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“Sustainability questions are increasingly important for every industry…aluminium industry is no exception,” Dr Fiona Solomon, Executive Director, Aluminium Stewardship Initiative
Interview16/Feb/2016AlCircle.comThe Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) was launched in 2012 to foster greater sustainability and transparency throughout the aluminium industry. Supported by key industry players, ASI is working with a broad base of stakeholders to assess industry-specific sustainability challenges, opportunities and needs. Dr Fiona Solomon is the Executive Director of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI). Throughout her career, she has been involved in developing new and innovative initiatives along the mineral supply chains. Dr Solomon shares with AlCircle her inputs on the sustainability challenges faced by the aluminium industry and how ASI activities aim to address the issue globally.
Excerpts from the interview:
AlCircle: In your view, how relevant is the concept of sustainability for the aluminium industry?
Dr Fiona Solomon: Sustainability questions are increasingly important for every industry, and the aluminium industry is no exception. Key sustainability issues for the aluminium sector arise throughout the value chain, including the social and environmental impacts of mining, the energy intensity of smelting in the context of global climate change, management of bauxite residue and refining wastes, and life cycle approaches to metals used in increasingly complex products.
Governments, leading companies, NGOs and consumers are increasingly focused on how companies should approach these questions in their own businesses and supply chains, and in collaboration with broader regulatory and voluntary initiatives. This makes sustainability very relevant for the industry in terms of operational performance, regulatory compliance, commercial relationships and broader reputation.
AlCircle: Aluminium, despite being a green metal has the reputation of being one of the most energy intensive industries. How does ASI intend to deal with this carbon emission reduction challenge faced by aluminium industry globally?
Dr Fiona Solomon: Approximately 80% of all GHG emissions in the aluminium industry worldwide relate to the energy-intensive smelting process. To address this, the ASI Performance Standard, published in December 2014, includes two smelter-specific criteria. Smelters starting production after 2020 must achieve a level of direct and indirect (Scope 1 and 2) GHG emissions below 8 tonnes CO2-eq per metric tonne of aluminium produced. Existing aluminium smelters that were in production before 2020 must achieve the 8 tonnes CO2-eq per metric tonne level by 2030.
To put this in perspective, the current global average for aluminium ingot production is estimated to be 12 CO2-eq per metric tonne. ASI’s Performance Standard requirements thus represent a shift towards a lowered emissions profile for the sector that is both significant and long-term. Furthermore, the development of ASI’s Chain of Custody Standard in 2016-17 will ideally help to create market drivers for change. Downstream users of aluminium are very focused on carbon emissions reductions, and the ASI Certification program will provide a new platform for responsible sourcing approaches.
AlCircle: Do you think aluminium producing countries all over the world will stick to the climate regulations agreed upon in COP 21 meetings? How is ASI planning to contribute towards achieving the objectives of the Convention?
Dr Fiona Solomon: The work lies ahead for all countries to implement their current commitments over the next five years, and for most this will be in the context of complex domestic economic and political considerations. However the COP 21 agreement was seen as a landmark for identifying the 2°C goal and this should serve as a rallying point for continued global focus on the importance of progress.
ASI has committed to explore what a 2°C compliant GHG emissions trajectory would look like for the aluminium sector. A GHG Working Group will be established in 2016 under the ASI Standards Committee, to enable input and engagement with climate change experts, members and stakeholders. Once the 2°C trajectory is better understood, ASI will take the findings into account in the next revision of the Performance Standard, planned for 2019.
AlCircle: Please tell us something about the ASI Certification program. What are the issues you want to address through this program?
Dr Fiona Solomon: ASI’s Certification program aims to recognize and collaboratively foster responsible production, sourcing and stewardship of aluminium. The ASI certification program will be based on two standards – the ASI Performance Standard and the ASI Chain of Custody Standard. Companies in every part of the aluminium value chain can join ASI as a member, and seek certification against ASI Standards.
ASI’s Performance Standard covers critical issues for the entire aluminium value chain including biodiversity management in mining, indigenous people’s rights, greenhouse gas emissions, waste management and material stewardship. A Chain of Custody standard is also in development, to link responsible production with responsible sourcing and support increased emphasis on sustainability in procurement practices.
Throughout 2016 and 2017 ASI will develop and test its assurance model for the ASI Performance Standard and the Chain of Custody Standard. After the development and testing phase is successfully completed, the certification program will commence.
AlCircle: Please tell us in brief about the ASI Performance Standard published in 2014. Is it relevant in the present context of the aluminium industry?
Dr Fiona Solomon: The ASI Performance Standard was developed with a multi-stakeholder Standard Setting Group, comprised of interested parties with a broad representation of interests in the key issues addressed by the standard. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) acted as coordinator of the standard-setting process.
The Performance Standard is grouped into three main sections: governance, environment and social. It is applicable to all stages of aluminium production and transformation, specifically: bauxite mining, alumina refining, primary aluminium production, semi-fabrication, material conversion, and refining and re-melting of recycled scrap, as well as material stewardship criteria relevant to downstream users of aluminium.
While the aluminium industry, like many commodities, is facing challenging market conditions, sustainability challenges and drivers are only expected to increase in the coming years. ASI thus takes a forward looking view to prepare its certification program and members for the future, where sustainability considerations will be expected to be fully integrated into all corporate and operational decision-making.
AlCircle: What are the other initiatives that ASI plans to take in future to further the cause of sustainable development in aluminium industry?
Dr Fiona Solomon: ASI will be working with stakeholders on a range of important issues for the sector, to support continual improvements of its standards and implementation by ASI members seeking certification. In addition to the GHG Working Group mentioned earlier, there will be a Recycling Working Group to provide further practical guidance on material stewardship and circular economy principles in the context of ASI standards.
ASI also plans to establish an Indigenous Peoples Advisory Forum as part of its formal governance structure. This group would be comprised of representatives from Indigenous Peoples organisations and indigenous peoples’ rights experts that have connections to the aluminium value chain. The Indigenous Peoples Advisory Forum will 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.
AlCircle: How can organizations become involved in ASI?
Dr Fiona Solomon: ASI members benefit from being part of a collaborative group of diverse stakeholders in the aluminium value chain, working to directly contribute to enhancing sustainability in the global aluminium sector. Members have the opportunity to:
• Create more impact on environmental and social issues collectively
• Bring transparency to supply chains and manage supply chain risks
• Enhance reputation through proactive efforts to implement and support standards
• Support compliance with relevant regulatory requirements
• Reduce duplication of effort and costs through standardization
• Build partnerships and relationships across the public, private and voluntary sectors
ASI welcomes new members from all around the world and from every aspect of the aluminium supply chain, as well as civil society groups, industry associations and other supporting organisations.
Users can follow ASI on LinkedIn for details: http://www.linkedin.com/company/aluminium-stewardship-initiative
Disclaimer: “The information presented herein is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional advice. The views and opinions shared in the interview section of www.alcircle.com are unique to the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of www.alcircle.com.”
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