201 Isabella Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212-5858, United States
E : Jim.Beck@alcoa.com (Corporate)
- Dow Jones Sustainability Index (World and North America)
- Gold Supplier-Supply Chain Management -EcoVadis
- 95 score on the Corporate Equality Index 2019
CHIEF SUSTAINABILITY OFFICER
Rosa M. Garcia Piñero
Society for Ecological Restoration International’s Model Project Award
Alcoa is a global aluminum supplier and its product portfolio includes Bauxite, Alumina and Aluminum.
Alcoa has ownership in seven active bauxite mines globally and operates four of them, making them among the largest bauxite producers in the world. They have access to large bauxite deposits with mining rights that extend in most cases more than 20 years. Their global network is strategically located near key Atlantic and Pacific markets. It includes the Huntly mine in Australia, the second largest bauxite mine in the world.
Alcoa offers bauxite from its mines to meet customer-specific needs and provide a consistent, reliable, and sustainable supply of raw material for refineries around the globe.
They are leaders not only in technology for reducing the cost of mining bauxite, but in solutions for restoring the land once mining operations are complete. As an award-winning environmental leader, their strategy for rehabilitation is to restore the land to a stable condition that will be consistent with the aesthetic, environmental, economic, and social values of the surrounding community. In Western Australia, for example, where they mine in the world’s only Jarrah Forest, they first achieved their target of returning 100 percent species richness to mined areas in 2001, and received the Society for Ecological Restoration International’s Model Project Award (view video to learn more). At their Juruti mine in the Amazon rainforest, they are applying an innovative and award-winning reforestation approach called nucleation that cuts recovery time in half.
Alcoa is the world’s leading producer of alumina. With installed refinery capacity of 17 million metric tons per year, they currently operate six refineries in Australia, Brazil and Spain, and have a 25 percent share in the refinery that is part of their Ma’aden joint venture in Saudi Arabia. Their three-refinery operation in Western Australia is the world’s biggest single source of alumina, able to supply eight percent of the global market.
In addition to supplying alumina to their own smelters, they sell more than half of their production externally. They provide smelter grade alumina to aluminum manufacturers worldwide, with operations strategically located for access to growing markets in Asia and the Middle East. They also produce non-metallurgical grade alumina for sale to industrial chemical operations in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia.
For nearly 50 years, their Australia-based Center of Excellence has been developing innovative equipment and processes for cleaner, more efficient alumina production. Technology developed by this group of scientific, engineering, chemistry and support staff has steadily increased their system-wide capacity by the equivalent of a new refinery over the past decade without greenfield development. In addition, Alcoa refineries have led the way in ISO9001 and ISO14001 certifications for quality and environmental performance.
Alcoa’s Aluminum segment includes aluminum smelting, casting, and rolling, along with the majority of the energy assets.
- Cast Products
They demonstrate leading technology and innovation with their differentiated, sustainable array of aluminum cast products for end-market customers. Their global casthouse network produces billet, foundry, rod and slab products in North America and Europe that are alloyed and cast into specific shapes to meet customer demand in the automotive, building and construction, electrical, industrial and transportation markets.
Their rolled products serve the North American can sheet market with two mills, one located in the U.S. and the other in Saudi Arabia. This business provides flat-rolled aluminum for beverage and food cans, including body, tab and end stock, as well as sheet for closures, aluminum bottles, industrial products and lithographic applications.
Their energy portfolio includes assets in North America and partnerships in Brazil and Suriname.
Company Sustainable Activity
They have three main missions:
- Creating Sustainable Value
Alcoa actively participates in every community in which it operates around the world. It wants these communities to thrive, and views their presence as an opportunity to help develop economic activity, environmental practices and social programs that will stay in place after their role ends.
- Enhancing Product Value
Inherently sustainable, aluminum helps Alcoa’s customers address the world’s challenges and capture the opportunities they present. Aluminum enables:
- safer and more energy-efficient buildings;
- more fuel-efficient cars, trucks and airplanes;
- sustainable food and beverage packaging;
And it is also infinitely recyclable.
- Improving Their Footprint
The company’s strategic 2025 and 2030 goals guide its footprint-reducing efforts. Alcoa has a special focus on biodiversity conservation, with an ambitious goal for mine rehabilitation.
Environment, health and safety (EHS) are the cornerstones of Alcoa’s sustainability commitment. Innovative programs in EHS have made them leaders in emissions and energy management, resource conservation, mine rehabilitation and workplace safety.
