Water guardians: innovative strategies to conserve our most precious resource

Water guardians: innovative strategies to conserve our most precious resource

Water security is an essential concept defined as ´the ability of humankind to protect sustainable access to water, ensuring well-being, livelihoods and socio-economic development´. This concept includes taking measures to protect the ecosystems that provide this vital resource and to secure the ecosystem services linked to water. It is not only about ensuring that there is enough water, but also that it meets high quality standards and meets the agricultural, industrial, energy and domestic needs of a specific region.

The preservation of environmental systems, which constitute the natural sources of water and related ecosystem services becomes essential.

The Global Water Partnership1, an international network dedicated to sustainable water management, describes a water secure world as one in which every person has access to safe and affordablewater for a healthy and productive life, and in which communities are protected from floods, droughts and water-borne diseases. It adds that water security promotes environmental protection and social justice in the face of conflicts over shared resources.

Source: Rául Sánchez Francés. CARTIF

The UN has sounded the alarm about the water deficit that is expected in the future. According to its estimates, by 2030 the Earth could face a 40% deficit if current consumption patterns are not changed. Population growth, especially in urban areas, has increased pollution that affects water quality, not only through air pollution, but also through changes in land use. Water consumption has doubled in the last half century, and it is estimated that by 2025 at least two-thirds of the world´s population will live in areas of high water stress.

Climate change also poses an additional risk to water security, reducing water availability and making it increasingly unpredictable in many parts of the world, leading to major supply problems. In addition, extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, affect rich and poor alike, disrupting traditional livelihoods and production patterns.

In Castilla y León, water security is already a critical issue, given the importance of our agricultural sector in food production, twhich is highly dependent on a constatn supply of water. The region´s agriculture relies heavily on the production of cereals, wine and horticultural products, and is being affected by climate variability, including prolonged droughts that deplete water resources and jeopardise the sustainability of crops. Similarly, the region is experiencing increasing water stress aggravated by climate change, which threatens food production and affects the balance of the rural economy, thus increasing the already pressing problem of depopulation of our villages or rural environments.

Farmers face an increasingly difficult challenge: maintaining productivity in a context of limited water resources. Many have had to adapt their techniques, investing in efficient irrigation and crop diversification to mitigate the impact of droughts. However, these solutions come at a high cost that not everyone can afford, highlighting the urgency of finding more inclusive approaches. This is where Nature based Solutions (NbS) come in, offering a sustainable alternative to follow.

Source: CARTIF

Nature-Based Solutions are vital to address these problems in a creative way and at the same time provide additional sustainability benefits. UNESCO, in its World Water Development Report, argues that NbS can improve water supply and quality while mitigating the impact of natural disasters. A clear example is restored watersheds and wetlands, which act as natural filters for water purification. By mimicking natural processes, NbS improve water availability and quality and reduce water-related risks.

It is essential to highlight the importance of conserving wetlands and restoring river basins the region, as they act as natural filters, improving water quality and regulating flow in times of drought. Techniques such as agro-forestry and crop rotation can also be explored to maintain soil fertility and reduce dependence on intensive irrigation systems. These practices mimic natural processes and help maintain a balance between production and conservation.

The Global Water Security Index (GWSI)3 , which integrates criteria such as water availability, accesibility, security and quality, standardises water vulnerabilities and risks, helping to identify priority areas where action is urgently needed. This index also highlights the need for innovative strategies that combine green infrastructure with traditional solutions, maximising value for society.

Soluciones basadas en la naturaleza en Sassari
Proyecto NATMED. FIA system (Forested Infiltration Area). SbN implemented in Sassari (Cerdeña – Italia).  Source: Raúl Sánchez Francés.

It is also important to highlight the relevance and scope of water security in urban settings, where it encompasses five dimensions: environmental, domestic, economic, urban and resilience to natural disasters. All these aspects make the lack of water security one of the greatest risks to global prosperity and underline the urgent need to take care of the natural resource “water”. This implies sustainbale management, responsible consumption, combating degradation and reuse.

