Demonstrating responsible management of lead in the battery value chain

Materials Stewardship – maximising sustainability of metals

John Atherton (Metal Stewardship Ltd, United Kingdom)

Materials stewardship is the responsible provision of materials and supervision of material flows to create maximum societal value and minimum impact on humans and the environment. The concept of materials stewardship is built on the premise that we have a shared responsibility for the performance of the whole materials cycle of which we are part, well beyond our direct operations.

Operating responsibly and helping to ensure appropriate management of the materials we produce responds to an important external policy imperative termed ‘sustainable consumption and production (SCP)’. Society is increasingly demanding assurance that materials are being produced and used responsibly and safely. Manufacturers and retailers are under pressure to associate ethical practice with the materials they source. They, as well as governments, are developing policies, standards and regulations to assess and manage environmental and social risks in value chains. All too often however, this takes place without real knowledge of the operational challenges of the metals industry and its ability to deliver effective materials stewardship.

The means of defining socially and environmentally responsible materials, products and production practices is evolving, but model programmes and standards have been developed and others are evolving. Outside of our industry, the Forest Stewardship Council’s forest certification and chain of custody system and the standards developed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil are examples of how industry has worked with stakeholders to take on the challenge to define leading practices. Metal using sectors such as building and construction, automotive and electronics are driving responsibility requirements into their supply chains. Leading companies in these sectors want to demonstrate to their stakeholders that they are managing the environmental and social risks and opportunities of their operations, products and supply chains. Within our industry, the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative and the Responsible Steel Initiative have undertaken similar efforts to define and drive leading practice. We will review some of these during the presentation.

Looking at these and other initiatives, we see common themes emerging centred on standards of practice related to performance areas such as transparency, traceability, environmental sustainability and fair labour. While there are some commonalities across these responsible sourcing programmes, there are also differences. Some of the programmes are narrowly focused on a priority issue such as, for example, the elimination of conflict minerals in supply chains or the measurement of the carbon footprint of a material or product system. Some activities focus on the measurement of environmental impact across the life cycle of the product, while others look at a wider range of governance, environmental and social practices along entire supply chains.

In this presentation we will explore the concept of materials stewardship and what it means for the metals industry today, it’s links to the responsible procurement and delivery of materials and products to society and to the sustainable consumption and production of metals such as lead and the lead battery value chain. We will examine ways of meeting the expectations of downstream customers and other key stakeholders and some of the challenges currently faced by materials producers in delivering appropriate levels of stewardship.


Formerly a Director for Materials Stewardship at the International Council on Mining and Metals from 2002 – 2018, John is now Executive Director of Metal Stewardship Limited. For over 25 years John has been at the forefront of developing strategies, tools, and policies to improve the sustainability performance of mining and metal companies and their products. His deep experience includes the development of the concept of materials stewardship and associated practices in the metals sector. He has worked with some of the world’s largest companies, leading international industry associations and governments. He has spoken at the UN and the OECD and has worked on sustainability issues with a variety of sectors including transportation, chemicals, oil and gas, mining, consumer products, data management, electronics and heavy manufacturing. He is the author or co-author of numerous reports and guidance documents including; Maximizing Value: Guidance on implementing materials stewardship in the minerals and metals value chain published by the International Council on Mining and Metals.

John Atherton

Our Sponsors




Media Partners

Pb2019 is run by the industry for the industry