How manufacturers can address global sustainability challenges in 2015
Manufacturing firms have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders when it comes to addressing global sustainability challenges. The industry - on a global scale - underpins economies around the world by creating vital jobs and infrastructure however with the benefits come a unique set of challenges for communities and the environment.
In 2015, sustainability challenges and opportunities in this sector will expand, as companies, consumers, regulators, and activists demand greater attention to detail regarding environmental and social issues such as climate change and conflict minerals. Furthermore shifting markets and business practices raise new issues, such as the integration of connected technology into manufactured products.
With this in mind, Manufacturing Global takes a look at the four key sustainability trends affecting the sector in 2015.
Supply chain management: From conflict minerals and human trafficking to environmental degradation and resource scarcity, there are growing regulatory, commercial, and societal expectations that manufacturers need to understand and address in their supply chains. Most of these issues exist in a complex supply network beyond first-tier suppliers, so tackling them can be a challenge. At the same time, companies have an opportunity to increase transparency, improve sustainability, and strengthen supply networks to reduce business risks.
Managing human rights: Appropriate policies, due diligence, and impact assessments can help address concerns that manufactured products can be used to limit human rights - such as preventing freedom of movement or conducting illegitimate surveillance - especially with the increasing integration of information technology into “smart” products. Responsible human rights policies and approaches can also address concerns about the supply chain challenges mentioned above. Here, too, there are significant opportunities for manufacturers to empower people by providing good jobs, education, and products that address people’s basic needs for sustainable and reliable energy, water, and shelter. Furthermore, manufacturing firms have a responsibility to ensure their own employees are treated well and with respect.
Addressing climate constraints: Global manufacturers affect the world’s climate through their own energy and resource use and through the impacts of their products and supply chains. These companies are often incredibly efficient in their internal operations, but fewer companies understand how they can influence climate impacts upstream and downstream from their own operations. Fewer still know how climate change will affect operations and markets. As energy prices slump, there is a risk that less attention will be paid to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But there is a tremendous opportunity for manufacturing companies to understand the full range of climate impacts on their operations and markets, and to work with customers and partners to develop products and services to meet those needs.
Implementing global sustainability strategies: Complex global manufacturing organizations need effective sustainability strategies that empower local operations while connecting back to a global vision. One element of this is to engage with customers to understand how companies’ products, services, and technologies can become environmentally and socially sustainable solutions to their customers’ needs.
To address these issues, companies should start by thinking about risks - to brands, markets, supply chains, and operations - and about the opportunities to enhance business relationships, obtain competitive advantage, build reputation, and address the real needs of people around the world.
Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.