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Sustainability priorities

ASI has identified four priority sustainability issues where we believe we can most contribute to driving change in the aluminium value chain to 2030.



About ASI’s four sustainability priorities

The sustainable development challenges for aluminium are wide-ranging, and all stakeholders have roles to play in incremental and transformational change.

These are high-level priority challenges for our global future, and it is essential to recognise the inter-connections between each.  Ultimately, they must be tackled together to support effective and just transitions that minimise unintended consequences and maximise positive impact.

Climate change

The aluminium sector accounts for 1.1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions, around 2 percent of the world’s total.

Existing primary aluminium production processes are energy intensive by nature, in particular electrolytic smelting and thermo-chemical alumina refining processes. Other sector emissions sources include raw materials, casting and recycling processes, semi-fabrication and transport.

Around 60% of the aluminium sector’s GHG emissions are from the production of electricity consumed during the aluminium smelting process. Decarbonisation will require all aluminium smelters to shift down the current emissions curve, particularly those currently using carbon-intensive sources of power. ASI aims to incentivise this by providing Certification pathways for all smelters on the emissions curve, whilst ensuring clear, significant and time-bound emission reductions are demonstrated.

Greenhouse gas emissions from energy-, material- and transport-related, as well as process-specific, sources are all required to reduce and deliver a 1.5 °C aligned aluminium sector.

Read more: Low Carbon Aluminium

ASI has committed to a 1.5°C-aligned pathway for the aluminium sector. Through implementation of its Standards, ASI aims to mobilise aluminium sector climate action in line with a 1.5°C limit on global temperature rise. Assurance of such action is delivered via the ASI Certification program.

From 2022, new threshold GHG emissions values for aluminium smelters will be rolled out through the ASI Performance Standard. Principle 5 in the ASI Performance Standard addresses GHG emissions and, through a comprehensive Standards Revision process, is referencing a 1.5°C aligned scenario for the aluminium sector. The ASI Chain of Custody Standard provides a mechanism for asset-level performance claims to be connected to metal flow.

The ASI Performance Standard includes two criteria for aluminium smelting processes. In the 2022 revised Standard, smelters starting production after 2020 must achieve a level of GHG emissions (Scopes 1, 2 and 3 categories 1, 3 and 4) below 11 tonnes CO2e per metric tonne of aluminium produced. Existing aluminium smelters that were in production before 2020 must achieve the 11 tonnes CO2e per metric tonne level by 2030. To put this in perspective, the current global average for aluminium ingot production is 16 CO2e per metric tonne.

ASI is also collaborating with a range of organisations on GHG-related projects and research to support wider insights and change. Find out more on our Partnerships/Collaborations page.

More broadly, the global energy transition will have broad ESG risks that need to be managed. It will need more materials to decarbonise systems, and this demand increase brings wider resource and social pressures. Resilience and adaptation to climate change will also need to be built into industrial and social systems. This emphasises the connection of climate change issues with the broader sustainability topics addressed by ASI’s Standards.

MORE ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND ASI

 


 

Circularity

Aluminium is 100% recyclable and experiences no loss of properties or quality during the recycling process.

Recycling aluminium uses only 5% of the energy used to create new (primary) aluminium. With its high value, diverse use applications and recyclable properties, aluminium is a material expected to be critical for supporting transitions to a more circular economy.

Recycled aluminium comprises about one-third of global annual use, with about a 0.4:0.6 ratio of pre-consumer to post-consumer scrap within the global aluminium cycle in 2020. [See ASI Chain of Custody Material Flows]. Aluminium is one of the most recycled materials in use today, and approximately 75% of the aluminium ever produced is still in use.

Pre-consumer scrap from industrial processes is concentrated and readily recycled, though circularity principles go beyond recycling to encompass broader resource efficiencies. Minimising scrap generation and sorting aluminium by grades and alloys are important components.

For post-consumer scrap, the material becomes available at end of product life. While applications such as packaging have short product life cycles, the majority of aluminium is used in products with very long use phases. For example, transportation products have a typical lifetime of 20 years while buildings have lifetimes of approximately 50 years.

Maximising circularity for post-consumer scrap requires a number of conditions. These include the availability of systems to collect and sort used materials, the quality of available scrap, and the design of products to consider product life cycles, which enhance circular economy outcomes.

ASI’s Performance Standard places requirements on companies from semi-fabrication onwards to design and produce consumer and commercial goods with aluminium that considers future recyclability and supports society’s efforts to increase recycling.

This includes undertaking life cycle assessments and evaluating life cycle impacts, integrating sustainability objectives in product design, minimisation and appropriate management of aluminium process scrap, and collection and recycling of products at end of life.

The ASI Chain of Custody Standard supports the sharing of voluntary sustainability information, including recycled content of material. Where supplied, this must include methodology used for the claim.

From 2022, ASI will be working on regular Guidance updates to support consistent methodologies and enhance implementation of the Standards. The lifecycle and carbon footprint of recycled content is a key issue in terms of allocation of footprint for pre-consumer and post-consumer scrap. While accounting processes don’t impact total emissions, the approach taken to footprint allocation will have important implications for claims and sourcing.