In the Natural Resources and Climate Area of CARTIF, we develop diverse projects related to sustainable water management as basis for water insurance, both for human consumption and for agricultural consumption.

We coordinate the PRIMA NAT-med project, in which we aim to develop, implement and validate a set of Nature-based Solutions, combined in Full Water Cycle-NbS (FWC-Nbs), integrated in existing water infrastructures (grey or natural) and based on specific phases of the water cycle, to optimise the provision of water-related ecosystem services (quality and quantity) and water-dependent ecosystem services (social, economic and environmental aspects), empowering stakeholders and local communities in the Mediterranean region. NATMed will also demonstrate the effect of different SbN-CCA in five case studies located in Spain, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Algeria.

Similarly, through our CIRAWA project coordination work, we work in 8 regions in Cape Verde, Ghana, Senegal and The Gambia to improve agriculture by developing new agroecology-based practices that build on existing local and scientific knowledge to help create more resilient food supply chains in West Africa, and where sustainable water resource management is essential.

Puntos de acceso al agua para agricultura. Proyecto CIRAWA
CIRAWA project. Access points to water for agriculture at the Maio Island (Cape Verde). Source: Raúl Sánchez Francés.

From the Natural Resources Area of CARTIF, like many other ´guardians of water`, we work to improve water security, using Nature-based Solutions, as part of our vital commitment to the future of the planet. Only through intelligent and collaborative management can we build a world in which every person has access to water and can live with dignity, ensuring that future generations will also enjoy it.

1 https://www.gwp.org/

2 WWAP & ONU-Agua. (2018). Informe Mundial de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Desarrollo de los Recursos Hídricos 2018: Soluciones basadas en la naturaleza para la gestión del agua. París: UNESCO.

3 Measuring global water security towards sustainable development goals

Biogenic CO2: challenges and opportunities for a sustainable future

Biogenic CO2: challenges and opportunities for a sustainable future

In the fight against climate change, technological innovations is one of our most powerful allies. One of the most promising and challenging areas in this regard is the transformation of carbon dioxide (CO2), a prevalent greenhouse gas, into useful raw materials for industry and transport. This approach not only promises to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but also opens the door to a circular economy where waste becomes a resource.

CO2 is the main contributor to global warming, arising mainly from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has unprecedented levels, making it imperative to find effective ways to reduce these emissions. Capturing and utilising of CO2 is a promising strategy, transforming this gas into valuable products, which could revolutionise sectors such as transport and manufacturing, significantly reducing our carbon footprint.

CO2 transformation into raw materials involves several methods, including electrochemistry, catalysis and biotechnology. These technologies aim to convert CO2 into fuels, plastics, building materials and other industrial chemicals, which basically fall into three types:

  1. Biotechnology: based on biological fermentation processes with gas-liquid phase substrate. It uses genetically modified organisms, such as microalgae and bacteria, to absorb CO2 and convert it into biofuels an chemicals. This approach offers the potential for highly sustainable processes that can operate under ambient conditions.
  1. Electrochemical technology: based on the use of electrical energy and potential difference between two electrodes to reduce CO2 into value-added chemicals (e.g. methanol, formic acid, etc.) which can be used as e-fuel, H2-bearing green molecules, or chemical precursos for industrial use. The efficiency of these processes has improved significantly, but they still face challenges in terms of scalability and costs.
  1. Chemical-catalytic processes: based on the use of catalysers to active and accelerate the chemical reaction and transformation of CO2 into value-added products (methane, methanol, dimethyl ether, ,etc.)Current research lines are exploring new catalysts that can operate at low temperatures and pressures, making the process more energy efficient and economically viable.

On the other hand, CO2 transformation faces technical, economic and regulatory hurdles. Energy efficiency, cost reduction and integration of these technologies into existing infrastructure are key challenges. In addition, a regulatory framework is required to promote investment in these technologies and the use of CO2 products.