- Approximately 73% of the electricity consumed by their smelters was from renewable sources
- 0,1% decline in net water consumption
- US$ 6million in Alcoa Foundation community investments
- 9,999 employee volunteer hours in the community
- 15.5%of their global employees were women
- 6% reduction in bauxite residue land requirements per 1,000 metric tons of alumina produced since the 2015 baseline
- 0.4% increase in carbon dioxide equivalent emissions
- 7.7% increase in landfilled waste
The foundation invests where Alcoa has a presence, partnering with communities to address local needs in a sustainable manner. With its nonprofit partners, it contributes to environmental excellence, economic success and social responsibility around the globe. It primarily focuses on funding in two key areas:
- Promoting the prevention of, and resilience to, climate change from human activity
- the restoration and preservation of biodiversity.
GOALS IN 2020
Their performance is driven by—and measured against—the following strategic long-term goals:
- Emissions and Energy
Align their GHG (direct + indirect) emissions reduction targets with the below 2°C decarbonization path by reducing GHG emission intensity by 30 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030 from a 2015 baseline.
From a 2015 baseline, reduce the intensity of their total water use from Alcoa-defined water-scarce locations by 5 percent by 2025 and 10 percent by 2030.
From a 2015 baseline, reduce landfilled waste by 15 percent by 2025 and 25 percent by 2030.
- Bauxite Residue
From a 2015 baseline, to reduce bauxite residue land requirements per metric ton of alumina produced by 15 percent by 2030.
- Mine Rehabilitation
To maintain a corporate-wide running five-year average ratio of 1:1 or better for active mining disturbance (excluding long-term infrastructure) to mine rehabilitation.
- Health and Safety
Zero fatalities and serious injuries (life-threatening or life-altering injuries and illnesses)
- ISO 9001
- ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management Systems standard (80% of their operating plants)
- ISO 50001
- ASI’s Performance Standards (Aluminum Stewardship Initiative) for 10 Alcoa Locations
Sustainable Development Goals
How company covers SDGs
According to the company, here are all there commitments regarding SDGs:
SDG12: RECYCLING & EMISIONS
Aluminum can be recycled infinitely without losing its properties, making it the sustainable choice in many of the markets we serve.
According to the International Aluminium Institute’sanalysis, approximately 75 percent of all primary aluminum ever produced is still in productive use due to its strength, product life and recyclability. Producing primary aluminum from recycled content consumes about 5 percent of the energy required to make virgin aluminum and avoids up to 95 percent of the energy-related emissions.
We recycle aluminum in our casting and rolling operations, using both internal and purchased scrap. We also have closed-loop processes in place with customers, where aluminum scrap from their operations is returned to us for reuse. The recycled content excludes all internally generated scrap and re-melted primary ingot.
In our primary aluminum casthouses, we use purchased third-party and closed-loop scrap to produce our ECODURATM billet. Part of our SUSTANATM line of aluminum products, ECODURATM billet has minimum of 50 percent pre-consumer, post-industrial recycled content, not including internal scrap or primary remelt, and is produced with up to 95 percent less energy than virgin aluminum.
In 2019, we consumed 167,000 metric tons of aluminum scrap in our global operations. The decline of 61 percent from prior year was due to the planned cessation of a portion of our tolling business and the divestiture of two minor assets.
Our ongoing focus on increasing the recycled content in the flat-rolled aluminum produced at our Warrick Operations in the United States resulted in 34.5 percent recycled content in 2019 compared to 30.4 percent in 2018. We again anticipate increasing this amount due to equipment upgrades and other initiatives that will continue through 2020.
In addition to recycling aluminum scrap, we actively seek to recycle or reuse our secondary materials. See the Waste and Spills section for additional information.
Our recycling efforts extend beyond our own operations to include partnerships with established recycling initiatives. In the United States, Alcoa Foundation continues to engage with The Recycling Partnership through financial support and representation on the organization’s board of directors. The organization uses public-private partnerships to improve recycling at the local level.
The foundation’s three-year commitment to The Recycling Partnership’s All In On Recycling Challenge helped support numerous projects, including the program’s expansion to more than 38,000 households in central Ohio during 2019. A before and after study to measure the capture of recyclables within these households showed a 111 percent increase in aluminum and a 22 percent increase in PET bottles.
With Alcoa Foundation and Alcoa Corporation support, The Recycling Partnership has expanded its reach to 390 additional communities across the United States, bringing its cumulative total to more than 1,500 communities. Its work in 2019 eliminated an estimated 76,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, saved 519,000 cubic meters (137 million gallons) of water and collected more than 33,264 metric tons of recyclables.
