Three steps towards ESG assurance for the nickel value chain

Dr. Veronique Steukers sets out three principles which will allow companies to manage and measure ESG impacts and engage on a path to improvement.

The Conference of Parties in Paris in 2015 sparked a sense of urgency for the energy transition. This in turn has been marked by a race to the minerals and metals that are strategic for many renewable energy technologies. Recent geopolitical developments have led countries and value chains to look at diversifying their supply chains and obtaining greater raw materials autonomy.

In parallel, there are calls for sustainable supply chains, as increasingly questions are being raised around ESG challenges associated with mining activities. Regulators and customers increasingly require sustainability commitments from their stakeholders, without which countries or producers may be deselected as viable partners.

Dr. Veronique Steukers, Director Public Policy & Sustainability, Nickel Institute
Dr. Veronique Steukers, Director Public Policy & Sustainability, Nickel Institute

Sustainable viability of our industry is critical if we want to make sure that nickel remains a key component for future low-carbon technologies.

We are not only talking about batteries for EV cars.

Let’s not forget that nickel containing stainless steel adds corrosion resistance which in turn extends the life of, for instance, the bridges these EVs will drive on. And nickel is also used in most renewable energy technologies and remains a key component of innovative solutions. We need to take the ESG concerns seriously to ensure that industry and the communities continue to have confidence in nickel in the future.

To be able to embrace the ESG challenges and a sustainable way forward, companies need aligned methodologies, standards and tools to identify, measure and manage ESG impacts. ESG compliance is challenging and resource intensive and the range of possible requirements that could be demanded is enormous. Without coordination on prioritizing and implementing these requirements, the ability for companies to comply decreases. In addition, financial resources needed to comply with different and often divergent demands will increase which in turn will limit resources and capability for the companies to engage on a path to improvement.

In order to support all stakeholders, be it regulators, producers, the value chain or communities, three key requirements need to be met:

  • 1. Convergence and cross-recognition of due diligence or responsible production standards.

    Many companies will already have started assessment against a due diligence or responsible production standard, such as the Ni Mark, RMI, TSM, IRMA, …. We need convergence and cross-recognition and mutual acceptance to avoid mining companies having to go through additional assessments and audits simply because of different demands by different stakeholders. As such, we applaud and support the convergence initiated by Cu Mark, MAC, World Gold Council and ICMM.


  • 2. Criteria and requirements need to be based on sound science.

    Health and environmental criteria and limit values are specific to certain regions and cannot be applied Scientific tools designed specifically to evaluate community and environmental impacts of metals are available. They account for regional specificities and metal characteristics such as natural occurrence and essentiality. These tools are based on many years of research, are accepted by the science community, have been peer reviewed and published in widely recognised international journals.


  • 3. Carbon footprint should be measured in the same way everywhere by every stakeholder to allow for comparability of the information.

    Carbon footprint methodologies specifically designed for metals including nickel, have been developed based on deep knowledge of the technologies, production processes and understanding of the market. They are currently already extensively used and referenced by global stakeholders such as battery producers, trade platforms, academia and experts and are recognized as the highest standard.

The Nickel Institute urges all stakeholders including regulators, NGOs and the value chain to seriously consider these points and to use them as the basis for regulation and requirements. These three principles will give companies confidence in the tools and methodologies; allow them to assess and audit their processes and thereby identify legitimate areas of concern.

And most importantly, it will free up resources otherwise spent on multiple assessments, audits and calculations for different stakeholders and enable companies to focus on continuous improvement.