Rio Tinto is the first company in the world to receive Performance Standard certifications under the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI), a global program designed to ensure environmental, social, and governance standards are increasingly embedded in aluminum production, use and recycling. This follows an independent third party audit performed by BNQ (Bureau de Normalisation du Québec), which was the first ASI accredited auditing firm. The certification covers a range of operations across the aluminum value chain.
“Rio Tinto is proud to take this pioneering step as the first company to achieve ASI certification, which continues our industry leadership on sustainability and responsible production as we work closely with customers to meet their needs,” said Alf Barrios, chief executive of Rio Tinto Aluminium. “We launched the first certified low carbon aluminium, RenewAl™, in 2016 and produce some of the best quality, lowest carbon footprint aluminium in the world at our Canadian smelters.”
Five of Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelters and associated casting, recycling, spent potlining treatment centers, and infrastructure facilities (such as power, port and railway facilities) in Quebec, Canada have been certified, as well as the Vaudreuil refinery in Quebec and the Gove bauxite mine in the Northern Territory, Australia. The ASI certification signifies that the practices at these sites meet the industry’s highest standards. In 2017, the smelters produced a combined 1.1 million tonnes of aluminium, around a third of Canada’s production, and the bauxite mine in Gove produced some 11 million tonnes of bauxite. The company is currently working on audits and ASI certifications for other sites in its global aluminum business.
“As a founding member of ASI, Rio Tinto has helped to drive responsible production standards for the aluminium industry alongside customers and a broad range of stakeholders,” said Tolga Egrilmezer, Rio Tinto Aluminium vice president sales and marketing and ASI Board member. “We expect to see growing demand for ASI certified products from end users and customers seeking to demonstrate a responsible supply chain.”
With the aim of maximizing aluminum’s contribution to a sustainable society, the recently launched ASI Certification program was developed through an extensive multi-stakeholder consultation process with a broad range of aluminum manufacturers, OEMs in the automotive and other industries, associations, and civil society groups. It is currently the only comprehensive voluntary sustainability standard initiative for the aluminium value chain.
“The development of the ASI has taken many years of commitment and hard work by many parties, and these first certifications are an important milestone, pioneering the adoption of these new standards and leading the way for the entire industry,” said Daniel Weston, head of Legal and Corporate Affairs at Nespresso and chair of the board of ASI.
The process to achieve certification is as follows, with the certification workflow for both the ASI Performance Standard and Chain of Custody Standard managed through elementAl, ASI’s custom-built online assurance platform. First, the prospective company uses elementAl’s user-oriented interface and workflow support during the initial self-assessment phase. The company can then make their relevant elementAl information accessible to their chosen auditor, which uses elementAl to support audit planning, on-site verification, and reporting. ASI reviews the submitted audit reports for conformity with its assurance procedures as a final control, before the certification approval and certificate(s) are issued.
Full ASI certification is valid for three years, usually with a surveillance audit at approximately 18 months.
“ASI is delighted to be recognizing these historic first ASI certifications achieved by Rio Tinto,” said Fiona Solomon, chief executive officer of ASI. “They demonstrate that ASI’s program has successfully transitioned to implementation. The ultimate value of ASI lies in broad uptake throughout the aluminium value chain, and we are poised to increase momentum in both membership growth and certifications during 2018.”
Rio Tinto expects that the ASI Certification of its Quebec operations will enable manufacturers of consumer products to implement a responsible sourcing strategy — such as automakers who want to use low-carbon aluminium to reduce the footprint of their supply chain and improve vehicle fuel economy, bicycle makers whose customers want to be sure their bikes are made in as sustainable a way as possible, and even coffee companies like Nespresso whose coffee pods are made of aluminium.
“We expect responsible aluminium production will become increasingly important for our customers and the consumers who buy their products,” said Barrios. “Responsibly produced aluminium has a key role to play in driving human progress, as a material of choice to reduce carbon and increase recycling across a wide range of end products from food packaging to buildings, planes, cars, mobile phones and computers.”
Josef Schön, Audi AG senior manager strategic corporate planning and sustainability, agreed that sustainable sourcing of materials like aluminum is becoming more important to industry. “Being a pioneer in automotive lightweight construction, aluminium has always been of great importance for Audi, and with the transition to electric cars, it will gain even higher relevance,” said Schön. “To ensure that aluminium is produced in the most sustainable way, we engaged ourselves in ASI from the beginning. Audi is therefore very pleased the first upstream ASI members, like Rio Tinto, are now implementing the standard in the real world. We are sure this will encourage others to follow, having a measurable social and environmental impact and creating further momentum for sustainability.”