IEA releases report on sustainable and critical mineral supply chains

December 13, 2023

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released its “Sustainable and Responsible Critical Mineral Supply Chains; Guidance for policy makers” report. The report explores how the environmental, social and governance impacts of mining and processing operations can limit the critical mineral supplies needed for clean energy transitions and outlines five key recommendations for policy makers to ensure that critical mineral supply chains are sustainable and responsible. It also includes deep dives on six priority areas that have important implications for supply security: water, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, human rights, communities and corruption.

The report is released alongside an update to the Critical Minerals Policy Tracker. The 2023 update includes more than 200 new policies, laws and regulations and includes a special focus on policies aimed at environmental, social and governance issues.

The five recommendations are:

First, ensure robust legal and regulatory protections for the environment, workers and communities. Most countries have existing regulatory frameworks targeting mining and processing. There may be a need to revisit these frameworks to reduce permitting lead times and to ensure adequate regulatory protections are in place.

Channel public spending to encourage the development of better practices and to reward good actors. Initiatives to bolster security of supply are being backed with public money, and governments can tie these expenditures to sustainability and social responsibility requirements.

Strengthen the collection and reporting of granular and standardized data to enable benchmarking and progress tracking across the industry and throughout the supply chain. Governments have the capacity to influence industry-wide performance by issuing methodological guidelines and recommendations for sustainability and social responsibility metrics drawing on industry best practice. Further, publicly disseminating such data is a critical lever that can equip stakeholders with the requisite information to make sustainability-focused sourcing and investment decisions.

Encourage or require companies to improve transparency throughout the supply chain, including by undertaking due diligence and reporting publicly on risks and mitigation actions. Greater transparency, alongside efforts to mitigate identified risks, can alleviate environmental, social and governance risks while ensuring that purchasers, customers and policy makers have better information on potential bottlenecks.

Support the development of credible voluntary sustainability standards and encourage harmonized approaches consistent with international standards. Sustainability standards and other sustainability initiatives can play a complementary role to legal and regulatory requirements.

These five recommendations are cross-cutting and apply to all types of environmental, social and governance risks. Some of these risks are especially likely to hinder supply, with implications for the viability of realizing clean energy transitions. To read the full report


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