Despite these challenges, the capture and uses of CO2 as a renewable carbon source and to contribute to the decarbonisation of industry and transport, offers an unprecedented opportunity to mitigate climate change and advance towards a more sustainable and circular economy. By turning a problem into a solution, we can unlock new pathways for environmental sustainability, technological innovation and economic growth. Collaboration between governments, industries and scientific communities will be essential to overcome these challenges and harness the potential of these technologies for a greener future.

R&D projects such as CO2SMOS, coordinated by CARTIF´s Biotechnology and Sustainable Chemistry area, aims to develop a set of innovative, scalable and directly applied technologies in the bio-based industries sector that will help to convert biogenic CO2 emissions into value-added chemicals for direct use in the synthesis of low carbon footprint material bioproducts. To this end,and integrated hybrid solution is proposed that combines innovative technologies and intensified electrochemical/catalytic conversion and precision fermentation processes, together with the use of renewable vector soruces such as green H2 and biomass. Key elements to achieve the indsutry´s goal of zero-emissions and climate neutrality.

Biogenic gas. What do you mean?

Biogenic gas. What do you mean?

Biogas as an energy source is becoming more and more popular, but what is biogas and how does it differ from natural gas? The difference is that natural gas is a fossil fuel, while biogenic gas is renewable.

Natural gas was formed millions of years ago, at the age of the dinosaurs, like oil or coal. The accumulation of plankton as well as animal and plant rests on the seabed, buried by layers of soil, caused it to be produced in anaerobic conditions, that is, without oxygen.

Biological bacteria decomposed the organic matter and the gases generated bubbled upwards, and where there was an impermeable layer, they accumulated, giving birth to gas pockets or reservoirs. It is therefore a finite resource; once it is exhausted, there will be no more to supply human energy demands.

Natural gas consists mainly of methane, ethane and carbon dioxide, although it usually has other components or impurities, so the energy is obtained by combustion, compared to other fossil fuels it is more efficient and cleaner in terms of emissions, although it depends on the impurities.

Source: https://safeandsmart.org/middle-school-students/

Biogenic gas is also produced by the decomposition of organic matter under the action of bacteria, in the absence of oxygen, which is why it is also called Biogenic Natural Gas, but in this case in a tank with controlled conditions of temperature and pressure.

But in biogenic gas, the organic matter used comes from by-products of farms, crops or industries, so it is a renewable energy. The composition of biogenic gas is similar, but with fewer impurities, as the quality is improved by upgrading, which is explained in this blog post.

Moreover, natural gas is thousands of kilometres away, but biogenic gas can be produced in small tanks for self-supply, e.g. on a farm, or on a large scale in a sewage treatment plant, and existing natural gas pipelines can be used.

It may seem to be all advantages, but this is not the case, which is why CARTIF organised the first meeting of the Community of Practice within the Horizon Europe CRONUS project on 20 March 2024.

The Communities of Practice consist of the grouping of different actors in the biogas sector, such as universities, research centres, producers or distributors, among others, and act as spokespersons for the sector for both citizens and administrations, assessing the strengths and weaknesses, facilities and barriers to the use of biogas in order to make responsible use throughout the value chain.

At this first meeting, three main challenges were addressed:

  1. Raw materials
  2. Technology
  3. Regulations: Logistical, Productive, Social

In the first challenge, the issue of raw materials was addressed. At present, there are no problems in finding them, but there are problems in obtaining supplies, the question is: is this a logistical or quantity limit? In terms of accessibility, it is not as accessible in the mountains as it is on the plateau, and in terms of plant and supplier size.

There is also concern that, in the future, due to the law of supply and demand, both raw materials and transport will reach exorbitant prices. It is necessary to start regulating and organising the market to ensure a supply where the whole value chain benefits.

