Value chain and society

Human rights are fundamental to umicore.

We want Umicore to be a leader in providing and creating material-based solutions to contribute to fundamental improvements in the quality of life.

Human rights within the Umicore organization are enshrined in The Umicore Way which is the cornerstone of everything we do at Umicore, representing our organization’s values. All Umicore personnel commit to upholding these values under the following key statement:

“ We uphold fundamental human rights and respect those rights in conducting our operations throughout the world.We engage with the communities around our operations and communicate transparently with our stakeholders”.

Our success is measured in our ability to provide environmental and ethical sourcing benefits of scarce raw materials and to deliver products and services that create sustainable value for our customers and society.

Umicore’s Horizon 2020 objectives reflect a proactive view of our role in the overall value chain.

Upstream, we have placed greater emphasis on the management of key raw materials supply requirements. We have also sought to ensure that Umicore’s efforts in the field of ethical sourcing can generate a competitive edge for the company.

Downstream, we have a strong portfolio of products and services that offer specific sustainability advantages to our customers and society. We use our long-standing and growing experience in ethical sourcing and sustainably managing raw materials to advocate for better practices.

Umicore and IndustriALL Global Union renewed their Global framework Agreement on Sustainable Development in 2019, for 4 years. The agreement reaffirmed Umicore’s commitment to sustainable development, embracing economic, environmental and social objectives.

More specifically, it covers human rights, including collective bargaining and equal opportunities, safe and healthy working conditions, environmental and supply chain matters and digital transformation. All parties have undertaken to pursue the constructive dialogue they initiated in 2007 to ensure successful implementation of the agreement.

To ensure our activities are conducted in line with the Umicore Way, we have adopted policies including the Umicore Code of Conduct, Human Rights Policy, and our Sustainable Procurement Charter. Umicore fully supports the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We are committed to uphold fundamental human rights and respect those rights in conducting our operations throughout the world.

This commitment applies to all Umicore employees, all subsidiaries and joint ventures where we have operational control and all subcontractors working on our sites.

Our success depends on a relationship of trust and professionalism with employees, commercial partners, shareholders, government authorities and the public. These principles are embedded in our Code of Conduct which sets the framework for ethical behavior and respect of the rule of law, including regarding anticorruption and bribery. It incorporates whistle blowing procedures (Integrity Hotline) and supports our commitment to equal opportunities and diversity. All employees have access to, and are required to comply with, the Code of Conduct and The Umicore Way.


As a global materials technology and recycling group, we purchase and recycle minerals and metals for use in a wide range of products and technologies.

For our operations to function, we need raw materials, transportation, energy and other goods and services.

Sustainable procurement is a key driver in Umicore’s Horizon 2020 aspiration to turn sustainability into a greater competitive edge.

Our Sustainable Procurement Charter mitigates the supply chain risks, including human rights. The Charter outlines our commitment to fair dealing, transparency and communication, health and safety, and our efforts to include smaller sized and local suppliers in our procurement processes wherever possible, to support local economies where we operate.

We are determined to ethically and sustainably secure a competitive edge in our approach to critical raw materials. To avoid misuse of precious metals and minerals to finance armed conflict, cause human rights abuses, draw upon forced or child labor or support corruption and money laundering, we ensure that conflict minerals procurement is in line with Umicore’s values through our policy for Responsible global supply chain of minerals from conflict affected and high-risk areas which is based on the OECD guidelines.

Umicore also continues to ensure that gold and silver production operations are certified as conflict-free, and that our cobalt, platinum, palladium and rhodium are sourced responsibly. Our customers are increasingly requesting such guarantees and we provide them with the necessary documentation to assure the conflict-free status of our products.

Umicore sites undergo audit and certification for the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) and the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI). For more information on our many accreditations see 2 CRITICAL RAW MATERIALS.

We expect our suppliers to be committed to business integrity, to promote the principles of sustainable procurement in their supply chain, to be compliant with local environmental laws and to respect international human rights law on their own sites and from their own suppliers, including to abolish child and forced labor and eliminate discrimination.

Overall, we have over 18,000 suppliers worldwide to which we paid over 18.7 billion (including the metal content of raw materials) in 2020. Umicore’s Purchasing & Transportation teams worldwide manage indirect procurement processes for energy and other goods and services (accounting for usually around 10% of our spend) while the metal-bearing raw materials are purchased directly by the business units (accounting for the vast majority of our spend).

