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LME Commits to Sustainability Strategy for Aluminum

Salt Aluminyum - primary aluminum ingots© by Salt Aluminyum

The London Metal Exchange (LME) plans to move forward with its sustainability strategy. This decision follows supportive feedback from its discussion paper process started in August.

“We are grateful for all the feedback we received as part of the discussion process,” said Matthew Chamberlain, chief executive of the LME. “We are mindful of the diverse views of market participants – particularly in respect of our sustainable aluminum proposals. This disparity in views highlights that greater industry coalescence around standards, definitions and sustainability goals is the first step in overcoming the sustainability challenges facing our industry, and our strategy considers the building of such consensus as a primary focus.”

According to the LME, the sustainability strategy hinges on providing metal market participants with the option for greater transparency and access in respect of sustainably produced metal and metal that itself plays a significant role in global decarbonization and the circular economy — with aluminum being the initial focus.

Market feedback during the discussion paper process primarily has focused on aluminum. While some respondents felt the LME should go further and introduce a separate low carbon aluminum contract, others were concerned about the impact this could have on the LME’s primary aluminum futures contract. The LME noted that while it understands the drivers for both of these positions, the Exchange continues to believe the market is not yet in a position to be able to adequately support a second contract, and changing the requirements of its existing contract would oppose the optionality upon which its strategy is premised. Therefore, the LME intends to begin its sustainability strategy with the launch of LMEpassport in 2021.

Launching the LMEpassport

LMEpassport is a digital credentials register, which has received strong support from the market. The new system will enhance standard industry quality assurance documentation, and allow verified sustainability credentials to be disclosed on a voluntary basis and in accordance with a set of agreed sustainability categories.

“We received some extremely helpful feedback that we’ve taken on board in respect of the types of sustainability disclosures, certifications, and validations we should be supporting initially in the roll-out of LMEpassport and by extension our online marketplace,” said Georgina Hallett, chief sustainability officer for the LME. “Since we are committed to providing optionality in the first instance, we will not introduce any mandatory disclosure requirements; however we do recognize the demand for such disclosures and the potential value of such a step, and will continue to assess stakeholder views as we broaden the scope of our new platforms to include additional metals markets.”

Starting with aluminum in 2021, LMEpassport will be rolled out gradually over three years across those of the LME’s physically settled metals requiring certificates of analysis (CoAs). The principles for inclusion will be based on market support, specificity and the provision of adequate audit, or validation documentation.

In particular, the LME notes calls from the market for solutions allowing comparability between disclosures on two important topics: carbon footprint and recycled content. While the LMEpassport approach will facilitate disclosure under existing standards, its data model will capture both the quantitative data and the methodology used to calculate that data. This will then allow far easier comparison across metals brands.

The LME considers the rollout of LMEpassport to be a priority, as it will provide a centralized transparency source — the data from which will form the basis of future access to sustainable metals via the LME’s proposed online marketplace.

Additional Measures

Four new contracts will also be launched in 2021. These contracts will be designed to  provide pricing and access to metals that support the electric vehicle transition (lithium hydroxide) and the circular economy (U.S. scrap aluminum and regional steel scrap for India and Taiwan). According to the LME, there was broad market support for these contracts and for the decision to delay their launch to 2021 (given market conditions in light of the pandemic). However, some respondents were keen to see a greater focus on new contracts and efforts to support the circular economy.

The LME noted that it will continue to engage with its metals committees and other stakeholders on this topic and remains ready to provide additional tools to support the recycling agenda.

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