It is important to consider the methanogenic potential, i.e. how much gas a plant can produce with a given raw material, this determines its viability, therefore the raw materials must meet certain standards and heterogeneity all year round, in order to obtain a constant production, both in quality and quantity.

This leads to the question of the suitability of single or multiple feedstock feeding. In some cases, it is necessary to pre-treat these feedstocks and due to the technical complexity they are not cost-effective, so having flexibility in the use of feedstocks is an advantage.

The most worrying aspect is the injection into the grid. There are problems when it comes to incorporating the gas produced into the existing national distribution network, which in some cases favours the self-consumption of gas, but in others, the waste of this energy source is wasted.

It is a mature technology, but there is still innovation to be done, especially with the bacteria, points of improvement such as new strains are still being discovered, and they make the process and therefore its efficiency is much better known.

In the end, it is an investment, so it is necessary to conscientiously measure the risk and profitability vs. administrative and legal barriers, and although more and more people are opting for it, there would be more if there was a financial push with subsidies, but they would not be the basis of the product.

The second challenge was to know the opinions about the FP5 prototype that is being developed in CARTIF within the CRONUS project. That can be seen in this video.

The expert assistants pointed out that it competes directly with upgrading, so it may not be economically viable on a large scale, but for small plants, it is a good solution, as it does not need to undergo such a large purification process.

On the other hand, it needs a hydrolysis stage, which requires energy, but it is a self-sustainable process, so it is able to be self-sufficient.  Technology must favour profitability, as money is always a constraint, both for development and production.

Its strong point was highlighted, which is that it can valorise and reduce the CO2 generated in the AD, obtaining a higher quality biomethane than through traditional processes, especially because cogeneration is more interesting than gas for sale.

As it is the first meeting only the laboratory prototype could be seen, so they perceived that there could be problems in the scaling in the electrodes, as they have to be larger, and there is no microbial electrolysis cell-assisted anaerobic digestion technology (MEC-AD) on the market, but CARTIF already commented that there are more options to integrate MEC-AD in the digester.

It also raised the possibility of problems with having to restart the plant, after a shutdown, which can be slow and complex, but it is a continuous system so it will not be so slow.

The Community is optimistic about CARTIF’s FP5 prototype and is looking forward to seeing its progress in the next calls for proposals.

This challenge is where there was the greatest participation and unanimity. It seems that the Public Administration is not advancing as fast as biogenic gas is. One barrier is the processing time, which can take up to 3 years for project approval, to which environmental authorisations must be added, and the time dedicated to the plant’s engineering project.

This could be favoured with legislation that favours self-consumption, such as premiums or payments for the generation and sale of energy. It would be interesting to map waste production throughout the country.

In the case of Castilla y León, there is the obligation to become an authorised waste manager and limitations on the maximum distance allowed for the transport of digestate, as in the transport of slurry, which shows that the administration is prepared.

But the definition of waste needs to be revised, in order to revalorise by-products for use in anaerobic digestion and also the resulting digestate as it has many potential uses, such as stripping/scrubbing or crystallisation of struvite, which can even be considered as an environmentally friendly product, as fertiliser.

Raw materials, such as slurry, must be used responsibly due to the contamination of aquifers by nitrates, so the use for biogas generation is a solution for this waste, and the resulting digestate could be revalued as fertiliser or as an ingredient for compost.

The growing demand for biogas highlights the need for the modernisation of farms to increase their income from the sale of waste and reduce energy costs by using biogas.

On the other hand, there is a need for the Administration to update its technicians with specific training, since, when evaluating a project, there is no clarity in the criteria, standards and administrative procedures to be applied, and there are differences between technicians.

In short, more support is needed from the Administration, especially with the private companies that control the distribution networks and establish the technical and economic requirements for connection and injection into the network, resulting in abusive technical and economic conditions. The Community of Practice considers this barrier easy to remove.

There is a lack of dissemination and knowledge, which is why citizens associate it with bad smells, noisy lorry movements and a lack of safety, which is why the Community of Practice is doing a good job of disseminating and raising awareness in society of how biogenic gas works and the technology associated with it.

