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An Overview of the ASI Standards Revision

aluminum ingot© by IAI

By Dr. Fiona Solomon and Thad Mermer, ASI.

The Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) certification program, which includes the Performance Standard and the Chain of Custody Standard was launched in December 2017, following its development through an extensive multi-stakeholder consultation process. Currently, it is the only comprehensive voluntary sustainability standard initiative for the aluminum value chain. It is designed to drive responsible production, sourcing, and stewardship of aluminum through uptake of the ASI Standards throughout the industry.

Figure 1. The ASI on-product “Responsible Aluminium Sourcing” logo is being implemented in stores.
Figure 1. The ASI on-product “Responsible Aluminium Sourcing” logo is being implemented in stores.

Since the launch of the certification program, ASI members have been actively certifying operations along the entire value chain. By December 2020, 74 Performance Standard certifications and 28 Chain of Custody certifications were achieved, with certified facilities located in 40 countries covering all world regions. The ASI also launched an on-product logo in mid-2019 (Figure 1), which is now being used on aseptic carton packaging on retail shelves in a number of markets, extending awareness of the ASI program to consumers. Building on this implementation experience, and as part of a regular cycle of review, the ASI is currently undertaking a major Standards Revision process.

Standards Revision

During 2020-2022, the ASI is revising all six of its documents, including the Performance Standard and Guidance, Chain of Custody Standard and Guidance, Assurance Manual, and Claims Guide. The revision will provide the opportunity to clarify and improve ASI’s certification program based on implementation experience and identified improvement areas, stakeholder feedback and evolving expectations, and good practice approaches in certification programs and data governance.

The revision process is planned for maximum inclusiveness and incorporates multiple rounds of public consultation, which provide an opportunity for all members and interested stakeholders in the aluminum value chain to submit feedback and suggestions.

The final revisions of the ASI documents are anticipated to be published in March 2022. Following their publication, there will be a transition period of one year where both the previous and updated versions of the ASI Standards can be used for certification, following which only the updated version will be in effect. Translations will also be updated, and ASI’s educationAl and elementAl platforms will include new modules and functionality to highlight the updates and support the transition.

Work to Date

The ASI Standards Committee, a multi-stakeholder group of 24 elected representatives to ensure a balance of interests, is the key governance group responsible for the Standards Revision process. The committee is supported by a number of active working groups in the areas of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG), Human Rights, Chain of Custody, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Recycling and Material Stewardship, and Standards Benchmarking and Harmonization.

Primary input for the revision was logged during 2018-2020 to capture questions, feedback, new issues for discussion, and areas where more clarity would be useful, from which key themes were grouped and prioritized. In March 2020, ASI published the Terms of Reference, which sets out a public summary and consultation plan for the revision process and sought stakeholder feedback through a public consultation process. Comments received were reviewed by the ASI Standards Committee and made available on the ASI website.

During the first phase of the revision process, the Standards Committee and working groups have been working diligently to build consensus on a wide range of criteria and guidance revision proposals. More than 50 teleconferences were convened in 2020 with over 150 individuals participating. Work is continuing into 2021, with the first public consultation on the draft revisions planned for March 2021 along with a 60-day public comment period.

Responsible Practices and Sourcing

The ASI’s two standards, the Performance Standard and the Chain of Custody Standard, are designed as tools to support responsible practices and responsible sourcing in the global aluminum value chain. The Performance Standard defines 59 environmental, social, and governance principles and criteria, with the aim to address sustainability issues through the auditing of individual facilities.

The Chain of Custody Standard complements the Performance Standard, setting out requirements for the production and process of aluminum throughout the value chain, extending from bauxite extraction through to downstream manufacturing sectors. This makes it possible for the flow of material from mine to final product to be ASI certified. The Chain of Custody Standard is also a means to encourage increased implementation of the Performance Standard in supply chains, thus supporting continual improvement and a shared commitment to managing risks and maximizing benefits from the production and use of aluminum.

