Rio Tinto’s BC Works has joined a list of international aluminium producers who have been awarded one of the industry’s highest certifications available.
Both the smelter in Kitimat and the power generation facility in Kemano were certified by the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI), meeting the highest internationally recognized standards for environmental, social and governance practices in the process of manufacturing their aluminium.
“There is a growing market for transparency and assurance in supply chains of raw materials, including metals,” said Rio Tinto BC Works spokesperson Kevin Dobbin.
“Certification demonstrates our commitment to good social and environmental practice, and importantly it makes good commercial sense.”
He said companies are assessed on their commitment to protecting biodiversity, respecting indigenous peoples’ rights, water management, prevention of waste and low-carbon emissions production.
He said the benefits of certification include strengthening the industry’s reputation and ensuring it has a sustainable future, increasing consumer awareness of sustainable sourcing, creating market differentiation for their products and sharing best practices.
All of Rio Tinto’s aluminium operations in Canada are now ASI certified, along with five of the world’s 10 biggest aluminium producers who are collectively responsible for producing about 33 million metric tons of aluminium.
The certification at BC Works was lead by Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) business partner Melissa Winks and BC Works’ Health, Safety, Environment and Communications (HSEC) teams.
The audit and certification were conducted by the Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ), which is accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) and by ASI.
The BNQ team that audited BC Works underwent compulsory ASI training on their standards and assurance model in December 2017.
Other sites that have been accredited include five smelters in Quebec, refineries, recycling centres, port and railway facilities and the company’s Gove bauxite mine in the Northern Territory, Australia.
Rio Tinto has previously received the Chain of Custody certification which provides independent verification that material can be traced through a supply chain from bauxite mining to alumina refining, aluminium smelting and casting.
“The global marketplace is progressively becoming driven by the increasingly essential need to be able to show the sustainable origins of products at all points of the value chain,” said Dobbin.
Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Alf Barrios said producing ASI Certified Aluminium is a response to the increasing demand from end consumers for responsibly sourced products.
“This is an essential step to unlock the full potential of aluminium as a key material in our modern world and grow its use in everything from phones to cars and buildings.”
The news of the accreditation follows an announcement in November last year by coffee capsule producer Nespresso that it will become the first company to use ASI certified aluminium supplied by Rio Tinto.
“The two companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together with Nespresso’s capsule manufacturers to fulfil a commitment of sourcing 100 per cent sustainable aluminium by 2020,” said Nespresso in a statement.
This is the first time that a company has committed to using ASI-certified aluminium, which only Rio Tinto can currently supply.
Normally, Nespresso does not buy directly from Rio Tinto – there are several companies managing the stages of production between the aluminium slabs Rio Tinto produces and the finished capsules Nespresso sells.
Nespresso capsules require a specific alloy of aluminium. The availability of this alloy in recycled aluminium is very low – in fact one of the only sources is from recycled Nespresso capsules.
“Where possible and where it makes sense for the environment, Nespresso recycles its capsules to make new ones,” says the company.
Coffee capsule manufacturers have faced ongoing criticism for the effect that discarded non-biodegradable capsules have on the environment.
Nespresso maintains that the supply of ASI certified aluminium from Rio Tinto is important for the company “so that customers can know their products are being sustainably sourced.”
Nespresso expects this aluminium will be used to manufacture capsules within the next 12 months.