The Umicore Way is the cornerstone of everything we do at Umicore and outlines our commitments to society. Our Sustainable Products & Services focus on supporting the global transition towards reducing climate impact and on supporting a better understanding and faster implementation of circular economy models related to our activities.
In the countries and regions in which Umicore is operationally active, we support policy developments that bolster clean mobility and the global energy transition to reduce climate impact. In addition, we contribute to better understanding and faster implementation of circular economy models in the applications related to Umicore activities.
To boost our efforts, Umicore participates in many partnerships and knowledge-sharing platforms. We regularly enter scientific partnerships with public institutions such as universities, with the primary aim of furthering research projects or providing expert advice on technology directions. Partnerships and research grants are occasionally contracted with public organizations.
Umicore actively advocates for best practices in the value chain. Our Zero Harm ambition is linked to our continued commitment to sustainably and ethically sourced raw materials. Beyond our long-standing approach to protecting Human Rights in our supply chain, most notably for ethical cobalt sourcing, and in light of the accelerating transition to electromobility, it is crucial to secure raw materials supply that is reliable and environmentally and socially responsible. Umicore will further build on its long track record of due diligence in the sourcing of critical raw materials.
Contact with the communities where Umicore operates is the most direct way that we interact with society. Open and transparent dialogue with such communities is an integral part of our stakeholder engagement. Through employment, Umicore participates in the generation of wealth in the areas where it operates. We strive to be top employer wherever we operate. Although wealth generation is an obvious benefit, the way in which this wealth is generated is also of great importance. Civil society groups periodically declare a stake in our operations and the way we do business. Umicore welcomes such interest and attempts to engage openly and constructively.
Umicore makes voluntary contributions at site and Group level to a range of charitable causes. We manage Group-level engagement efforts through a Group Donations Committee that has the mandate to engage with civil society groups and determine the extent of partnerships. As a matter of policy, Umicore does not make donations to political parties or organizations.
Umicore paid € 202 million in taxes on our 2021 operations and with our employees contributed € 109 million in social security payments.
Our technologies in clean mobility and resource efficiency are an enabler to mitigate climate change. Therefore, a more ambitious agenda in terms of climate change is creating market opportunities for Umicore – which is in line with our corporate purpose of integrated value creation. To support ambitious regulations, we demonstrate our technologies and advocate for ambitious targets, because Umicore technology can reach those ambitions. Umicore provides technical insights to support achieving these goals – e.g., by providing science-based targets to authorities. Umicore co-writes longer-term technology roadmaps with regulators, academics and other members of industry.
In resource efficiency, our technologies offer the same functionalities while reducing use of metals. We extract fewer natural resources and re-use metals to create our advanced materials. We emphasize the links between a circular economy and responsible sourcing, resource efficiency and high-quality recycling. Umicore is mindful of the sensitivity of taking positions on matters of public interest and has developed guidelines to do so responsibly through the industry groups to which we are affiliated. Well-developed science and facts form the basis of the opinions and position we take.
We share our knowledge and collaborate with many partners to advance the global transition towards a green and circular economy.
In 2021, the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance (GBA) evolved into an independent association and Umicore chairs the Executive Board. NGOs, academic players, authorities and industrial members are collaborating to establish a battery passport with a QR code that on a global scale will transparently show the source of the raw materials in the battery and provide a carbon footprint of the battery. In 2021, important progress has been made on developing a CO2 footprint methodology and a Child Labor Index, both to be integrated in the battery passport. The technology to actively follow an element reported in the passport is being developed in the market, for example in the Re|Source startup, described in Innovation.
In addition, Umicore contributes to the WEF Circular Cars working group. This initiative is focused making the car industry more circular and creating the same functionality with fewer resources. This work explores the impact of a second life battery market, material passports and design-for-recycling concepts in the future automotive and transportation business models.
In Europe, Umicore has also actively participated and supported the creation of the European Battery Alliance (since 2017) and the Battery European Partnership Association (BEPA) which is the public-private entity that supports the European Commission in defining the technology roadmaps and the research and innovation priorities to be funded in the 2021-2027 timeframe (under the Horizon Europe program). Umicore is a co-chair of this association.
With most developed countries and regions outlining their hydrogen strategies to support their journey towards climate neutrality, Umicore is active in various hydrogen-related advocacy platforms such as Hydrogen Europe, the Hydrogen Council, Waterstofnet and the European Raw Materials Alliance. In these platforms, Umicore highlights the key role that advanced materials such as electrocatalysts play in enabling the production of hydrogen by electrolysis and its conversion back into energy using fuel cells. We also highlight the promises of LOHC (liquid organic hydrogen carrier) technology for the transport of hydrogen and our ability to recycle these various hydrogen technologies to recover the precious metals and re-use them in new electrocatalysts.
