Sustainable Battery Value Chain with Mathy Stanislaus

March 4, 2021

Mr. Stanislaus is the Interim Director of the Global Battery Alliance (World Economic Forum), which consists of senior leaders from companies, NGOs and governments pursuing a vision that by 2030 the GHG emissions of the transport and power is reduced 30%, eliminating human rights abuses – in particular child labor in cobalt sourcing– and closing the clean energy access gap, while creating additional jobs and economic value.

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John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact podcast we’re so excited to have with us today. Back again, back on the impact podcast, six years later, Mathy Stanislaus. He’s the interim director of the Global Battery Alliance, World Economic Forum. Welcome back now to impact podcast, Mathy.

Mathy Stanislaus: Thanks, John. Well, I look forward to this conversation.

John: And so do I, batteries are such a hot topic. But last time we spoke with you, you were working for the Obama administration over the EPA. And for our listeners who haven’t heard that edition of our broadcast. Tell them a little bit about your background leading up to Obama and all your great environmental work. And now in this very important role as the interim director of the global battery Alliance.

Mathy: Yes, sure. My background by training, I’m a chemical engineer and environmental lawyer. Before I joined the Obama administration, I did a lot of work to try to align social justice with business drivers and local government. I really believe that if you want to have the transformation in the globe, really requires that alignment, I used to lead a nonprofit in New York City to bring real estate finance community-based organizations to really build and redevelop communities through a community-based planning program. I took that with me, to the Obama administration about to scale that up, nationally, and internationally, we’ll try to link up, you know, the areas of the community-based building, the areas of climate change, restoration, the areas of energy transformation, but do it in a way that, you know, looks at, you know, the policy as a, as a floor, then building upon the hub kind of spur kind of this innovation that brings the community of business and government together.

You know, from there, I did a little bit of work with the World Economic Forum, and I led the work with the G7 on behalf of the US government, looking at the role of supply chains, looking at a particular focus on the auto sector, and how aligning government and the private sector and a supply chain can be really crucial to address climate change and materials reduction. So I’ve done a bit of work in scaling up this circular economy platform with the World Economic Forum, and I’m currently the Director of the Global Battery Alliance.

The Global Battery Alliance, I’ll give three, three of the major areas of focus. One is to really scale up batteries. so that it can reduce greenhouse gases and the transportation energy sector, which is responsible for 40% of greenhouse gases globally. And we believe we can reduce greenhouse gases by 30% of the Paris goals. Secondly, we also need to address what I call the dark underbelly of electrification doesn’t want to talk about that is so much of the key materials, cobalt, lithium, nickel, comes with it potential human rights abuses, potential environmental abuses.

So we really need to behave eyes wide open, and make sure that we focus on the fallback end. And the other major opportunity is to really provide access to electricity to communities that currently do not have access to clean energy. And we’re really calling it currently focusing on Africa. You know, if you transform from dirty diesel, to clean energy, you not only increase the public health dimension, you increase productivity, you increase educational levels. So those are three prongs of our effort.

John: That’s wonderful. And you know, yeah, I applaud you have a stellar career and doing things that really make the world a better place. You know, I love having people like you want me to do this show for a reason. It’s a mission. I don’t take any advertising dollars Mathy, but you’re the exact reason I have this show because you are making an impact. And you have a history, a career of making important impacts and making the world a better place.

So first of all, I just thank you for all the great work you did back under the Obama administration back in New York. And now with the Global Battery Alliance, this is such an important work way beyond the environment, like you said it these human rights opportunities and violation opportunities. And also figuring that out, this is a really, really big issue. And it seems as though when it comes to the circular economy, this is a growing issue. Because as we know, electronics Mathy is the fastest growing solid waste stream in the world. And now electronics, so many of the electronics we use, whether it’s our wearables, or our or basically our Eevee cars, which have become computers on wheels, have these lithium-ion batteries in them, which are full of the cobalt and nickel, the lithium-ion or what is called the Black Mass. Let’s break this down, though. This partnership that you’re heading up now is made up of 70 members can you give our listeners and our viewers a taste of who the members are and why they join this alliance?

