Workshop on Interoperability

Intersectoral cooperation for sustainable supply chains

Interoperability Workshop Session

31.10.2018 |

Blood diamonds, child labor, environmental damage. Both the automotive industry and the extractive industry are exposed to these allegations. It is becoming increasingly important for companies to assume responsibility for their supply chains. The automotive industry in particular is currently under pressure to act. However, this is not an easy task because the supply and value chains are highly complex, especially when the mining of raw materials takes place in countries with weak government structures or in crisis regions. Environmental and social standards as well as multi-sectoral cooperation between the public sector, businesses and civil society are the central approaches to responsible sourcing of raw materials.

This topic was the focus of a one-day expert workshop organized by the Sector Program Extractives for Development on behalf of BMZ on October 17, 2018 in Berlin together with the University of Queensland (Australia). The workshop entitled "From Mine to Car: Towards Greater Participation, Impact and Interoperability of Supply Chain Standards for Minerals and Metals" brought together experts in relevant sustainability initiatives with the German automotive industry, international NGOs, research institutions and development cooperation actors.

With a particular focus on the automotive industry, the approximately 50 workshop participants discussed current challenges in implementing and measuring the impact of sustainability standards in the extractive industries. The starting point was the concern about the proliferation of different standards and initiatives for the various metals and minerals, leading to great confusion in the sector. Particular attention was paid to the interplay between different standard initiatives and the participation of particularly affected groups such as indigenous populations. The agenda ranged from regulatory issues to monitoring and evaluation to concrete issues such as the reforestation of mining sites taking into account indigenous interests.

The discussion was based on the presentation of three research projects that the sector program commissioned last year together with the University of Queensland; the umbrella organization for sustainability standards ISEAL; and the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative (ASI), a role model sustainability initiative.

The research projects, whose topicality, relevance and quality were praised by the participants, dealt with the topics "interoperability" and participation. More specifically, the questions of how the cooperation and interlocking of the various sustainability initiatives can succeed better and how an efficient implementation can be guaranteed were raised. It is also important to look at the very concrete concerns of the population groups in the direct vicinity of mining. A representative of the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Forum (IPAF), an advisory body to the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative, used the opportunity during the workshop to give a vivid insight into indigenous perspectives.

There has been consensus that the variety of sustainability initiatives and the complexity of the subject make informed participation in the necessary discussion on environmental and social standards more difficult. In this respect, efforts are needed to close this knowledge gap between experts and users. In addition, further informed dialogue between initiatives should be promoted in order to reduce confusion and bureaucracy and ensure effective implementation. In order to guarantee the sector's operability and effectiveness further efforts towards closer collaboration or "interoperability" between individual standards and initiatives (and their users) are required. Specifically, this means that networking, exchange of information and promotion of intersectoral cooperation has to be further strengthened in the future.

The development context plays an important role here. On the positive side, several stakeholders expressed interest in working with the sector program during the event. These include the sustainability initiative of the automotive industry, Drive Sustainability, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals (EPRM), an accompanying measure to the EU Regulation on conflict minerals. Exciting new fields of action are emerging here for the sector program.

For further information please contact Christina Ankenbrand.

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