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Case Study: Material Change

A ground-breaking report on the risks and opportunities for collective action based on our in-depth assessment of 50 materials used in the supply chains of the automotive and electronics industries.

Business challenge

Regulators, investors, consumers and environmental and human-rights groups are appealing to companies to complete and publicly disclose the results of supplier due diligence as well as include commitments to social responsibility in their sourcing policies. Drive Sustainability and the Responsible Minerals Initiative recognise that collaborative action between businesses, across industries, and with governments and civil society is a powerful tool to address some of the serious social and environmental problems affecting workers and communities in countries where many of these materials originate.

One of the biggest obstacles to setting and implementing strategies for responsible sourcing is getting access to reliable current data and analysis on the environmental and social dimensions of material production and processing. Material Change aims to positively contribute by gathering and presenting the best publicly available information on materials commonly used in the automotive and electronics industries.

Our approach

To produce Material Change, we identified the 50 most important materials used by the automotive and electronics industries, ranked them by level of consumption, and then analysed them against environmental, social and governance benchmarks.

To aid user understanding, the report includes heat maps of the 50 materials which reveal hotspots of potential risks including climate change, recyclability, water use and pollution, biodiversity loss and forest degradation. These hotspots represent areas for further enquiry and allow individual companies to undertake appropriate due diligence on their supply chains.

Profiles of 18 high-priority materials summarise the risk and impact ratings for each material, as well as the social, development, and economic indicators associated with the material’s top producer countries.

Material Change was first produced in 2018 and renewed in 2020.

Client benefits and broader industry impact

Material Change enables industry-wide comparisons of the environmental, social and governance impacts and issues of the materials and main producer countries associated with the manufacturing of automotive and electronic products.

In doing so, it seeks to stimulate an exchange of information about where collective actions by industry groups and trade associations might best be focused in order to maximise positive social, environmental and governance impacts.

As part of the study, we also evaluated over 40 industry supply chain and international development initiatives in upstream mining and rural communities, building a strategy for engagement in these initiatives by the participating companies and industry associations. During this process, we engaged with the civil society organisations to evaluate their programmes and to help them present their projects to the industry groups.

In addition to writing, editing, producing and branding this report, TDI Sustainability now maintains a repository of the nearly one thousand references that were used to build the profiles of the materials featured. The analytical and impact measurement methodologies that we developed for this project have been widely adopted by other studies and forums.

Project partners and methodology

In undertaking Material Change, we took on the role of chief strategist and project manager and brought together two industry groups:

Drive Sustainability is a collective of 11 European automotive manufacturers. Its mission is to work together to improve the social, ethical and environmental performance of automotive supply chains.

The Responsible Business Alliance is an industry coalition dedicated to supporting corporate social responsibility in global supply chains.

As well as reconciling key partners and stakeholders with different and often opposing views, the high-profile nature of this project also required us to develop a rigorous working methodology that held up to international scrutiny.

Read more and download the Material Change Report

“This study represents the first deliverable of the Raw Materials Observatory for Drive Sustainability’s partners and is setting the basis for our future collaboration to enhance sustainability in our supply chain as we are committed to make our vision a reality.”

~ Stefan Crets, Executive Director of Drive Sustainability.