Climate activists call on EV industry to fix its dirty supply chain

Protesters on Saturday targeted South Korean auto giant Hyundai. In addition to criticizing the company’s reliance on coal-fired steel mills, which a climate groups report linked to 506 premature pollution-related deaths in 2021, they also denounced labor practices reported by the company. Last December, a Reuters investigation found that undocumented children were working in the automaker’s supply chain in Alabama.

“Hyundai does not condone or condone labor law violations,” Hyundai spokesman Michael Stewart said. “We took swift action in response to the reported incidents, including launching a broader review of our U.S. supplier network and working with the U.S. Department of Labor. »

Regarding the company’s climate commitments, Stewart says Hyundai has set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025 and is mobilizing significant resources to ensure its supply chain meets or exceeds carbon standards. safety, quality, sustainability and human rights. “As an automaker, we need to be more active in our response to climate change than companies in other sectors,” he adds.

As the world’s third-largest automaker, Hyundai wields considerable influence over auto suppliers in general, but it is not alone in facing criticism from activists. Saturday’s protesters are part of a coalition of climate and labor groups called Lead the Charge, which aims to hold automakers accountable for the impacts of their supply chains on climate, labor, the environment and people’s rights. Indigenous Peoples. The organization publishes a ranking that ranks 18 leading electric vehicle manufacturers based on their impacts on climate, environment and human rights. Hyundai ranked 10th. Mercedes, Ford and Volvo make the top three.

Lead the Charge focuses its climate assessments on three automotive components: steel, aluminum and batteries. Collectively, they account for about 70% of emissions over the lifespan of an electric vehicle, according to the report from Polestar and Rivian.

As the largest consumer of aluminum and batteries, and the third largest consumer of steel, automakers have considerable power to push these industries toward more sustainable production, activists say. “What we’re trying to get the industry to do is flex its muscles so that some of the steel and aluminum companies will step up and actually do something,” says Groch.

Protesters from the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen unfurled two banners outside the auto show’s entrance on Friday, denouncing Toyota for its own supply chain practices. They read: “Stop procrastinating. Electric vehicles are the future” and “Ditch coal and cut ties to forced labor.”

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