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Sustainable aluminium: What else?

This Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) has now started to pilot its assurance platform ahead of launching the certification scheme.

The founder members of ASI first set out their aspirations in 2009 and the development of the ASI Standard started in 2012. In the intervening years, aluminium producers and processors have devised new ways of differentiating their sustainable aluminium. Brands of aluminium with guaranteed high recycled content, or made using renewable electricity, have gained prominence in the market place. 

So what does the future hold for the ASI certification scheme?   Membership of the ASI is growing. The seventeen production and transformation members are committed to getting a minimum level of certification within two years. The eight industrial user members will be expected to buy ASI compliant aluminium when available, so that should ensure a good start. 

However all new sustainability schemes face barriers to gaining traction in the market place. ASI is unlikely to be immune from the high audit and administration costs which are associated with these schemes. In addition, ASI insists that only members can become certified. Membership costs are related to company turnover, not certification scope, so big companies are obliged to pay high fees, regardless of the number of sites certified. Membership costs are on top of audit fees.

Upstream members will ask themselves if they will be able to recoup these costs with higher prices for sustainably produced aluminium.  Casthouses can sell ASI credits separately from physical material as soon as they and their upstream supply chain are certified. Companies integrated from bauxite mining to casting can reach that position quickly. Some non-integrated companies could get there equally quickly by using post consumer scrap, which is immediately ASI compliant.  The price of ASI credits is likely to be the first indicator of any enhanced value that ASI compliant aluminium has in the market place. 

It isn’t just cost though that is affecting the popularity of sustainability schemes. NGOs and consumers are accusing some schemes of being too influenced by producers and processors and not acting quickly enough to expel those who break the rules.  Others are not achieving enough uptake to make a difference.

To achieve maximum uptake, and hence impact, sustainability schemes need brand visibility so that environmentally conscious consumers can choose their products in the shops.  The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo with its tree and tick, as seen on a wide range of paper and wood products, is probably the most recognisable logo of any sustainability scheme.  Its success is an inspiration to others. However, international brands realise that sustainability schemes become famous by association with their brands.  Some companies are relegating their involvement with sustainability schemes to the CSR pages of their website, which is disappointing. So, while the launch of the ASI scheme will be a success, to ensure it keeps growing, consumers need to see the logo on well-known cars, cans and coffee capsules.

Please contact us if you would like to know more about implementing the ASI Standards and certification scheme.

 

This article was updated on 22 August

Published: 10 May 17

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