There are both urban and rural barriers, each with its own complexity, in addition to the fact that each Autonomous Community has its regulations in this regard, so each plant in each area must be approached individually, through conferences, citizen participation, a network of interaction with citizens in other areas that already have this technology in place, but above all with transparency.

The reality is that the development of biogenic gas will contribute to rural repopulation, job creation, as well as energy production and the development of the Circular Economy, which is a pending issue in the 2030 agenda.

More information on the CRONUS Project: www.cronushorizon.eu

Bioplastics obtained from the recovery of organic and the paper industry waste. ELLIPSE project

Bioplastics obtained from the recovery of organic and the paper industry waste. ELLIPSE project

The majority of plastics used in the world today come from non-renewable and non-biodegradable sources. In an effort to reduce the impact of plastics on the environment, alternative methods of production and waste management have been studied for decades. Several microorganisms have the ability to produce plastics naturally, using different substrates, which are biodegradable and biocompatible under certain conditions.

During the last few years, acidogenic fermentation for the production of volatile fatty acids (VFA) has been identified as a promising approach to utilise organic waste as a valuable resource. VFA have a wide potential for applications ranging from carbon source for biological nutrient removal processes to use as a bioenergy resource for the generation of hydrogen and liquid biofuels. VFA-rich streams produced from organic waste fermentation can also be used as biopolymer precursors in the bioplastics industry, as they are a suitable feedstock for the production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA).

To address the growing problem of bio-waste generation and the increasing demand for bio-based feedstocks, the ELLIPSE project is working in the biotechnology sector with the aim of valorising heterogeneous waste streams generated in significant quantities in Europe, slaughterhouse waste (contained in the belly or rumen) and paper and pulp sludge, to produce cost-effective polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) for agricultural and personal care applications, through co-processing with other organic wastes such as sludge from the dairy industry and glycerol from the biodiesel industry, as well as nutrient recovery to produce bio-based fertilisers. The integration of these waste streams as biorefinery feedstocks will reduce landfill waste volumes, open up new pathways for the production of chemicals and bioplastics and, at the same time, create additional income for the related industries that generate them, with the added benefits of water recycling, reduced soil degradation, groundwater contamination and methane emissions.

PHA belongs to a family of 100% bio-based polymers with versatile biodegradability properties in most environments, recyclable and exhibiting a wide range of physical and mechanical properties depending on their chemical composition, from the very flexible poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV) to the rigid polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), showing similar properties to some fossil-based materials such as polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) and better gas and liquid barrier properties than other bioplastics such as polylactic acid (PLA), being a good biodegradable and compostable alternative in agricultural and personal care applications.

One of the objectives is to maximise the production of VFA derived from acidogenic fermentation by optimising the process using innovative technologies, such as the use of an anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR). The project contributes to the circular economy by promoting sustainability and zero waste by demonstrating the technical feasibility of recovering nutrients from the waste stream (digestate) through a hybrid autotrophic-heterotrophic process of microalgae cultivation, which results in the production of a biofertiliser.

The project has 5 phases dealing with pre-treatment of waste and obtaining VFA, production of PHA, possible applications of bioplastics, life cycle analysis study and exploitation of the results.

In Pilot 1, pre-treatment and valorisation of sludge from the processing of slaughterhouse waste for the production of rigid packaging and plastic mulch will be carried out. A co-digestion of raw materials will be carried out in order to ensure the most optimal conditions for producing VFA.

Pilot 3 will be developed simultaneously with Pilot 1 to recover N and P nutrients for biofertiliser production. Different technologies will be validated:

The biological technology of the hybrid autotrophic and heterotrophic microalgae culture system, and the physical methods of pressure-drive membrane technology (ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis) and membrane contactors, to recover ammonia, as ammonium sulphate.