As a producer of key components of catalytic emission control systems, Umicore is a member of various industry associations worldwide through which, in close collaboration with automotive engineering companies, we aim to contribute significantly to the portfolio of ultra-clean transportation options of the future, using the most advanced emission control technologies.
Umicore collaborates with the European Commission to define minimum compulsory due diligence requirements for the entire value chain with all materials in scope and plays a pivotal role by supporting strong ambitions in the trade committee of Eurometaux. Through the collaboration in Eurometaux, Umicore contributed to the development of the new European waste shipment regulation in 2021 to stimulate the circular economy. The new regulation will allow more efficient processing of hazardous waste without conceding on stringency.
Accelerating the transition to a low-carbon society requires driving down the cost of clean mobility technologies and clean energy. Electrification of transport and heating processes in industry using electricity generated from renewable sources is crucial to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Advanced materials represent a sizeable part of the cost of these clean technologies and are key enablers for a low-carbon society. The advanced materials path from lab to market is long, risky and capital-intensive, so industry welcomes risk-sharing initiatives supporting European industrial leadership. Founded in 2012 by Umicore and other industrial and research organizations, EMIRI (the Energy Materials Industrial Research Initiative) works to increase awareness about the role of advanced materials in everyday life and in the European economy, and advocates for stronger EU-level support for innovation.
Umicore regularly enters scientific partnerships with public institutions such as universities with the primary aim of furthering research projects or providing expert advice on technology directions. Partnerships and research grants are occasionally contracted with public organizations. In 2021, these partnerships included IMEC, the Queensland University Australia and CIRAIG.
CIRAIG is an internationally recognized life cycle center of expertise located in Montreal (Canada) with close to 15 years of applied experience rooted in solid science. The main research unit, the International Life Cycle Chair (ILC Chair), conducts leading-edge, interdisciplinary life cycle research and develops results-oriented tools to resolve complex and critical sustainability issues in collaboration with its partners. Its scientific research program resolutely considers environmental and social life cycle assessments (LCAs) as strategic decision-making support tools for value creation. Umicore has been a partner of the International Life Cycle Chair since 2012 and we have developed several LCAs in close collaboration with the CIRAIG. In 2021, CIRAIG supported Umicore in estimating avoided emissions arising downstream through the use of cathode materials for EV applications and through our recycling services. For more, see Sustainable Products & Services.
A3M (L’Alliance des Minerais, Minéraux et Métaux); Agoria (Belgian multi-sector federation for the technology industry); American European Community Association (AECA); Belgian Alliance for Climate Action (BACA); Belgo Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BICC&I); Belgian industrial Research and Development (BiR&D); Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce (BJA); Eurometaux (European Non-Ferrous Metals Association); European Industrial Research Management Association (EIRMA); European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT); ETION; Federation of Belgian Industrial Energy Consumers (FEBELIEC); Flemish Network of Enterprises (Voka); Flanders-China Chamber of Commerce (FCCC); Global Legislators for a Balanced Environment (GloBE EU); TransAtlantic Business Council (TABC); Verbond van Belgische Ondernemingen (VBO); World Economic Forum (WEF); The Shift; UN Global Compact.
Associacao dos Fabricantes de Equipamentos para Controle de Emissoes Veiculares da América do Sul (AFEEVAS); Association for Emissions Control by Catalyst (AECC); Catalyst Manufacturers Association, Japan (CMAJ); Committee of Vehicle Emission Control in China (CVEC); Emission Controls Manufacturers Association, India (ECMA); European Precious Metals Association (EPMF); Hydrogen Council; Hydrogen Europe; Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association (MECA); Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA); Verband der Chemischen Industrie e.V. (VCI).
Battery Europe Partnerhip Association (BEPA); Cobalt Institute; Cobalt REACH consortium; Deutsche Gesellschaft für Galvano- und Oberflaechentechnik (DGO); Energy Materials Industrial Research Initiative (EMIRI); Essencia; European Association for Battery, Hybrid and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (AVERE); Nickel Institute; Nickel REACH consortium.
