The Rare Earth Industry Association (REIA) was founded in 2019 and is now pursuing the goal to set sustainability standards for the rare earth industry. They try to achieve this goal by the end of 2021. The demand for rare earths went up in the past years due to their demand in the electrical vehicle industry, yet no industry standard exists on how the material must be produced. China is the main supplier of rare earth and while they have closed some heavy metal enterprises due to soil pollution, they are not known for their environment friendly politics.
The demand for sustainable material is getting up, as the consumers consciousness for the sustainability of consumed material increases. Yet the price that must be paid for increased sustainability is still not accepted by all consumers. The REIA tries to implement an industry wide standard to achieve a minimum for all product manufacturers that use rare earth. This way they cannot underbid the price of others by using less sustainable practices.
It is good to see that some standards are being set, yet the expectations for it are still limited as most of the production will be done in China, the control of those practices’ implementation are not easy to do. Also, it is to be seen how high the industry is willing to set their standards as a lot of the mining industry is willing to pollute the environment if no strict policies are implemented by the government of the country in which the mining is done. This can be seen easily in big mining corporations that follow the strict environmental rules that are given by for example European countries for a good reason yet drop those policies once they operate in African countries with less strict rules for operation from the governments.
The approach of BMW to try to eliminate the use of rare earth in their electrical vehicles is an admirable one, it is to be seen by what material they might replace the rare earth and its environmental friendliness. The consumer is playing a vital role in this as well, as they might have to pay a higher price for a more environmentally friendly product.
Overall, it is to be seen what kind of impact the new industry standards will have and how high a standard they are willing to set for themselves.