Pilot 2 will treat and recover waste from the paper industry to produce bioplastic coatings for the personal care and agricultural sectors.

The demonstration of the possibility to transform complex bio-waste stream into high-value bio-based and biodegradable products in multiple sectors, accompanied by the validation of multiple end-of life routes for the biobased and biodegradable products achieved within the project will provide novel and tangible results for further promoting public awareness and acceptance of biodegradable and bio-based solutions. Apart from all this, during ELLIPSE project the pulp and paper industry will be able to utilize products (PHA coated paper for flexible packaging as counterpart of current PE coated paper) produced from its wastes. This is a good showcase for circular economy and has the potential to increase awareness and acceptance of bio-based solutions.

Microorganisms and their importance in the soil: The secret of a sustainable agriculture

Microorganisms and their importance in the soil: The secret of a sustainable agriculture

When we think in agriculture, we often focus on the development of the plant, but we rarely consider the importance of proper management of the soil in which crops are grown. Soil is a vital resource that sustains our lives and provides the food that is indispensable for humanity, and its health is essential for sustainable agriculture and food security.

At first glance, soil may appear lifeless, but in reality, it is teeming with microscopic life. Healthy soils harbour a wide variety of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, etc. These organisms, which often go unnoticed, play an essential role in the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems.

Among the soil-dwelling microorganisms, many are beneficial to plant health soil quality in general. These microorganisms perform a number of vital functions:

1. Decomposition of organic matter: microorganisms break down organic matter in the soil, such as fallen leaves and plant debris. This action releases essential nutrients that can be absorbed by plants to support their growth.

2. Nitrogen fixation: nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients for plant growth. Some bacteria have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen in a form that plants can metabolise.

3. Protection against pests and diseases: some microorganisms act as biological control agents, helping to prevent plant diseases by competing with pathogens or producing antimicrobial compounds.

4. Improvement of soil structure: other microorganisms, such as bacteria or fungi, generate soil aggregates that improve soil structure, porosity and water holding capacity.

5. Nutrient cycling: they participate in the decomposition and release of essential nutrients, such as phosphorus, potassium and various micronutrients (zinc, iron, copper, calcium), which are essential for plant growth.

Unfortunately, modern agriculture has engaged in practices that often damage the diversity and population of beneficial microorganisms in the soil. Excessive use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, intensive tillage and lack of crop rotation are practices that can damage or unbalance the microbial ecosystem present in the soil.

For example, chemical fertilisers may provide nutrients to plants, but they can also lead to soil acidifcation and negatively affect beneficial microorganisms. Similarly, pesticides intended to kill pests can negatively affect other microorganisms in the soil, which can trigger a cycle of dependence on agricultural chemicals.

Fortunately, there are agricultural practices that can promote soil health and the abundance of micro-organisms that play a positive role in plant development:

Organic farming

Organic farming avoids excessive use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers, which preserves the microbial ecology of the soil.

Crop rotation

Changing crops season after season encourages microbial diversity and avoids the build-up of specific pathogens.

Use of cover crops

Maintaining a vegetative cover on the soil throughout the year helps to maintain microbial activity and prevent erosion.


Adding organic compost to the soil enriches the microbial population and provides nutrients in a balanced way.

Reduced tillage

Minimising soil tillage reduces the disruption of microorganisms in their natural environment.

Use of green manures

Planting green manure crops such as legumes can increase nitrogen fixation and enrich the soil in nutrients.

Soil health is fundamental to agricultural sustainability and global food supply. Beneficial microorganisms, working in symbiosis with plants, play an essential role in preserving that health. As a society, we must recognise the importance of

these tiny creatures and adopt practices that promote their thirving in our soils.

At CARTIF, we have the experience gained through the implementation of several projects related to the proper management of microbiology applied to agriculture and especially to soils, either in the form of biofertiliser (SUSTRATEC proejct) or in the form of biopesticide (SUPERA project).

