The World Economic Forum has launched an aluminum sector for its First Movers Coalition (FMC), a global initiative aimed at harnessing the purchasing power of companies to decarbonize the seven industrial sectors that currently account for 30% of global emissions, including aluminum.
“Technology has given us the tools to reduce our emissions and build a stronger and more inclusive economy of the future,” said Børge Brende, president of the World Economic Forum. “For innovators and investors to play their part in tackling the climate crisis, they need clear market demand. The First Movers Coalition will leverage the collective purchasing power of leading companies and drive the need for these technologies. I call on business leaders to work with us and be the role models keeping our climate goals alive.”
The aluminum industry as a whole is responsible for 2% of the world’s man-made GHG emissions and emits more than 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide. This hefty carbon footprint is mainly due to the electricity required to produce primary aluminum. As demand for aluminum continues to grow as an enabler of the mobility, energy, and the circular economy transition, addressing the environmental impact of aluminum is a factor that needs to be addressed.
Founding members of the FMC’s aluminum sector include Novelis, Ball Corporation, Trafigura, Ford Motor Company, Volvo Group, and Apple. Companies participating in the aluminum sector agree that, by 2030, they will set a target that at least 10% of the annual primary aluminum they purchase either meets or exceeds the FMC definition for low-CO2 primary aluminum. Optionally, purchasers can also commit to ensuring that at least 50% of all aluminum procured annually is sourced from secondary aluminum by 2030.
Another key element of the FMC’s goals for aluminum is the deployment of breakthrough technologies — such as inert anodes, mechanical vapor compression, and green hydrogen — to reduce direct emissions in primary aluminum production. This is needed to deliver a net-zero aluminum sector by 2050.
“Aluminum has the potential to reach a near zero-carbon footprint, but it requires investment in clean energy and taking some risks to move the industry forward,” said Steve Fisher, president and CEO, Novelis. “Partnerships like the First Movers Coalition can spur those investments by supporting an emerging market for developing technologies. Novelis welcomes the opportunity to join FMC and accelerate innovation in our industry.”
The goals of the FMC are also in line with Ball’s 2030 circularity vision for the aluminum beverage packaging industry, through which the company aims to achieve 85% recycled content. “We know that in order to achieve the deep decarbonization needed, it will require new and more effective ways of collaboration and transformation across the value chain,” said Ron Lewis, chief operating officer, Global Beverage Packaging, Ball Corporation. “We believe that a faster decarbonization pathway for aluminum beverage packaging is possible when we combine corporate commitments, government policies like Extended Producer Responsibility and Deposit Return Systems, and innovative technologies in the primary aluminum supply chain.”
For Ford, joining the FMC is in alignment with its plan to achieve carbon neutrality globally across its vehicles, operations, and supply chain by no later than 2050. “Reducing emissions to carbon neutral by 2050 is possible if we invest in the right technologies and bring them to scale within the next decade,” said Sue Slaughter, director of Supply Chain Sustainability at Ford. “By joining the First Movers Coalition, Ford is signaling to the market that we want to work with our suppliers to achieve commercially viable green steel and aluminum. The intent and significance of our commitment today has the potential to help build the net-zero economy.”
Ford already recycles up to 20 million lbs of aluminum each month at its Dearborn Stamping, Kentucky Truck, and Buffalo Stamping facilities. In addition, the company plans to invest more than $50 billion globally from 2022 through 2026 to develop electric vehicles and the batteries that power them. These initiatives support Ford’s efforts in growing its supply chain in a sustainable manor.
Considering that a number of technologies that are in early development, demonstration, or prototype phases will be key to achieving the emission reductions needed to reach the 2050 climate goals, Volvo joined the FMC with the aim of supporting the commercialization of these emerging decarbonization technologies.
“The Volvo Group believes in the force of partnership with a clear aim – to rapidly introduce and implement best-in-class low carbon technology throughout industry verticals,” said Martin Lundstedt, president and CEO of Volvo Group. “Together we are strong enough to really make a difference and we are increasing our efforts, both ourselves, but also with partners to accelerate the shift into a path that aims to deliver the goals in the Paris agreement.”
Meanwhile, Apple has committed to lowering its emissions, with the goal of becoming a carbon-neutral company by 2030. To that end, the company has invested in the Elysis inert anode technology, which is said to produce oxygen instead of greenhouse gases (GHGs) during the smelting process. Apple plans to use aluminum produced using this near-zero carbon technology in its products.