VW board member Francisco Javier Garcia SanzVolkswagen Group has said it is engaging in “intensive” discussions with its suppliers to determine how the sustainability of its supply chain can be improved, especially for the raw materials used in electric vehicles.

“We are engaging in intensive dialogue with companies from the mine through to our direct suppliers. It is important to ensure that we share the same corporate goals and especially the same corporate values,” said Michael Bäcker, executive director corporate purchasing electric/electronic at the Volkswagen Group.

The company said it had made its corporate guidelines more stringent, requiring greater transparency in raw materials procurement from its suppliers.

In addition to the previous requirements such as compliance with clearly defined working conditions, environmental and safety standards as well as human rights, the guidelines now explicitly forbid any form of child labour or forced labour in the extraction of raw materials such as cobalt and mica.

“Specifically, the objective is to bring environmentally compatible vehicles onto the road that have been produced with respect for human rights and in accordance with environmental and social standards throughout the supply chain,” said the carmaker in a statement. “This starts with raw material extraction and ends with the finished product.”

VW Group company Audi announced earlier this year that it would only place orders in future with suppliers who achieved a positive score under a newly introduced sustainability ratings system – and that it intended to carry out spot-checks to audit them.

Other activities within the initiative include joint efforts with partners from a number of industries within the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) to develop approaches for the certification of cobalt smelting plants in order to make transparent the extraction conditions and origin of this raw material for batteries.

Francisco Javier Garcia Sanz (pictured), member of the board of management of the Volkswagen Group responsible for procurement, said: "We expect our suppliers to ensure maximum transparency and provide information on compliance with the agreed sustainability standards. We will consistently pursue any infringements or irregularities.

"To put it quite clearly, if any supplier or any subcontractor of any supplier does not adhere to these rules and initiate the necessary action, we will be forced to stop dealing with the supplier in case of doubt," he added.

In September, Volkswagen was named amongst a group of corporations and NGOs aiming to end child labour, hazardous working conditions, pollution and environmental damage in the global battery supply chain.

The Global Battery Alliance was launched at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Sustainable Development Impact Summit in an effort to create a responsible value chain for the battery market.

Meanwhile, in November, BMW Group said it had taken further steps to improve transparency in its battery cell supply chain by promising to release information on smelters and countries of origin for raw materials by the end of this year.