Maintaining soil health is not only essential to ensure abundant and nutritous harvests, but also to preserve biodiversity and mitigate climate change. By protecting and nurturing life in the soil, we are investing in a healthier and more sustainable future for our planet and future generations. Let us care for the land that cares for us.

Batteries in front of a new playing field

Batteries in front of a new playing field

This past month (june 2023), eurodeputies provisionally agreed on new legislation for batteries sold in the EU. It has already been hailed as a “game changer” for batteries, creating a framework to foster a competitive and sustainable battery industry in Europe.

After lengthy negotiations, the European Parliament adopted the EU Battery Regulation on 14 June. Batteries are a key technology that plays a fundamental role in moving towards a climate-neutral Europe by 2050. In this context, the Battery Regulation is a key achievement of the European Green Pact, under which all 27 member states have committed to making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

But what exactly is the European battery regulation, and what do manufacturers need to do to stay ahead of the regulations?

Proposed initially in december 2020, EU Regulation about batteries are progressive requirements to guarantee that all comercialized batteries in these countries are more sustainable, circular and save along its entire life cycle. For electric vehicles and industrial batteries with a capacity superior to 2kWh, the requirements relapses mainly in battery manufacturers and are divided into (1) guarantee supply practices more transparent and accountable and (2) facilitate circular economy (see Figure 1).

Figura 1: Highlights of the European Regulation about batteries

Go ahead the events. How can companies response to fulfill the next regulation

Regulation shall enter into force in 2024, what means that companies has to act now to establish the need bases to fulfill and overcome the requirements:

Know all the impacts

While batteries are obviously more sustainable than fossil fuels, they are not exempted of negative impacts. While carbon emissions receive the most attention, the impacts associated with battery supply chains are much broader- from water use to child labour and end-of-life waste- and this is one of the driving forces behind the scope of the EU Battery Regulation.

Companies will therefore need to understand the wide range of environmental and social impacts of their direct operations and supply chains. And to adequately measure, reduce and/or eliminate propperly these impacts, companies must develop specific and tailored strategies based on their current performance and processes.

Prioritising supply chain collaboration

While battery manufacturing itself is often a high impact process, many of the sustainability impacts associated with batteries can be found in the supply chain, such as carbon emissions from the extraction and refining processes. Therefore, it is not only the data that is important for companies to comply with regulations, but also the processes and systems to manage and improve the sustainability of the supply chain.

The EU Battery Regulation has taken this into account by setting requirements for all economic operators placing batteries on the European market (except small and medium-sized enterprises) to develop and implement due diligence policies in line with international standards. Battery manufacturers will therefore have to implement communication and collaboration systems with suppliers, such as sustainability questionnaires for suppliers, continuous sharing of results, audtis of high-risk suppliers and improvement programmes.

Reporting, improving and being prepared for comparison

Business illustrations by Storyset

Once companies understand their impact and put systems and processes in place to improve the sustainability of their company and supply chain, they must report on their results. Standardised reporting is a key component of sustainability legislation, and the EU Battery Regulation is no different.

Because reporting drives benchmaking and provides stakeholders with greater decision-making power, the EU Battery Regulations are intended to create the necessary incentives for companies to improve their sustainability performance. Battery manufacturers can prepare for this developing a systematic approach to reporting that allows them to effectively communicate their impacts, their progress and how they relate to others in the sector.

Where we are going?

EU Battery Regulation is part of a broader set of global standards aimed at improving the sustainability of the battery industry. EU regulators have yet to formally approve the regulation and develop guidelines for its implementation. However, battery manufacturers that want to differentiate themselves and be leaders in sustainability must act now. In short, they can do so by investing their resources in understanding their sustainability impact alongside regulatory requirements, managing and improving their supply chain sustainability processes and reporting their progress in a standardised way. While this may seem daunting, there is still time to act.

If you found this content interesting, you can follow the progress of FREE4LIB project, coordinated by CARTIF, which is fully alligned with the new Battery Regulation.