Our societies rely on the quality and availability of natural resources. Driven by population growth, economic development, and innovation, future demand for natural resources is expected to further increase in coming decades. Raw materials will be an important part of society’s future material mix as countries increasingly transition towards resource-efficient and greenhouse-gas neutral economies. Raw materials are also fundamental to meet ecological and socio-economic targets within the UN Sustainable Development Agenda. For instance, they have a fundamental role in renewable energy technologies, new building materials and infrastructure, communication systems, and low-carbon transportation. However, some materials are largely supplied from countries with poor governance. The future availability of these materials and associated impacts are of increasing concern going forward. Recent raw material criticality studies have explored economic, geo-political, and technological factors that affect materials’ supply. However, environmental and social pressures also play a role in their security of supply. For instance, conflicts can prevent access to mineral deposits; accidents and environmental damage compromise public acceptance and can hinder future extraction operations. This article will introduce this Special Issue with a focus on material requirements and responsible sourcing of materials for a low-carbon society, and provides an overview of the subsequent research papers.
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