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Nature positive

Nature-positive means enhancing the resilience of our planet and societies to halt and reverse nature loss.

It represents a paradigm shift from the ‘competing interests’ view of sustainability – a Venn diagram with economy, society and the environment overlapping as a trade-off at the centre – towards understanding nature as the context of all life.

There is a recognition that humanity is exceeding planetary boundaries, creating a dual nature and climate emergency. A nature-positive approach can make important contributions to solving both. At its heart, the nature-positive goal is to halt and reverse the destruction of nature by 2030 with a full recovery of a resilient biosphere by 2050.

This is a challenge for all nations, businesses, investors and consumers. Science-based targets for a nature-positive trajectory are still under intense discussion. For ASI and aluminium, it is important that we understand this as a full value chain challenge.

Starting with extraction, the vast majority of the world’s bauxite comes from surface mines in tropical areas, where bauxite occurs in horizontal layers, normally beneath a few meters of overburden. Bauxite mining involves disturbance of relatively large land areas, which can include areas of high biodiversity and ecosystem services value.

Effective mitigation of these impacts is critical and goes beyond mining through mineral processing, manufacturing and downstream use of aluminium. A nature-positive approach needs to move expectations beyond mitigation towards enhancement of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

From 2022, ASI’s Performance Standard incorporates ecosystem services as an important addition within the nature-positive approach. This frames the benefits that people derive from ecosystems, both natural and managed, whether productive, regulative, supporting processes or cultural.

The ASI Standard sets requirements for biodiversity and ecosystem services risk and impact assessment, an action and management plan to address identified risks and impacts to biodiversity and/or ecosystem services, and management of invasive species, no-go areas for World Heritage Sites, and criteria for other protected areas. For bauxite mining in particular, mine rehabilitation must be carried out with best available techniques.

From 2022, ASI will be working on regular Guidance updates to support consistent methodologies and enhance implementation of the Standards. In the context of the global nature crisis, biodiversity and ecosystem services will remain a strong focus for this work. As with climate change, to which the nature crisis is linked, a 2030 timeframe is critical for re-orienting practices to enable nature to be visibly and measurably on the path of recovery towards 2050.

MORE ON NATURE POSITIVE AND ASI

 


 

Human rights

Human rights issues are broad and cross-cutting, with strong links to the challenges of climate change, circularity and nature-positive approaches.

Human rights are relevant to all businesses, regardless of size, sector or country operation. In 2011, the United Nations (UN) released the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which sets out a “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework. This sets out the state’s duty to protect against human rights abuses, business’ responsibility to respect human rights through a due diligence approach, and access by victims to effective remedy.

The OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High Risk Areas is a detailed framework to help companies respect human rights and avoid contributing to conflict through their mineral sourcing practices. With the increased application of the OECD Guidance beyond the initially designated ‘conflict minerals’ (tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold), ASI is leading the development and implementation of tailored guidance for the aluminium value chain.

The rights of Indigenous Peoples are a critical area of focus for ASI. Mining and mining-related activities (exploration, development, resource extraction, processing, transportation and waste disposal) often take place on, or near, Indigenous lands. Major industrial developments can have significant adverse impacts on Indigenous groups and/or vulnerable groups and individuals, affecting their rights to self-determination, infringing on their lands, territories and resources, and threatening their ability to maintain their culture, including their cultural heritage and recognition of their distinct identities.

It is critical to see human rights as a universal concern.

ASI’s Performance Standard includes comprehensive principles and criteria focused on human rights and labour rights. These include requirements on human rights due diligence, gender, Indigenous Peoples, Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), resettlement, local communities, and conflict-affected and high-risk areas and security practices. On labour issues, requirements address freedom of association and collective bargaining, forced labour, child labour, and non-discrimination, along with important working practices.

From 2022, enhanced alignment of ASI Certification with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance will support London Metal Exchange (LME) listed brands and other ASI Members to meet stakeholder expectations on responsible sourcing of minerals.

Supply chain due diligence aspects of the Performance Standard are also carried through to the Chain of Custody Standard, in relation to anti-corruption, responsible sourcing, human rights and conflict-affected and high-risk areas. Together, they create the foundation for a whole of supply chain approach in the aluminium value chain.

Beyond ASI’s certification program, ASI has convened an Indigenous Peoples Advisory Forum (IPAF) as part of its formal governance structure. IPAF representatives liaise with both the ASI Board and Standards Committee on matters relating to standards setting, the ASI Complaints Mechanism, and the broader involvement of indigenous peoples in ASI’s programs. Through IPAF, ASI provides support for learning, capacity building and cross-community sharing of experiences. IPAF’s contributions to the 2020-2022 Standards Revision have strengthened FPIC provisions and integration of the concerns of Indigenous communities.

MORE ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND ASI

ASI aims to drive change across these sustainability issues.

Find out how.

Learn more about becoming an ASI member

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