Alcoa reports highlight sustainable production

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Packaging giant Alcoa has published five regional sustainability
reports for Australia, Jamaica, Suriname, Brazil and Primary Metals
Canada, which it believes shows that the group is environmentally
on message.

"We are building a family of reports capable of explaining the regional significance of the economic, social and environmental contribution Alcoa makes in the major areas of our operations,"​ said chairman Alain Belda. "We are integrating these reports into our website so that they can be read in the full context of Alcoa's economic, social, and environmental activities worldwide."

The release of the reports comes at a time when manufacturers and big business are coming under increasing pressure to improve their environmental records. Indeed, there is now real regulatory pressure on companies to improve their environmental performance. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), which comes into force on 1 January 2005, is one of many policies being introduced across Europe to tackle emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and combat the serious threat of climate change.

The Alcoa group, which has operations in every continent, believes that significant environmental advances have been made. In Australia for example, the on-site GHG emission intensity of Alcoa's two Victorian smelters was at an all-time low by the end of 2003 - more than 9 per cent below 2000 and more than 61 per cent below 1990.

In a year of record production, total direct emissions in 2003 were more than 58 per cent below 1990 while indirect emissions associated with electricity used increased 4.3 per cent - about half the 8 per cent increase in production.

The company, which is the world's largest producer of aluminium and a major producer of plastic packaging, also claims that it contributed more than $5 million last year to a wide range of partnerships, sponsorships, community projects and events, with nearly $1 million of those funds coming from Alcoa Foundation.

And last year in Jamaica, Alcoa subsidiary Jamalco earned seven awards or recognitions from the Ministry of Mining including the Ministry's Shield for the best safety improvement in mining operations and the Minister's Cup for the best safety record in mining operations. Alcoa claims that the division has continued its efforts to reduce the magnitude of the top 10 noise sources and chemical hazards that exceed Alcoa standards.

In Suriname, the International Aluminium Institute recognised subsidiary Suralco in 2003 for being the safest refinery and one of the five safest mining operations in the world. The division has reduced total waste to an onsite landfill by 70 per cent in the last four years, and the amount of process water usage was reduced by 34.8 per cent since 2000. The forth sustainability report, which covered Primary Metals Canada, claimed that total greenhouse gas emissions dropped 6.1 per cent from 2001, despite the fact that 3.6 per cent more aluminium was produced.

Finally, the Brazil report highlights the company's alliance with packaging firms Tetra Pak, Klabin and TSL to develop a new plant for recycling Tetra Pak's long-life packaging, a sterilised type of packaging used to protect and extend the shelf life of food and drinks. Alcoa subsidiary Aluminio will acquire 100 per cent of the recycled aluminium.

Alcoa​ says that its involvement in the project is very much in line with its long-term strategy of eliminating waste and increasing aluminium recycling rates. The company has made a number of pledges to improve its performance, including a 25 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 and, assuming success with the inert anode technology, a 50 per cent reduction by 2010.

In addition, the firm plans to implement effective environmental management systems, such as ISO 14001, at all locations by 2005 and achieve $100 million annual environmental and energy cost savings by 2006 through elimination of wastes and design for sustainability.

In many ways, Alcoa is typical of the way in which packaging and processing companies are beginning to highlight the environmental improvements that they have made. Certainly, if they don't, then pressure groups and government regulators will hammer them.

A recent survey from Logica shows just how far some manufacturers have to go. In an examination of corporate awareness of the forthcoming ETS legislation in Europe, it found that levels of knowledge of the scheme were worrying low.

Across the continent, only one third were found to be very well informed, slightly higher in Germany and Spain, and three out of every 10 companies admitted to being poorly informed.

These levels indicate a significant lack of in-depth knowledge for a scheme with such far-reaching impact, just a few months away from its intended start date.

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