Looking ahead: the year in prospect
As years go, 2020 will certainly be memorable for many reasons. After a relatively normal start we all experienced a sense of shock and foreboding as the global pandemic took hold.
From a business perspective the phrase ‘adapt and survive’ was the approach taken by the lead and lead battery industries, and indeed associations. Everyone moved into crisis management mode, working out how to maintain manufacturing safely and how to keep staff as secure as possible. In essence, how to keep calm and safe, and carry on. It is a credit to the industry and the lead battery value chain as a whole that companies managed to adapt, and many went much further supporting their local communities and essential services.
Last year represented the business equivalent of a handbrake turn. And while for the time being we remain suspended in virtual meetings, we can all hope that later this year we’ll meet again in person.
While our industries kept calm and carried on, so did the legislative juggernauts with new regulatory activity – much of it emanating in Europe. The year ahead will include important milestones related to the EU End of Life Vehicles Directive, Batteries Regulation, Occupational Exposure Limits for Lead, Lead Metal Classification for Environment, and several EU REACH Restrictions.
In the face of this blizzard of red tape, we will continue to defend and promote our industry and the important products and services that rely on us.
And the winds of change look set to continue as political momentum grows in favour of swifter action to tackle climate change, decarbonise industry and society and development of a new EU chemicals strategy for sustainability. As political efforts gain speed, the demand for lead batteries will, according to most analysts, continue to grow. Even at a conservative estimate we are likely to see growth of around 2 per cent a year as demand for rechargeable battery energy storage keeps pace with political imperatives.
Key to the battery industry’s future is of course innovation. The work of the Consortium for Battery Innovation will be pivotal as it brokers more projects ushering in more advances in lead battery performance and lifetime.
Meanwhile lead’s role in a range of other industries – while on a much lower scale – will also enter the spotlight as officials from the EU Chemicals Agency ECHA consider whether lead metal should be included on their list of substances subject to ‘Authorisation’. Working with downstream users we will be showing how lead in batteries and a wide range of applications – from aviation safety to cables linking offshore windfarms – matters in a modern, low carbon, and competitive economy.
This goes hand-in-hand with an industry determined to demonstrate that we are both essential and responsible. We will continue to work together with our partners in Europe and North America to play our part helping to tackle informal and dangerous recycling practises in low-and-middle income countries, adopt responsible raw material sourcing policies and to ensure continuous improvement in company environment, health & safety performance. We’ll be working with NGOs, and organisations including UNICEF, to deliver improvement projects, and educate governments and regulators on practices necessary to tackle the issue.
More than anything I hope that during this year we will meet again – in person – duly vaccinated and batteries recharged.
Read more for a chief executive’s perspective on a bright future for the lead battery industry.