Mathy: Sure, on the private side, everything from mining and minerals processing companies to battery and automobile and Evie companies, to some of the world’s largest tech companies. On the public side, we have a number of the UN agencies, we have a number of governments who are former members, we have the Canadian government or the Japanese government, the Democratic Republic of Congo, we’re also engaged with the European Union and, and recently, you know, we’re engaged the United States government.

John: Right.

Mathy: And equally important, you know, we have work outside of the US cause civil society organizations in the US to cause nongovernmental organization really bringing the activist the community voice to the table at a level playing field.

John: Got it. You know, and I’ve been reading about solutions now, companies that say they’re going to recycle lithium-ion batteries, such as Redwood materials, such as lifecycle up in Canada. Talk a little bit about Are you hopeful that we’re going to be able to close a circular economy in this very important part of the ESG space and be able to now do the last mile and recycle the lithium, the cobalt-nickel, what is called the maybe the last mile of the electronics, you know, chain and now repurpose these materials back into new batteries. What does this look like as you step back and you have this great Alliance now with all these various stakeholders?

Mathy: Yes. Well, you know, I’m both an advocate and a skeptic of the circular con.

John: Okay. Okay.

Mathy: I think the circular economy is a great vision. But what I find is quite weak. Is really disciplined to put in place the levers for change. That is data-driven and science-driven. So first, I think that we have to look at it from a lifecycle-based perspective looking at the older lifecycle stages and figuring out where are the greatest impact and the greatest opportunity, and not every product offers circularity offers the same kind of circularity? So for example, Evie batteries. There are huge opportunities before we talk about recycling to extend the life of batteries, and then identifying second uses of Evie batteries for energy storage.

So I think we should maximize that and provide the policy and financial inducement everything from design to disassembly, everything from addressing standards for second use everything from enabling repair and refurbishment. So one of my concerns is we skip just to recycling without maximizing the hierarchy of circularity in a really intentional way. So I think people should really focus on that. And, and I think there’s the other you know, I think the regulatory nudges or a floor is crucially important, but we also need to recognize you know, the leading businesses are suffering from the market, not recognizing that they’re leading, you know, and so we have a lot of green-washing out there, you know, so we need to have a real, more a rigorous mechanism.

So one of the things we’re working on is a data-driven mechanism, something called the Global battery passport.

John: Okay.

Mathy: Which is enabling access, and authentication, and verification of data throughout what we call the battery ecosystem, the battery value chain, you know, from mining to make sure that we are able to trace that is coming from a reliable source, not a corrupt source, a source that does not use child labor, right. And then, on greenhouse gases, and making sure we have authenticated greenhouse gases, you know, water impacts, and all of that.

So one, we want to be able to have the downstream users and the upstream users to be able to have the same standardized data so that, you know, we really can reward the best actors in the planet, and frankly, not reward those that don’t invest in the best performance is the least impact. Making sure there’s no corruption and, and child labor.

No. And, we also need to enable the market poll to provide enough information for consumers to make informed decisions. So you know, we’re in the first time in humanity, we have an ability to have data drive authentic decisions are no longer can a company downstream company say, there’s no way for us to know? Yes, there is you have to really invest in the data infrastructure. And I think similar to governments and consumers is how to create data access, protecting certain data, enabling certain data to make more rigorous informed decisions. I will just give one point of data.

One of the largest Evie companies told me that no longer this is the number one finance I told them, that we do not want to see another sustainability report from you know, we need data to speak to the truth. You know, so a number of organizations BlackRock, for example of wall saying, Listen, we don’t want your sustainability reports anymore. We want a database affirmation that helps you, it helps the community helps us make financing decisions, and helps consumers make informed decisions. So that so the data is really where people want to focus now. And that’s where the hockey puck is going. You feel in the future.

John: Yes, Mathy.

