Interview of Victoire de Margerie, Founder and Vice-Chair of World Materials Forum.
In a few words, how would you describe the World Materials Forum?
Victoire de Margerie : Our participants call the World Materials Forum the “Davos of materials”. We created it in 2015 with Philippe Varin and André Rossinot to reconcile industry and the environment, to demonstrate that it is possible to achieve growth with low natural resource consumption while creating value for industry and meeting the needs of our fellow citizens in terms of food, housing, mobility and connectivity. This is what we call decoupling. We come together with CEOs of major industrial groups and start-ups, scientists and experts, politicians and media from all over the world to exchange ideas and above all to conceive and implement solutions.
How are information technologies and the environmental transition
changing needs for materials?
V. M. : These areas are significantly increasing the criticality of some materials: copper and nickel are essential for electric car and smartphone batteries and energy or data storage systems. In addition to our Criticality Observatory we have developed tools including KPIs (key performance indicators) to measure progress in the smarter and more economical use of materials throughout the value chain, from mining to recycling of finished products. We have also created a Start-Up Challenge that connects large groups and start-ups to stimulate agile innovation. Finally, we have listed ten technologies where we believe there is a need to collectively focus R&D efforts and industrial investments worldwide in order to have an impact on the decoupling I mentioned earlier
What are the results of the collaboration with BRGM?
V. M. : Since 2015, together with BRGM, CRU and McKinsey, we have been studying the elements of the Periodic Table to prioritise action relating to the supply, substitution or recycling of the most critical materials. This is the Raw Materials Criticality Observatory. The aim is to assess criticality and to put forward solutions to reduce it, such as substituting elements or developing new “green” mining projects (consuming far less water and energy).
The criticality of each element is assessed on the basis of 7 main criteria including market prospects, geopolitical considerations and environmental performance. A working group meets every month to share information. Its members’ joint work is reported back to the WMF, always accompanied by development prospects for the following year.