In 2020, EcoVadis continued to assess indirect procurement streams for Umicore.

Umicore Responsible global supply chain of minerals from conflict affected and high risk areas available at:

Umicore Sustainable Procurement Charter available at:


For over a century Umicore has been a world leader in cobalt products, used in many applications, from tooling to rechargeable batteries for electric cars.

Some reserves of cobalt ore are in regions fraught with challenges, giving rise to unethical practices such as forced labor, poor health and safety conditions, child labor and corruption.

For us, sustainable procurement of cobalt means considering economic, environmental and social performance of our suppliers, and the social and environmental impact of the supply, in the purchase of materials. To source cobalt, we have implemented a pioneering Sustainable Procurement Framework for Cobalt and were the first to obtain external validation for our approach in this area.

The various sustainability aspects of the battery supply chain include the conditions under which raw materials are extracted and processed. Umicore is aware of the sustainability risks that are linked to the sourcing of cobalt particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Often, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) activities are linked to issues such as human rights abuses, child labor, poor occupational health and safety conditions. In 2004 Umicore decided to exclude cobalt obtained from ASM from its supply chain.

Umicore is the first company in the world to have introduced a Sustainable Procurement Framework for Cobalt and to obtain external validation for its ethical procurement approach in this area. It aims to minimize the risk of any connection between the cobalt in its supply chain – and subsequently that of its customers – and human rights abuses or unethical business practices. Building on the specific approach to sustainable and ethical cobalt sourcing that Umicore introduced in 2004, the framework has evolved to address specific risks linked to unethical mining practices, such as child labor and poor health and safety conditions. Regular independent audits ensure that Umicore’s supply chain remains compliant with these policies.

To ensure the traceability of materials in our supply chain, we carry out detailed research and risk assessments of our suppliers. This includes visiting plants, screening policies and procedures and, if required, developing improvement programs. In 2020, Umicore again performed due diligence activities for all its purchased cobalt materials used in rechargeable batteries, tools, catalysts and several other applications. In 2019, Umicore piloted a new third-party site audit protocol on our largest cobalt supplier, with a plan to roll out to other suppliers starting in 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the roll out of our new third-party audit was not possible. Umicore did however follow up on mitigation actions defined in the previous year’s audit.

Umicore obtained, for the sixth year in a row, third-party assurance from PwC that our 2020 cobalt purchases are carried out in line with the conditions set out in the Framework. The share of cobalt from recycled origin was also reviewed as part of the assurance process and decreased to 4% in 2020, down from 9% in 2019, in part due to the impact of COVID-19 on the availability of cobalt-containing industrial scraps and end-of-life materials for recycling.

The 2020 Due Diligence Compliance Report for Cobalt Procurement, as well as previous years’ reports are available online.

Umicore also supports the development of traceability projects across the industry. In 2019, the Cobalt Institute launched the Cobalt Industry Responsible Assessment Framework (CIRAF), a management framework which strengthens the ability of cobalt producers and buyers to assess, mitigate, and report on responsible production and sourcing risks in their operations and supply chain. Umicore is again reporting on our supply chain using the CIRAF, which we helped develop. In 2020, Umicore’s supply chain approach is aligned with the level 3 requirements of the CIRAF, an improvement from level 2 in 2019. The compliance report for 2020 is available online.

Within the Battery Alliance, Umicore continues to support the development of a battery passport to ensure transparency on the origin of the raw materials, their transformation, use and end of life. The passport will trace the origins of battery materials and monitor them throughout their entire lifecycle on a global digital platform, to help eradicate unacceptable social or environmental practices and push unsustainable materials out of the market.

Umicore Sustainable Procurement Framework for Cobalt available at:


In 2020, 77% of Group revenues were from activities that deliver products or services that are directly linked to clean mobility or recycling, up from 75% in 2019, and up 18% compared to 2016, when we began tracking revenues in this way. Many of the materials and services making up the remaining 23% of revenues provide answers to specific societal needs such as improved connectivity (materials for high quality glass, displays) or reduced energy consumption (materials for use in energy-efficient lighting such as LEDs).

Umicore’s Horizon 2020 objective is to generate further competitive advantage through the development of products that have specific sustainability benefits.

Our primary focus is on activities that provide solutions for clean mobility and resource scarcity.



