Rare-earth metals are irreplaceable in highly demanded products such as wind turbines, electric vehicles, mobile phones, computers and the defence industry. To address the sustainability of these products an increasing number of legislation, such as the EU battery passport regulation, are being released. It is therefore essential to research how to sustainably mine and process these metals, but also how to access sustainability in the first place.
Circularise together with BEC GmbH, Grundfos, Minviro, and the global Rare Earth Industry Association (REIA) started a research project in May 2022. The research aims to develop a blockchain-based traceability system to assess sustainability parameters of supply chains involving rare earth materials.
Rare earth elements (REE) are essential for the transition towards a circular economy and a critical component of many green technology solutions such as energy-efficient lights, wind turbines, hybrid and fully electric vehicles.
While these metals are critical to drive sustainability targets forward, there is no certification or standard for socio-environmental reporting to assess sustainability across the REE value chain.
REE resource availability is not unlimited and its extraction and processing also comes with an environmental footprint.
Therefore, it is urgent to establish industry-wide sustainability criteria and schemes to actually certify sustainability accordingly. To reach this goal, the transparency and traceability of the REE value chains needs to be given.
Read more on conflict minerals and the EU Conflict Minerals Regulation in our blog.
The Circular System for Assessing Rare Earth Sustainability (CSyARES) project's objective is to improve raw materials supply conditions for the EU economy and the world market. Improved international resource transparency and governance leads to stability, predictability, resource-efficiency and hence a better foundation for competitiveness on a sustainable basis.
The project is an industry initiative which aims to create a standardised sustainability certification for rare earth elements as well as a software system to improve data transfer between supply chain actors.
CSyARES intends to integrate REIA’s sustainability standards for REE with Circularise's blockchain-based traceability software and Minviro's sustainability metrics. The integrated solution provides affordable confidentiality-preserving certification to suppliers, proving their sustainability metrics. Grundfos and BEC GmbH will then test this solution to trace and measure the environmental impact of their supply chains.
Overall, this project:
Circularise takes the lead of the consortium for CSyARES. Circularise’s traceability solution is used to provide transparency about the origin of materials, production processes, sustainability and material properties along the rare earth supply chain.
Within the project, Circularise will develop an extension of its current traceability software system in order to support the needs and standards of the REE industry. First, Circularise will digitise REIA’s sustainable mining standards. Second, they will integrate with Minviro to receive LCA data from the platform focused on the upstream supply chain and communicate it to downstream partners.
The REE-focused dashboard will allow the communication of all standards (not just recycled content) of REE supply chains including energy savings and labour conditions and provenance. Furthermore it will enable the direct input of production process and material data for the calculation of LCA’s.
The research project started in May 2022 and is estimated to last for a period of 3 years.
CSyARES is a pioneering project in this field that has gained a lot of attention in the industry and public procurement. The project is a crucial step to bring sustainability compliance schemes to a sector that has been impacted by the move towards sustainability, but still does not have its own set of compliance schemes and defined sustainability standards.
The interdisciplinary approach that this project takes, will not only set standards, but directly provide the tools to implement, measure, and communicate sustainability targets. The open sustainability standard has the potential for a wide uptake across the industry. Initial market research shows promising profitable business models based on certified and transparent practices towards more sustainability along supply chains in this criticised industry that customers are actively seeking to support.
BEC Gesellschaft für Produktmanagement mbH
BEC develops customised magnetic solutions for different types of industries, with focus on sintered NdFeB permanent magnets.
Circularise is a start-up that provides two leading software solutions for end-to-end supply chain traceability and transparency: MassBalancer to automate mass balance bookkeeping and Digital Product Passports for end-to-end batch traceability.
Grundfos is a global pump and water solutions company with expertise in energy- and water efficient solutions and systems for a wide range of applications, including water utility, water treatment, industries and buildings.
Minviro is a consultancy and technology company that focuses on a stronger integration of life cycle assessment in the mining, metals and recycling industries.
Rare Earth Industry Association (REIA)
REIA is a global association aiming to enable sustainable, responsible, collaborative and transparent Rare Earth Value chains, from mining to recycling. REIA provides a platform for stakeholder networks, conducts research and develops strategies and supply chain standards.