European Battery Recycling Association (EBRA); European Electronics Recyclers Association (EERA); European Precious Metals Federation; Fachvereinigung Edelmetalle (German Precious Metals Association); Global Battery Alliance (GBA); International Platinum Group Metals Association (IPA); International Precious Metals Institute; Minor Metals Trade Association; Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC); The European Association of Advanced Rechargeable Batteries (RECHARGE); London Bullion Market Association (LBMA); London Platinum and Palladium Market (LPPM); European Precious Metals Federation (EPMF), International Lithium Association (ILA).
Paid to suppliers worldwide
Distribution of SUPPLIERS’ ECOVADIS SCOREs1
- 1 0-25: unsufficient progress on sustainability, 25-44: some basic steps made on sustainability issues, 45-65: appropriate sustainability management issues, 66-80: advanced practices on sustainability, 81-100: outstanding sustainability management systems
Distribution of SUPPLIERS’ SCOREs by ECovadis topic1
- 1 The overall score is a weighted average of the 4 theme scores
We leverage our sustainability approach in the value chain, both upstream with our suppliers and downstream with our customers.
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 our Let’s Go for Zero strategy to cause zero harm in our supply chain.
Our approach is shaped by our new Umicore Global Sustainable Sourcing Policy - an update of our Sustainable Procurement Charter - and aims to mitigate supply chain risks, through both direct and indirect procurement. The policy defines our expectations from suppliers and is fully aligned with the Umicore Way , the Umicore Code of Conduct and the Global Framework Agreement on Sustainable Development between Umicore and the IndustriALL Global Union.
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 laws, to ensure health & safety, to minimize the impact on climate and the environment, and to respect international Human Rights law on their own sites and from their own suppliers, including abolishing child and forced labor and eliminating discrimination. This policy is complemented on a risk-based approach by specific frameworks for some critical raw materials.
Umicore’s worldwide purchasing and transportation teams procure the energy and other goods and services referred to as indirect procurement. In 2021 the indirect procurement spend remained stable compared to the previous year. The main indirect procurement spend is to be found in Belgium, Germany, Poland, Finland, China & Korea1.
Since 2017, in most regions, new suppliers have been systematically assessed through a quick scan based on criteria such as size, geographical location and type of product or service provided. Based on the risk assessment from the quick scan, subsequent actions are determined, such as adherence to our sourcing framework or in case of higher risk, the tool may determine the need for an EcoVadis assessment. In 2021, 519 quick scans were initiated. The goal is to further roll out the quick scan to more teams worldwide in the future.
If the quick scan analysis determines a need for further investigation, sustainability performance of specific suppliers is then assessed by EcoVadis across four themes: environment; labor and Human Rights; ethics; and sustainable procurement. 124 assessment scores were made available to our teams in 2021, including the requests from the procurement team in Brazil. 440 scores have been received since the start of our collaboration with EcoVadis. This represents the number of unique suppliers that have been assessed and does not consider the regular re-assessments of suppliers.
In 2021, 83.9% of the assessed suppliers reached a score of 45 or higher (EcoVadis rating of bronze medal or higher), meaning they actively engage in Corporate Social Responsibility. The score is a weighted average of the 4 theme scores. Only two of the scores received in 2021 indicates a “high risk” and mitigation actions were put in place.
Sustainability of the battery supply chain includes the conditions under which raw materials are extracted and processed, which is why Umicore is committed to responsible sourcing of our battery materials. While Umicore has had a dedicated policy for cobalt in place for the last decade, Umicore also implements due diligence in the supply of other raw materials for batteries, e.g., nickel and lithium. The approach is directly inspired by our experience with cobalt and follows the basic steps of the Sustainable Procurement Framework for Cobalt. 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 conflict-affected regions or areas with a high(er) risk for unethical practices such as forced labor, poor health and safety conditions, child labor and corruption. 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 due to its high risks. Today, Umicore still does not source any ASM materials, however, we support several initiatives that look into improving conditions of ASM to attain sufficiently high sustainability standards, as well as schooling for children and alternative livelihoods.
For us, sustainable procurement of cobalt means considering the economic, environmental and social performance of our suppliers in the purchase of materials, as well as the social and environmental impact of the supply. To source cobalt, in 2012 we implemented a pioneering Sustainable Procurement Framework for Cobalt and in 2016, were the first to obtain external validation for our ethical procurement and due diligence approach in this area through an annual third-party audit (reported in ourannual compliance report). The Framework is aligned with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, but extends beyond the risks described in Annex II to cover aspects including environmental impact and health & safety.