Mathy: Yes, yes, I mean, I think data, I mean, really can’t talk about sustainability. You can’t talk about responsibility. You can’t talk about leveling the playing field. without talking about as an example, we do a lot of work with the European Union commission. And as a result of all the work, their draft regulations, are recognizing our global passport, our data infrastructure to drive accountability and responsibility.

John: You know, you mentioned the dark underbelly of human rights violations. Is that still in 2021? It’s hard to believe that that’s still going on. But can you flesh that out for our viewers and our listeners and explain where that fits in in this whole, you know, in the in this story, so it’s important for that to bring light to that, because what, what we can disinfect what we put sunshine on, but we if we don’t know, we really can’t fix the problem.

Mathy: Yes, I’ll give two examples on both ends of the production chain.

John: Okay.

Mathy: One is cobalt. Cobalt is a critical ingredient. Currently, to make lithium-ion batteries, you really can’t make lithium-ion batteries without it. 70% of the sourcing comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, you know, and depending on who you listen to, you know, a substantial percentage may be the majority is produced using children.

John: All right.

Mathy: And so, you know, it’s been widely scrutinized a number of reports by Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and a number of the downstream companies, auto companies have said, you know, we need to address this problem, you know, so this is really difficult work, you know, so, you know, child labor in the DRC, in a place that has a degree of poverty is easier said than done.

John: Right.

Mathy: You need to not just say no, you need to invest in the systems to improve the conditions in the DRC and provide alternative law, live livelihood, enable worker training to enabled adults to work, you know, it’s a whole ecosystem. So we’ve done work with creating a fund working with UNICEF to invest in job training and education, and that we’re now building this data contract to hold companies accountable for the chain of custody, you know, cobalt mined, where does it go?

Can we confirm that it’s not going to corrupt means so? So that’s the one dimension of human rights as child labor. There are a lot multiple other dimensions of human rights as indigenous rights associated with lithium that needs to be addressed. On the far another end, you know, you the global electrical, electric transformation still is going to rely on recycling at the back end, you know, and lead-acid batteries are still going to be part of our future.

So a recent study by UNICEF and a group called Pure Earth concludes that one in three children in the globe still suffers from lead poisoning. And lead poisoning relates to the development of disability, intellectual disability. And it’s most pronounced in emerging countries, we have really haphazard informal sector operations. So we recently issued a report about best practices, and we’re doing this event in India, about how can they address best practices, they address even kind of equalizing the level playing field so that you know, you can actually have this taxation scheme, which actually pushes the recycling market underground and be done by the informal sector. So I give you two examples of, you know, where human rights abuses are occurring, and the real importance of, you know, electrification is sexy. Evie is sexy, but we need to have equal attention and visibility and scrutiny by everyone. So that the hard to do stuff on both sides gets done.

John: Got it. And for our listeners, and just join us in our viewers, we have Mathy Stanislaus with us, he’s the interim director of the global battery lines, you can find Mathy on his LinkedIn at Mathy dash status loss. [inaudible] on LinkedIn or at the web forum. org backslash global dash battery dash lions backslash home. It’s a great group and an important group of 470 or so partnering companies and organizations, including companies in the value chain, the public sector, civil society, and other important issues. Mathy, why is fixing this battery issue important or crucial to achieving the Paris goals that we’ve just as you say, signed back on to?

Mathy: Yes, well, so we think well, you know, 40% 40 plus percent of the greenhouse gases are due to energy production, and transportation.

John: Okay, right.

Mathy: And the at the heart of reducing greenhouse gases, and we believe through optimization of batteries, in vehicles and in fixed storage, it can achieve 30% of the Paris goals, the transportation, and energy sector. It can do this in a number of ways.

One is optimizing batteries, the circularity of batteries as we were discussing earlier, extending the life of batteries, repurposing batteries, and recovering quality materials from batteries can reduce the cost of batteries and TVs by about 23%, which we think can increase the demand of EBS by 35%. So one of the big keys to scaling up EBS is reducing the cost of batteries.

John: Okay.

