Science Matters: The Case of Rare Earth Elements

Manufacturers Group: You are the CEO of a Wind Turbine Manufacturer

Your Background and Biography

Born in Germany in the 1960s, you grew up in a country eager to look to the future rather than the past. Your inventive curiosity led you to earn a PhD in mechanical engineering. You went on to find your niche in the energy and power-generation industry, steadily rising through the ranks to become CEO of a wind power company. After a significant merger the company became the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer.

You believe wind power is the future of global energy and fought for this newly merged company to focus its mission firmly on sustainable development. You have found that commercial success and sustainable practices can work hand in hand, and you strive to be a leader and an example for the industry in that regard. However, wind power has recently come under scrutiny for its use of rare earth elements in the production of essential components.

The rare earth elements neodymium, dysprosium, and praseodymium are important to the wind turbines your company makes. These metals are essential to the permanent magnets used in the direct-drive turbines you build for offshore installations. Rare earths make these turbines lighter and help lower maintenance concerns, which is crucial for a turbine installed in the ocean.

As you continue to craft a sustainable supply chain for your products, your dependence on rare earth elements has decreased but not disappeared. While you would like to cut them out of your supply chain entirely, there is simply no way to do so yet.  In negotiations for a Sustainability Seal you are focused on creating guiding values for the mining and production of rare earth metals to meet high sustainable standards without creating skyrocketing costs.

Your Mission

Your goal at this hearing is to convince the Stewardship Council to include the Manufacturers Group’s recommendations in its final Sustainability Seal guiding values. To make this argument effectively, you must do the following:

  • Complete the assigned readings listed at the bottom of this page.

  • Work closely with the other members of your group to develop clear answers to the Stewardship Council’s questions.

  • Use as much specific information as possible to develop strong arguments for your position that changing consumer demands require businesses to pursue creative problem solving and innovation in resolving the pressing issues caused by rare earth element mining, supply chains, and manufacturing.

  • Read as much as you can about your position and the positions of the other groups.

  • Complete written reflections on your character, interest group, and readings as assigned.

Your Victory Objectives

  • You will receive 10 points if the Stewards select your group’s proposal as the final Sustainability Seal guiding values.

  • The Stewards will rank the interest groups by how well their goals are represented in the final Sustainability Seal guiding values. You will receive between 1 and 4 points based on how the Manufacturers Group is ranked and how well the Sustainability Seal guiding values reflect your goals.

SOURCES

Group Sources

Individual Sources

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