To manage our air emissions, we develop internal standards that are designed to meet or exceed all applicable emissions and air-quality regulations.
The manufacturing process at an Alcoa location determines the types of air emissions. Most sulfur dioxide and fluoride emissions come from our smelting operations, while our refineries account for the majority of our mercury emissions. Greenhouse gases are emitted from both our smeltingandrefiningoperations.
We have industry-leading capability on controlling mercury emissions in the alumina refining process. We developed two primary mercury emission- reduction technologies in collaboration with leading academics and experts in the field. The development of the technologies was also guided by mercury mass balances that we conducted at all of our refineries to account for mercury entering and leaving the system.
The first technology condenses elemental mercury from gas streams, allowing controlled separation and safe disposal. The second technology, which stabilize the mercury through sections of the process where it could otherwise be emitted. We apply our knowledge and these technologies at all of our locations to reduce the emissions of mercury to the environment.
We continue to work with our locations to minimize releases of all emissions in a cost-effective manner, especially where global environmental challenges are guiding us to expedite actions necessary to reduce our environmental impacts.
SDG 3/4/5/6/8/17: Shared Value Creation
One of the three pillars of our sustainability strategy is to create sustainable value for the communities where we operate.
A key component of this pillar is stimulating economic activity at the local and regional levels to enable improved quality of life for our employees and neighbors. We do this by providing stable, fair-paying jobs, procuring goods and services from local suppliers when possible, paying income and other taxes, and investing in community infrastructure and initiatives.
Guiding our value-creation efforts with local and regional stakeholders are our Values, Ethics and Compliance Program and Human Rights Policy. These are also the foundation of our efforts to provide a higher quality of life and well-being for our employees, professional development opportunities and a work environment that is inclusive and shaped by industry-leading health and safety programs.
Our long-term goal for sustainable value creation is to reassess the implementation of key stakeholder engagement tools by 2020 and define shared value creation opportunities to be implemented by 2025 and 2030. We advanced this goal in 2019 through the following initiatives:
- After deploying the enhanced Alcoa Stakeholder Engagement Framework in 2018, we decided to further our understanding of changing community expectations in our operations
in Western Australia through a stakeholder perception survey. (See the Stakeholder and Community Engagement section for details.)
- We fully deployed a new Global Supplier Sustainability Program with a more robust due diligence process to reduce our supply chain risk. We also joined forces with other companies in Brazil to develop a supplier base to increase local procurement activities and contribute to economic development. (See the Supply Chainsection.)
- We published a new Human Rights Policy aligned with the United Nations Principles for Business and Human Rights and the International Labor Organization Core Conventions. We also performed human rights due diligence in Australia and Brazil and human rights risks assessments in Canada, Spain and Norway. (See the Human Rights section.)
Sharing the value created by our presence helps communities thrive and earns us access to the resources we require to manufacture our products.
To continue creating shared value, we have reviewed our long-term goal for this area and have committed to implementing a comprehensive social management system across our locations by 2022. This will allow us to define metrics and measure progress in a range of socio-economic indicators that are relevant to interactions with our hosting communities.
Mining Partnerships for Development
Our locations and Alcoa Foundation partner with numerous non-governmental and community-based organizations on social, environmental and economic development activities in our host communities.
In Brazil, for example, Alcoa Foundation has partnered with Centro de Empreendedorismo da Amazônia to create an entrepreneurship training program for youth and young adults in the Juruti region. The three-year program aims to awaken and support the development of sustainable business ideas with a focus on forestry, biodiversity, agroforestry, sustainable agriculture, fishing and more.
The Alcoa Sustainable Communities Funds invests C$1 million each year in Canada for projects in the Baie- Comeau, Bécancour and Deschambault-Grondines/ Portneuf regions in the province of Québec. A unique governance structure fully engages the communities, and funded projects begin with ideas submitted through citizen forums. Each regional sustainable development committee prioritizes these ideas, which are implemented by citizens, municipalities and local organizations from each community. Since its creation in 2011, the fund has supported nearly 100 projects and invested approximately C$8 million.
SDG 5/8/10/16: Human Rights
At Alcoa, values have always been the foundation of our company. They govern the way we act, operate and interact with our customers, suppliers, communities and each other. Respect for human rights and the interests, cultures, customs and values of employees and communities is embedded in that foundation.
Our commitment to support the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rightsand the International Labour Organization Core Conventions are included in our new Human Rights Policy, which we published in early 2019. We strive to ensure this commitment is exemplified by our actions and those of each employee, supplier and business partner. Upon notification of any potential violations to our policy, we act quickly and decisively.