Mathy: The other area is the area of either fixed storage or I’m going to call it interim storage. And I’ll come back to it is renewable energy is intimate and source of energy at this moment, right. So basically that means that only when the wind is blowing, only when the sun is up, can you extract energy for use at the point of production, right? So the key to being able to maximize the use of renewable energy is to be able to store that energy when needed, right. The other thing that people don’t think about is unless we fix and enable storage, you will never take away the dirtiest of dirty energy production, which occurs on the hottest days of the year.

John: Right.

Mathy: So the dirty is finished facilities with the least pollution control, you know, I’ll call peaking plants, right? So those are the plants that Come on, you know, typically in the hottest sub-parts of the summer to provide the reliable energy that we demand.

John: Right.

Mathy: So, so battery storage is a key, for one maximizing the use of renewable energy, but maximizing renewable energy, you then put pressure and you eliminate, first, the dirtiest peakers, and then bringing down all of the fossil fuel generations. So battery storage, both fixed meaning fixed storage on the grid. And then what I accept, it has begun in Europe, there’s been a bit of work in China is using a battery using batteries in vehicles as an interim storage device.

So for example, the Biden administration has committed to electrification, electrification of bus fleets, and school fleets. So what the opportunity is, is that when they are not being used for transporting kids.

John: Right.

Mathy: You get connected to the grid, and then they could then be at a battery storage device. And then what can happen is there’s a whole theory of arbitrage, which means that you can, you know, grab energy that’s being produced is not being used at a low price, and then sell it out at a bigger price. So I’m working on this model with a big energy company, which would reduce the local pollution in an area, which would tie renewable energy, fixed storage, the leasing of pooled buses, which could result in a 25% reduction in the utility cost for a local municipality. So this is the possibility of when you start looking at this in a more collaborative, intentional way.

John: You know, Mathy, I love what you’re doing at the Global Battery Alliance, these are big ideas, and this is big, you’re taking on some of the biggest environmental and human rights challenges that we’ve ever had discussed on this, on this podcast in this program. How long will this take? I mean, you’re, you’re a seasoned veteran, both law expert, a chemical engineer, you have, and you have all the relationships, is this something that can be achieved in the next one or two years? Or is this a 10-year project to achieve a lot of the goals you’re aiming for? What’s your vision on that?

Mathy: Our vision is, you know, we need to, we’ve already hit the ground, we need to accelerate to hit the ground. And frankly, the US has been Mia for some obvious reasons.

So but I do think that it’s a mistake to think of it just as a regulatory issue versus a private sector issue.

John: Right. Okay.

Mathy: So we need to, yes, we need to put in place. The regulatory programs, you know, mandates we’re reducing emissions, we also need to put what I call enabling policies and enabling policies of data to reduce costs and enable innovation, we need to level the playing field, you know, so that the risk-takers who’ve done you know, the leading edge battery companies and Evie, Evie companies need to be rewarded.

You know, frankly, we need to invest significantly in the battery market in the US, you know, the recycling markets in the US. So we need to do all those things at the same time. I know it sounds, but unless we do that, you know, and I’m not going to get too provincial here, but—

John: Right.

Mathy: Currently, China dominates every segment of the value chain. They are the number one processor of the key minerals for electrification. They’re the number one manufacturer of batteries are currently they throw heavily subsidized subsidies to that Europe has now put in a multi-billion dollar investment in trying to secure battery markets by reproduction there. So I do think the US needs to get into and go really big, you know, in terms of investment.

Now, the last thing I will say but maybe not the last thing I would say okay, is that you know, we need to take the utility policies and utility infrastructure from the Dark Ages.

So, I mean, we’ve had utility policies into being able to rapidly allow battery storage into grids, being able to put smart charging into grids to enable all of this, that needs to happen. No, frankly, utilities move very slowly in utility, you know, have gone from a heavily regulated industry to I would say, MCs regulated and some privatized, but a lot of their, the legacy is still that they are, you know, quite slow to change, you know, and, and, and we have the need to have utility companies and battery companies and Evie companies and government to speak at the same table for the first time ever because they’ve never been at that table, you know, so, and this is where I think like a forward-leaning, now the government and private sector needs to come to the table in a pre-competitive way to solve these intractable problems. Because if we don’t solve the infrastructure side, if all we do is carbon pricing and regulation, now we don’t solve the infrastructure side, we will not achieve our Paris targets.

