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A Comprehensive Standard For the Aluminum Industry

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Leadership & Transparency

There are many uses for aluminum: It is used in consumers goods, for transportation and even for door knobs. Given the popularity of aluminum, it makes sense to have a comprehensive standard. That is exactly what the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative (ASI) created. The goal of the ASI Performance Standard is to improve the industry’s performance through its value chain, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It took a year to develop the standards, which will be implemented through a third-party certification system. It focuses on 11 key issues: business integrity, policy and management, transparency, material stewardship, greenhouse gas emissions, emissions, effluents and waste, water, biodiversity, human rights, labor rights, and occupational health and safety. Certain end-users of aluminum, such as  Audi, BMW Group, Jaguar Land Rover and Nestlé Nespresso SA, said they would purchase certified aluminum.

There are 28 organizations that worked to define the criteria in the sustainability issues relevant to the aluminum value chain. The organizations include BMW Group, Hydro, Nestlé Nespresso SA and Rio Tinto Alcan, Fauna & Flora International, Forest Peoples Programme, IndustriALL Global Union and the International Union of Conservation and Nature (IUCN).

Emissions reductions

Companies that produce aluminum are required to commit to reducing their greenhouse emissions under the criteria for GHG emissions. They will also commit to designing and achieving a roadmap to reduce their emissions. One example is that smelters will have to demonstrate the level of direct and indirect GHG emissions from aluminum production is below a set level by 2030.

Companies must account for -- and publicly disclose -- their GHG emissions and energy use by source every year. In addition, they must publish emissions reduction targets and implement a plan to meet those targets.

Managing waste

Under the criteria for material stewardship, consumer goods companies will be required to focus on resource efficiency, design for the environment and develop recycling timelines and targets for end-of-life of products containing aluminum. Companies must come up with a waste management strategy and publicly disclose every year the amount of hazardous and non-hazardous waste it created and how it disposed of that waste. Specifically, companies have to prevent the release of residual bauxite, an aluminum ore, to the environment. They are required to create a timeline and roadmap for eliminating bauxite residue lagooning, in which bauxite residue is pumped into a pond.

Respecting human labor rights

Companies are required to agree to uphold the United Nations human rights declaration at all stages of their operations. They must establish and implement a human rights policy that is in line with the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Women’s rights and the rights of indigenous peoples are to be protected as part of the human rights criteria.

Within labor rights falls bans on child labor and forced or compulsory labor. Companies are required to respect the right of workers to collective bargaining. Workers must be allowed to “associate freely, join or not join labour unions, seek representation and join workers’ councils,” according to the standard.

Image credit: roadsidepictures

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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