To ensure the traceability of materials in our supply chain, we carry out a detailed risk assessment of our suppliers, which could include questionnaires, background screening, onsite visits, and if required, enhanced engagement and developing mitigation programs with the suppliers. A dedicated cobalt sourcing committee, referred to as the Approval Committee, is responsible for the principles and guidelines in the framework and has overall control and decision-making power. The Approval Committee includes a member of the Umicore management board and the senior management of Sustainability and Supply. For more on Umicore’s efforts to support the development of traceability projects across the industry, see Battery Passport and Re|Source.
Umicore’s due diligence practices in terms of our cobalt supply chain are also reported against the Cobalt Industry Responsible Assessment Framework (CIRAF), a management framework for risk assessment and mitigation, aiming at ensuring responsible cobalt production and sourcing and launched by the Cobalt Institute in 2019. Umicore follows the recommendations of level three of CIRAF, meaning Umicore has identified material risks in its cobalt supply chain, has a policy and due diligence management system to address human right risks and all other material risks for its cobalt supply chain, and that Umicore also reports on efforts to address those risks. According to CIRAF, the following risk areas are material for Umicore’s cobalt supply: (1) Air-water-soil pollution & energy efficiency; (2) Occupational Health & Safety and working conditions; (3) Conflict & financial crime; (4) Human Rights abuses; (5) Worst forms of child labor; (6) Biodiversity; (7) Artisanal Mining; (8) Livelihoods; (9) Resettlement. Umicore has due diligence management systems for all risk areas through its Sustainable Procurement Framework for cobalt, which means that the policies and performance of all suppliers are screened and reviewed.
Conflict minerals: tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold
In some regions of the world, exploitation of natural resources is used to fund conflict or can be associated with violations of Human Rights. To prevent materials that are tainted in this way from entering its supply chain, Umicore has adopted a Responsible global supply chain of minerals from conflict-affected and high risk areas policy, which is based on the OECD guidelines. In the area of precious metals, this policy is complemented with specific responsible sourcing certification programs (see Responsible Operations).
Business units purchasing conflict minerals – tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold (also known as 3TG) – to manufacture their products, use the Conflict Mineral Reporting Template from the Responsible Minerals Initiative for their due diligence on the purchased raw materials.
On 1 January 2021, the Conflict Minerals Regulation came into force across the EU, with similar scope to the US Dodd Frank Act of 2012. The new law aims to regulate the trade of conflict minerals by ensuring that international responsible sourcing standards are met. Umicore supply risk management is fully in line with the requirements of both the Conflict Minerals Regulation and the US Dodd Frank Act.
In addition to our policies on responsible sourcing and related due diligence approaches, Umicore also pursues responsible sourcing certification wherever appropriate, to highlight our best practices and to provide the necessary documentation to the increasing number of customers seeking assurance on our products. The Umicore internal “Metals and Minerals” working group streamlines and optimizes the efforts required for this increasing customer demand through sharing of best practices.
Umicore sites undergo audit and certification for the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) and the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI).
In 2021, Umicore participated in the review process of the LBMA Responsible Gold Guidance (version 9) which will be applicable from 1 January 2022. This review further expands the risk assessment for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues for all the relevant materials. In 2021 Umicore concluded its gap analysis to demonstrate compliance with the reviewed responsible sourcing requirements for LBMA Good Delivery List refiners.
Gold & silver
The London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) manages the accreditation process for all Good Delivery listed refiners for gold and silver. The Responsible Jewelry Council’s (RJC) Chain of Custody (CoC) Standard is applicable to gold and platinum group metals (platinum, palladium and rhodium). Both the RJC Chain of Custody and LBMA Good Delivery accreditations qualify the accredited sites for listing in the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) conformant smelters and refiners.
In 2021, Umicore continued to ensure that operations with gold production are certified as conflict-free. Umicore operations in Hoboken and Pforzheim are certified as conflict-free smelters for gold by the LBMA for the year 2020 and will be audited for 2021 later in 2022. The LBMA also provides certification for responsible silver and the sites of Hoboken, Pforzheim and Bangkok are accredited refiners by the LBMA for 2020 and will be audited for 2021 later in 2022. The Jewelry & Industrial Metals operations in Pforzheim, Vienna and Bangkok are certified as part of the RJC Chain of Custody program for recycled gold and silver. Through mutual recognition of other relevant industry initiatives, the sites in Hoboken, Pforzheim, Vienna and Bangkok are on the RMI Conformant Gold Refiners list.
Our customers are increasingly requesting such guarantees and we provide them with the necessary documentation to attest the conflict-free status of our products.
