In the lab: New ethical and supply chain protocols for battery and solar alternative energy laboratory research policy and practice

Linda Hancock, Natalie Ralph, Michel Armand, Doug Macfarlane, Maria Forsyth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Ethical procurement of laboratory supplies is a neglected, but vital issue for the ethical development of new alternative energy technologies. This is important from the earliest development stages in alternative energy research due to potential impacts from the commercialization of products into global mass production. The authors constructed a framework for examining risk-based, supply chain due diligence in higher education laboratory research. The focus was on materials which present ethical risks - including ‘conflict minerals’ and ‘critical materials’, with the latter including rare earth elements. These materials can potentially have security of supply issues and/or cause social, conflict and environmental impacts including human rights abuses. The authors applied the framework to one year's procurement of materials at two Australian universities' laboratories, researching battery storage and solar energy and identified suppliers, and suppliers' policies on procurement of materials with potential risks. In search of best-practices in higher education policies on laboratory procurement, the authors analyzed procurement and supply chain policies from four Australian universities involved in alternative energy materials research, and identified emerging international, higher educational procurement policies for conflict minerals. Key issues regarding critical materials, and regulatory approaches to conflict minerals were discussed, leading to proposed actions for Higher Educational leaders to enhance ethical alternative energy research procurement and subsequent product innovation. This reinforces the importance of research strategy including materials choices. In other words, “it is important to get it right at an early stage”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-495
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2018


  • Battery storage
  • Conflict minerals
  • Critical materials
  • Ethical procurement
  • Higher education
  • Supply chain

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