Our Human Rights Policy operates in conjunction with the following:
- The Alcoa Code of Conduct and our employee training, both of which cover human rights;
- Our Supplier Standards, which explicitly indicate respect of human rights;
- Internal and third-party supplier assessment programs for new and existing suppliers (see the Supply Chain section);
- Our Equal Employment Opportunity Policy;
- Our Harassment and Bullying Free Workplace
- Our Integrity Line for employees, suppliers and
the general public to report potential violations.
Diversity, Inclusion and Employee Experience
We seek to provide a trusting workplace that is safe, respectful and inclusive of all individuals and that reflects the diversity of the communities in which we operate.
Whether on the shop floor or in our offices, the intent of equality, diversity and inclusion is to ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities and fair treatment while feeling valued and accepted. This is the foundation for an everyone culture, where employees feel empowered to build solutions through coaching and collaboration.
Our primary focus is to move from aspirations to intentional actions that are impactful in advancing diversity, inclusion and equity. Recognizing this will be a multi-year journey, our key focus areas are diversifying our applicant pool, diversifying hiring and promotions, and improving our employee experience to retain diverse employees. We will measure our success through the percentage of diverse applicants, hires, promotions and retained employees.
The most impactful actions are those that influence decisions at the local level. In 2019, our locations embarked on a variety of promising practices:
- Intalco Operations in Bellingham, Washington, USA: The location launched a Women in Operations video aimed at diversifying the talent pool by showcasing the range of roles women hold, from accounting to engineering and production. The video had more than 18,000 views by the end of 2019, with the location experiencing a 15 percent increase in the number of job offers to women.
- Willowdale mine in Western Australia:Limited opportunities for hiring made diversifying the mine’s workforce challenging until the location explored employee interest in job sharing. This arrangement was ideal for some employees transitioning to retirement and others who preferred part-time work.
- Alcoa Corporate in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA: Diversifying the legal profession has not only been a challenge in our company but also in the city of Pittsburgh. We joined 40 local organizations to learn from each other and pool resources to increase the hiring, retention and inclusion of diverse legal professionals.
- Alcoa Fjarðaál in Iceland: The location took a unique approach to addressing the #MeToo movement by holding gender-based meetings for all employees to discuss what makes a good workplace culture. The meetings resulted in a covenant among employees to individually commit to a good workplace culture within Alcoa Fjarðaál. In addition, the location co-hosted an external conference on gender equality in the workplace in East Iceland.
- Alcoa Australia: Impacting job satisfaction, recruitment, development and retention of women, additional employees pledged to be Catalysts for Change to promote the development of women, build networks, advocate for change and showcase the successes of women.
- Alcoa Brazil: Our operations in Brazil created an Executive Committee on Diversity, which brought governance and diversity initiatives to all sites in 2019. The sites conducted 11 workshops and panels involving approximately 700 employees, presented four videos on gender and LGBT+ inclusion, and distributed 15 internal and external communications that included emails and social media posts.
We are not only working to improve our equity but also our transparency. In 2019, we conducted our first global pay equity analysis for our salaried employees following best practice methodology with third-party analysis. In both measurements, parity is considered when the result is within 3 percentage points. Key findings include:
- We have a 2 percent gender pay gap within specific pay band categories. This means women earn 98 percent of what men make in the same pay bands.
- Our overall gender pay gap is 18 percent, with women earning 82 percent of what men earn when all salaried positions are compared globally. This gap reflects the lower representation of women in the top pay bands. The overall gender pay gap is slightly less when looking more narrowly at our job band reporting groups:
- 11 percent (favors men)
- Professional: 14 percent (favors men)
- Support: -14 percent (favors women)
We are commited to achieving gender balance across Alcoa and are working to address any exceptions and processes that have contributed to our 2 percent gap in specific pay band categories. We are also focused on defining long-term intentional actions to improve overall equity in earnings.
Our annual incentive compensation is linked to our leaders’ diversity performance and calculated based on permanent, apprentice and graduate employees. Casual or limited-term workers and employees on long-term leave are excluded.
The 2019 target, which represented 10 percent of the incentive compensation formula, was to increase the percentage of our workforce that is female by 0.8 percentage points. While we fell short of the target by 0.4 percentage points, we did improve by 0.4 percentage points during the year.
SDG 3/8: Safet & Health
Our aspiration is to work safely, all of the time, everywhere. We attend to health and safety before any other priorities, putting the protection of human life above all else. Underscoring our commitment is our Care for People Value.
Our work can be hazardous and involves many types of operations. It is imperative that we have a pervasive health and safety culture and strong systems that equip our people with the skills, knowledge, controls and protection they require to avoid injuries and illnesses and, most importantly, fatalities.
