aimee Boulanger said, "The auto sector is a powerful purchaser of materials that come from mines.

"We are happy to have the BMW Group join IRMA and we look forward to supporting their commitment to increasing environmental and social responsibility in their supply chains, she added."

With the recent rise in demand for various mined goods from the automotive industry, people in the mining industry are finding themselves overwhelmed. At the same time, they need to make sure no one gets hurt in the process, which is one of IRMA's tenets. The association helps nonprofit organizations, unions, local communities and businesses work together with the mining industry to provide more transparency in the supply chain. At the same time, IRMA measures mine sites on a raft of areas, including health and safety, human rights, pollution control and land reclamation, among others.

Some IRMA members include Microsoft, Tiffany & Co. and labor unions such as IndustriALL Global Union, which represents more than 50 million workers in mining and manufacturing in 140 countries.


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