Platinum, palladium & rhodium
Since 2020, Umicore is being reviewed by the LBMA multi-metal audit for compliance against the responsible gold and silver guidance (see above) and responsible platinum and palladium guidance. In 2021 the Hoboken site received a Platinum and Palladium Sponge Accreditation Certificate covering the year 2020. The Jewelry & Industrial Metals operations in Pforzheim, Vienna and Bangkok are certified as part of the RJC Chain of Custody program for recycled platinum, palladium and/or rhodium.
In May 2019, Umicore Olen was approved as the first Responsible Minerals Initiative-conformant cobalt refinery worldwide. Umicore’s cobalt operations in Kokkola (Finland) were the second recognized refinery. The refineries must undergo a yearly certification process. Given the COVID-19 context in 2020-2021, the audits have had to be postponed but the certification process is ongoing and expected to be completed in Q1 2022. Both sites remain on the list of RMI compliant refiners.
- 1 lbma.org.uk/good-delivery-list-refiners-gold-current
- 2 lbma.org.uk/good-delivery-list-refiners-silver-current
- 3 https://www.lppm.com/sponge-accreditation/sponge-platinum-list/
- 4 https://www.lppm.com/sponge-accreditation/sponge-palladium-list/
- 5 responsiblejewellery.com
- 6 responsiblemineralsinitiative.org/responsible-minerals-assurance-process/smelter-refiner-lists/cobalt-refiners-list/conformant-cobalt-refiners
- 7 responsiblemineralsinitiative.org/gold-refiners-list
Umicore seeks to contribute to the well-being of the communities in which it operates and to be a responsible corporation and good corporate neighbor.
We believe that empowering Umicore sites for local sponsorship and donation initiatives will make a positive difference in the communities in which we operate. Umicore’s support may include contributions in kind and releasing staff to work on community-related projects.
While sites determine the specific focus of their own initiatives, the general focus is on supporting and promoting a strong social fabric in the community around the site, with priority given to educational initiatives. The causes we support at site level are often dear to our staff members. In 2021, colleagues from our site in Hoboken (Belgium) together raised € 5,000 to De Warmste Week, a yearly Belgian solidarity event in the lead-up to Christmas, while our colleagues in Korea provided medical support and lunchboxes for children and the elderly.
At corporate level, the emphasis is on projects with an international scope. Priority is given to initiatives with a clear educational component which link with sustainable development (social, environmental and/or technological).
Knowledge is the key to building a better world
Educational initiatives are particularly relevant for Umicore as a technology-oriented business and we have been working with UNICEF to reach those children who are in most need. 2021 marked the 10th anniversary of that partnership. We celebrated this milestone by supporting two new projects:
UNICEF Upshift empowers young people in India by developing the skills they need to enter a labor market characterized by high unemployment rates
In Indonesia, we support a project organizing bootcamps and skill sessions around STEM education for girls. STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – are important skills for employment and empowerment.
For more, see UNICEF x Umicore | Umicore
Entrepreneurship as a force for good
Umicore is a founding member of Entrepreneurs pour Entrepreneurs/ Ondernemers voor Ondernemers which pairs corporate donors with development charities that focus on promoting entrepreneurship in the developing world. Over the years, Umicore and Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs have supported work in countries including Bolivia, Cambodia, Congo, Ecuador, Haiti, Mali and Togo. In 2021, we extended our support to projects in The Philippines, DR Congo and Madagascar.
As a global company, natural disasters are never far from our doorstep wherever they strike around the world. In our efforts to provide relief to local communities, we mainly support Doctors Without Borders. In 2021, we also made donations to:
the Belgian and German Red Cross following the summer floods;
projects in Haiti, following the earthquake in August;
projects in Congo, following the volcano eruption in the area of Goma;
projects in India and Brazil, as COVID hit communities particularly hard in these countries.
For the internal launch of our Let’s Go for Zero strategy, we promised to plant a tree for every attendant. In total Umicore employees contributed to planting 7,500 trees as part of the Great Green Wall Initiative in Ghana and Mali.
European Hackathon for Youth
In 2021, we supported a hackathon for Youth, focused on the theme of diversity and inclusion. In addition, 5 young graduates employed at Umicore joined the hackathon. They learned new skills and helped NGOs. For Umicore, supporting a hackathon means offering our young talents a unique learning experience, while contributing to our global donation ambitions to give back to society and go for zero inequality. For more, see Students and Umicore join forces to help a charity | Umicore
In 2021, Umicore contributed a total of € 1.6 million in donations.
Millions of Euros
Raw materials cost (excluding water, gas & electricity)
Water, gas & electricity cost
Depreciation & impairments
Other costs (net)
Shareholders (dividends only)
Employee compensation & benefits