Sustainability encompasses a wide range of topics and is relevant to each stage of the supply chain, where different issues have a greater or less materiality. The diversity of sustainability topics addressed by the ASI highlights the comprehensive nature of the ASI program, and thus the necessary breadth of the revision process. Some topics for the revision have attracted particular focus or interest from stakeholders, which include (but are not limited to) the following updates.

GHG Criteria for Smelting and Along the Value Chain

Carbon intensity of primary aluminum, and the imperatives of industrial decarbonization more generally, have been a critical area of discussion for the GHG Working Group and the Standards Committee. The ASI aims to strike a balance between access to the ASI Standard, a minimum performance requirement, and the need for short, medium, and long-term emissions reductions (via reduction pathway and target development) to meet net zero targets by 2050.

The New LME Responsible Sourcing Rules

In 2019, the London Metal Exchange (LME) announced new Responsible Sourcing rules for their listed brands, relating to conflict-affected and high-risk areas and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Due Diligence Guidance for minerals from such areas. The ASI has committed to become a “Track A” standard under the LME’s framework. This means that ASI members who certify against the new version of the Performance Standard will meet the LME’s requirements. A comprehensive redraft of the relevant ASI criteria and guidance has been prepared to support this, and the ASI will undergo an independent “alignment assessment” in 2021.

Updates to the Biodiversity Criteria

ASI’s civil society members identified this as a critical area of focus that merited additional work to prepare for the next revision. In 2019, the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Working Group carried out extensive discussions to agree to new draft criteria and guidance in preparation for the revision. Those criteria were accepted by the Standards Committee and include requirements for the assessment and mitigation of risk and impacts to ecosystem services.

Updates to the Assurance Manual in Line with the COVID Response Policy

Everyone is aware of the impact of COVID-19 on the world’s societies and economies. The ASI responded quickly in early 2020 to bring in specific policies for remote auditing to help keep members on track while supporting the necessary health and safety considerations. These have been well tested as the pandemic situation continued and are being considered as ongoing support to the Assurance Manual for any future force majeure situations that may temporarily prevent site access for auditing.

Clarification on the Rules for Public Claims Related to Certification

The ASI Claims Guide contains rules and guidance for making claims about ASI membership and certification. With the increasing uptake of Chain of Custody certification, and growing interest in on-product labeling, the Claims Guide contains updates to provide more detail on the ASI Responsible Aluminium Sourcing logo introduced in mid-2019 and the appropriate contexts for its use.

What’s Next

The ASI Standards Committee’s aim is to release full revision drafts for all ASI documents in two sequential public consultation periods in Q1 and Q3 of 2021 (Table I). The ASI encourages all interested stakeholders to get involved and provide their input and insights during the revision process. Working together, the aluminum industry and its stakeholders can make sure that the updated ASI Standards can integrate the lessons learned to date and, as much as possible, anticipate the challenges that still lie ahead to create a sustainable aluminum value chain.

Table I: The ASI Standards Revision process schedule and opportunities for stakeholder involvement.
Table I: The ASI Standards Revision process schedule and opportunities for stakeholder involvement.

Public Consultation Open

As of March 1st, the ASI has released revised versions of all six core ASI documents for a 60-day public consultation period. The organization welcomes comments and insights from the aluminum industry and other stakeholders regarding the documents and their changes until April 30th, 2021.

As part of the kick-off activities for the public consultation period, the ASI will be holding two overview webinars on March 9th and March 11th. The webinars are recommended for stakeholders that are interested to hear focused, high-level information on the most important changes being proposed in the ASI Standards and the accompanying documents. The webinars have been timed to enable participation from all time zones.

The Standards Revision documents, an overview brochure, and a short overview video are available on the Revisions page of the ASI website.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the February 2021 issue of Light Metal Age. To receive the current issue, please subscribe.

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