Umicore plays a pioneering role in promoting a sustainable value chain for batteries and was the first company to provide its customers with battery materials of a certified sustainable and ethical origin. We strongly believe that higher transparency along the value chain will increase the sustainability of the battery industry. Therefore, Umicore joined Glencore, ERG and CMOC in the Re|Source consortium. Re|Source is developing an industry-wide blockchain platform to trace the origins of the raw materials and track them along the entire battery value chain.

To be a preferred sustainable supplier, we work directly with our customers to meet their environmental requirements and disclose our own performance and ambitions. In recent years, some customers have opted for a third party sustainable supplier assessment. For these customers, Umicore discloses to the CDP (see responses: CDP).

Umicore has fully monitored and reported on emissions since 1999 and included reduction targets in our strategic approach in 2010. We delivered emissions reductions beyond our targets then, and in the context of Horizon 2020 we're committed to continuous improvement of our environmental performance even as we continued to grow.

In 2020, Umicore received the Platinum Medal in Corporate Social Responsibility from EcoVadis, placing us among the top 1% of our industry peers in the EcoVadis global network of over 65,000 rated companies.

To support our ambition to turn sustainability into a greater competitive advantage, it is essential to develop a full understanding of the impact that our products have on the world and use it as a lever for improving the footprint of our products and services. At Umicore, the business units work with corporate EHS on life cycle assessments (LCA) to identify the environmental impact of their products and services and set a baseline against which improvements can be measured.

We share our learning and participate in association-driven efforts, such as those of the Nickel Institute, the International Platinum Association and the Cobalt Institute.

We perform LCAs on our materials on an ongoing basis. Using the opportunities identified in this new robust data, Umicore can leverage our unique combination of materials chemistry, energy mix and raw and recycled materials for improved overall environmental impact and a lower-carbon mobility. Umicore will continue to develop selective products and services that have specific sustainability benefits and answer the growing sustainability needs of our customers.

We develop specific sustainability solutions for our products and their applications by working closely with customers.

As a metal that offers huge potential for innovative applications such as clean tech and cutting-edge semiconductors, germanium is an important focus for Umicore’s circularity ambitions. Over the last five years, we have taken significant strides toward our goal of supplying 100%-sustainable germanium through a number of initiatives.

Germanium sourced through zinc production has an 85% smaller footprint than germanium sourced from coal, and recycled germanium has a 95% smaller footprint. Today, 50% of the germanium we use is recycled and more than two thirds of the remainder is recovered from industrial by-products, rather than coal. We also collaborate with companies around the world to develop innovative new ways to recover germanium from production processes and waste streams. For more on Umicore's approach to Germanium, read Pioneering the sourcing & recycling of sustainable germanium.

For Umicore products and services, visit: UMICORE.COM/INDUSTRIES


Umicore's virtual trade show booth

Every year, Umicore participates in more than 60 trade shows where we meet and talk face to face with our customers and potential customers. Due to COVID-19, almost all trade shows were postponed, cancelled or replaced by virtual events. While our commercial teams still favor the live events where a close interaction with the customer is possible, we quickly realized we could not miss the opportunity to join virtual trade shows. Group Communications started to develop a new concept of virtual exhibits that can be customized for the different business units. Very soon a first project appeared: the e-scrap conference, a high-profile trade show on electronic waste. As a global player in the field of e-scrap recycling, Precious Metals Refining (PMR) was not only one of the exhibitors, but the only one with a virtual booth. Group communications demonstrated that innovation applies to all areas of the business by including trade shows in its long-term “digital first” approach.

Global teamwork

As the decision to convert the e-scrap conference into a virtual event was communicated very late, it was a race against time to get our very first virtual booth ready in time. "A team from the United States, Germany, Brazil and Belgium worked very hard to get PMR's first virtual exhibition booth ready just in time. I am also proud that we can provide all our business units with this platform to present their activities and interact with their customers virtually." --Werner Appel, Head of Exhibitions and Events

The only company with virtual mode

During the two-day e-scrap conference a whole team literally worked behind the screen. Lies Geunens, Junior Supply Manager Recyclables at PMR was one of them. "We were the only company with a customized virtual booth fully in line with the look and feel of our booth for physical events. The fact that we were there with a virtual stand shows what an innovative company Umicore really is." -- Lies Geunens, Junior Supply Manager Recyclables

Visit one of our virtual booths at: VIRTUAL-BOOTH-U.COM