Volvo wants to track where its cobalt is coming from, and so it's going to apply blockchain technology to do it.

The automaker calls traceability of raw materials for lithium-ion batteries like cobalt "one of the main sustainability challenges faced by car makers." Because cobalt can be sourced from supply chains that are less than ethical and environmentally friendly. Volvo says blockchain will help stop such materials from entering the system.

“We have always been committed to an ethical supply chain for our raw materials,” said Martina Buchhauser, head of procurement at Volvo Cars. “With blockchain technology we can take the next step towards ensuring full traceability of our supply chain and minimising any related risks, in close collaboration with our suppliers.”

Blockchain is a digital way of recording transactions where the records cannot be changed. So an invoice can't be fudged later on. It also enforces rules for what data can be recorded onto the transaction, letting it be independently audited more easily.

Here, Volvo will use the data to track origin, weight and size of shipment, and chain of custody. So they know it follows company-approved processes. Volvo currently sources batteries from CATL and LG, and says that they both "fulfil Volvo Cars’ strict sourcing guidelines in terms of technology leadership, responsible supply chains, reduction of carbon emissions and competitive cost models."

CATL will be getting the tech from Circulor and Oracle, with LG Chem getting their tech from RCS Global and IBM, starting this year.