The German group already has a long-established supplier sustainability standards system in place which states working conditions must respect human rights and explicitly forbids the use of child labour. This requires all direct suppliers to adhere to its standards and monitor them within their own supply chains, which often involve a large number of sub-suppliers.
The new approach will help Daimler meet German government requirements in this area, as well as identify and avoid any risks to its business activities at an early stage.
"Our Human RIghts Respect System is a new big step in our efforts regarding human rights," said a spokesperson for Daimler's Procurement and Supplier Quality division. "It is a systematic approach to identify and avoid risks, and possible negative impacts of our business activities on the respect for human rights."
Among the new measures being introduced are a whistle-blower system to draw attention to possible violations within the supply chain. The company will investigate such reports with a team of buyers and experts in human rights and compliance.
Sabine Angermann, head of purchasing and supplier quality for raw materials and strategy at Mercedes-Benz Cars, said: “It is not only the direct supplier who must operate sustainably, but the entire supply chain.”
To monitor this, Mercedes-Benz will carry out risk-based ‘supply chain walks’ which start with a tier one supplier and go through critical points in the chain, if necessary to the mine itself. Such checks will be conducted by a team of 700 quality engineers and experts in sustainability, human rights and compliance.
Standards of raw materials sourcing have become a particular issue with the switch to electric vehicles, given their use of lithium, cobalt and nickel, the supply of which have long been a concern on ethical grounds.
In addition to the group’s in-house efforts, Mercedes-Benz Cars is working with the Responsible Cobalt Initiative on ways to counter social and ecological risks throughout the cobalt supply chain. Specific targets include reducing the risk of child labour and increasing transparency and governance.
"With its risk-oriented method, we could identify ca. 50 potentially risky materials and substances," said the company spokesperson. "It is our goal to create transparency in the supply chains of the potentially risky materials by 2020."