John: Do you feel that with you as the interim director of the Global Battery Alliance, and with those 70 or so members that you say come from all different, interesting backgrounds? It’s just not industry? It’s government. It’s an industry. It’s, it’s all sorts of stakeholders, and with this new battery, and with this new Biden administration, this four-year window, do you think you can accomplish this stuff in that four-year window? Now that you have everybody, you’re the leader, you’re leading this group? And you also have sort of everybody under this umbrella organization? Is that going to that with the politics being, you know, more favorable? Will that be the wind at your back to get a lot of this done and bring the United States into modern times?

Mathy: I believe so. And I don’t think we have a choice.

John: I’m with you, I mean, sound like it.

Mathy: So I do think that you know, if we, you may not see the result in four years, okay, we need to put in place, all the elements of it, you know, we need to put in place the regulatory mandates of it, we need to put in place the enabling policies, you know, data policies, financial incentives, so that can then be having to add on effect of nurturing innovation in the private sector, leveling the playing field, you know, that that will have a cascading effect. You know, what we project again if we optimize these systems, we think we could achieve the 30% reduction by 2030, right?

So we have a 2050 goal of net-zero, right. But, but we, you know, we can’t wait for 2050.

John: Right.

Mathy: To go heavy, we got to go, we got to go hard. On the policy side, on the financing side. I mean, let me just spend a moment on finance.

John: Yes.

Mathy: I think it’s crucial that the US catch up with the rest of the world on what is called blended finance, you know,, the government needs to come to the table, to de-risk pseudonym investments, de-risk, certainly, infrastructure. So. the European Union is putting multi-billions of dollars to nurture its battery bins, because there is a little bit of uncertainty, you know, in terms of infrastructure investment, in terms of investing in cell technology and cell development. So I think that direct resources, incentivized resources, maybe even reduced tax treatment is really crucial to be able to realize this opportunity, you know.

So again, mandates, nudges, blended financing, and then working with the private sector, private sector leaders, and frankly, holding the laggards accountable at the same time.

John: Right, and like you said, it’s not all policy in government, but it’s great when that’s the wind at your back. And it’s not the wind at your face anymore. So now you have that at your back. And now you got this whole great organization, you can make this stuff happen now.

Mathy: Yes. And for those who think this is us, was the world was with us and listen, you know, both in the European Union policies and the Biden policies, they all include this trade requirement around carbon, right? So what that means is it and I’ve always said that the biggest harm in the last four years was to the US business because the sending the signal that you don’t need to decarbonize that may work in the US, but listen, we’re in a global economy.

John: Right.

Mathy, You’ve set us businesses behind in terms of selling in Europe and even selling in China. So for the future, you will not be able to sell a mother the products if you don’t mean if you don’t demonstrate a certain greenhouse gas, a goal and also got it.

John: Hey for our listeners and viewers to find Mathy and his great colleagues and all the important work they’re doing please go to We forum.org backslash global dash battery dash Alliance backslash home or you can find the connect with Mathy on his LinkedIn at Mathy-Stanislaus on LinkedIn, Mathy, I’m so glad you came back on impact, to share your journey. You’re doing such important work honest too, gosh, I do this show because of great people like you, you’re not only making an impact, you’re making the world a better place.

The truth is we need to clone you. We need more of you. And, and I’m so hopeful after this discussion because you are the right person to be running the global battery Alliance and tackling these very important issues that are actually very complicated, as well.

Thank you for being a guest again, you’re always welcome back. And I wish you continued success, good health. And just thank you for all the great work you do just thank you.

Mathy: Thanks, John. And thanks for having me again. Looking forward to continuing our conversation in the future.

John: Of course.

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