The electric vehicle boom depends on mining. Rivian's new chief sustainability officer is tasked with making it responsible.

The electric vehicle boom depends on mining. Rivian's new chief sustainability officer is tasked with making it responsible.
Anisa Kamadoli Costa, CSO, RivianInsider Events
  • Demand for metals like lithium and cobalt could jump sixfold alongside the electric vehicle boom.
  • Rivian hired Anisa Kamadoli Costa to lead its climate strategy, including responsible mining.
  • Costa spoke to Insider as part of its Climate Heroes 2022 event.

A massive shift to electric vehicles is underway among consumers and companies with large fleets for rentals, delivery, and other services.

The shift is driven by a push to reduce tailpipe pollution and slow climate change. But that doesn't mean electric vehicle makers don't have their own set of climate and social challenges.

EV batteries are made with metals such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel, most of which are mined and processed outside the US in countries like China and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Demand for these metals could jump sixfold by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency.

Ensuring these metals are sourced responsibly is a major task for Anisa Kamadoli Costa, who was named Rivian's chief sustainability officer in April and is among Insider's Climate Action 30 leaders.

"Traceability is the best means to transparency and to understanding one's social and environmental impact," Costa said during an Insider event moderated by Catherine Boudreau, senior sustainability reporter. The event was part of Insider's series Climate Heroes 2022: Working Toward Solutions; it featured leaders across industries who are working to address the climate crisis.


Companies should also collaborate with local labor, environmental, and human rights groups and mining companies to meet certain standards, Costa added.

"By co-creating a standard, you end up with a much higher bar at the mine-site level that is more difficult to achieve, but that's what you have to do: continuously aim higher to try to go further," Costa said.

Costa helped craft such a standard during her two decades as Tiffany & Co.'s chief sustainability officer. The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance is a third-party certification system for mines that any industry sourcing extracted materials can use, from jewelers to automakers.

Separately, Tiffany & Co. also traced its diamonds and raw precious metals to the mines where they were sourced. The jeweler is working toward a similar standard for gold, silver, and platinum by 2025.

Costa said those experiences will inform her work at Rivian, which is ramping up production of electric pickups and SUVs for consumers along with vans for Amazon's delivery fleet.


"Rivian is in its nascency, which provides a good opportunity for us as long as we remain mission-centered and mission-driven," Costa said.

Costa also will align Rivian's policy advocacy and philanthropy with its environmental goals. When the automaker went public in 2021, it put 1% of pre-IPO equity into an endowment fund called Forever. The money will be steered toward climate initiatives that protect nature, including oceans and land conservation.

Costa said she is optimistic that society can tackle the climate crisis because of how many consumers, investors, and policymakers are all working on the problem.

"Consumers are focused now more than ever on selecting brands that will make a positive impact on the Earth and on society," Costa said. "Investors are looking more and more at how climate risk factors into their decisions. And, of course, from a public policy perspective, we're seeing government step in."