Each day, we strive for what we believe is the ambitious yet attainable goal of zero fatalities and zero life-threatening or life-altering injuries and illnesses.
SDG 9/12/13: Climate Protection
We have a strong history of leadership in reducing greenhouse gases in the aluminum industry.
Carbon dioxide represents most of our GHG emissions, with our smelters and refineries being the largest emitters. In 2019, our long-term goal was to reduce the intensity of our GHG footprint (direct and indirect emissions) from our smelting operations by 15 percent by 2025 and 20 percent by 2030 from a 2015 baseline. We achieved a 1.3 percent reduction from the baseline through 2019.
Our new goal, which will be implemented in 2020, is to align our GHG (direct + indirect) emission intensity reduction target with the below 2o C decarbonization path by reducing GHG emission intensity by 30 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030 from a 2015 baseline.
Our total 2019 carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions equaled 24.3 million metric tons, of which 17.7 million metric tons were direct emissions. This represents a 0.4 percent increase in total emissions and a 5.5 percent increase in intensity compared to 2018. The increase was primarily driven by continued instabilities at our Warrick and Intalco smelters, the restart of our Becancour smelter in Canada, and instabilities at our Portland smelter in Australia that were related to power outages.
Our Scope 3 (supply chain) emissions in 2019 were 39.6 million metric tons of CO for seven categories—purchased goods and services; fuels and energy-related activities; transportation and distribution (upstream); waste generated in operations; business travel; product transportation and distribution (downstream); and processing of intermediate products sold to customers. More than 86 percent of our Scope 3 emissions come from the last category and correspond to the transformation of alumina into aluminum by our customers.
We engaged DNV GL to provide limited third- party assurance on our 2019 carbon emissions data. The company’s limited assurance report is available in the Appendix.
Our climate strategy in 2019 encompassed five pillars that reflected our challenges and opportunities. Our strategy and performance again led to Alcoa being named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index during the year.
To better focus our efforts and prioritize our actions, our Executive Team commissioned a Climate Strategy Team in 2018. This cross-functional team of high-level employees reviewed our climate strategy during 2019 and introduced changes to address our current challenges and opportunities.
We maintain an auditable inventory of carbon emissions to monitor progress against targets and report transparently to our different stakeholders. We have developed carbon footprint calculations for most of our products to support the commercial opportunities for differentiation of low-carbon aluminum in the market and to help our customers reduce the carbon footprint of their own products.
Optimization of Energy Consumption and Carbon Credits Trading
The quantity of our GHG emissions is directly related to the type and amount of energy that we consume. We are working to increase our use of low-impact energy sources by incorporating carbon exposure costs in our economic models and also by improving the energy efficiency of our operations. A full discussion of our energy strategy can be found in the Energy section.
Countries around the world are moving at different speeds toward strengthening regulations for carbon emissions. Our experience with the carbon markets in Europe and Canada will inform our approach to future pricing mechanisms used to reduce carbon emissions.
We anticipate that Phase 4 of the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme, which covers the period 2021 to 2030, will have a direct impact on both our carbon and energy pricing. In the United States, the rollback of the Clean Power Plan will delay the potential impact for our coal- fired Warrick power plant in Indiana. In addition, legislative changes under consideration in the state of Washington
and the passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in New York in 2019 may have future impacts on our smelters in those states.
In March 2019, Australia updated the Safeguard Mechanism to move facilities onto emission-intensive baselines, encouraging energy efficiency and allowing efficient facilities to grow. We have been a long-time advocate of these changes and have been working with the federal government on the sections relevant to our industry.
Carbon Reduction in Operations and Technology Development
Through programs aimed at reducing specific GHG emissions, we made significant progress in reducing our carbon footprint. Curtailment or closure of facilities, some of which were among our highest emitters, also contributed to our emissions reductions.
To ensure our salaried managers and leaders remain engaged in this issue, we connected 5 percent of our 2019 annual incentive compensation to carbon dioxide emission reductions through process upgrades and improved energy efficiency. Due to a variety of plant instability issues, we achieved zero percent.
We continually evaluate the technological limits within our current operations, including our oldest smelters. With this information, we can evaluate new or existing technology- based solutions to help achieve our GHG reduction goals and also take us to the next level of reductions. The latest example of our efforts is the revolutionary ELYSISTM joint venture technology that eliminates all direct GHG emissions from the traditional smelting process. The process, which emits pure oxygen, is currently being ramped up to industrial-sized scale through additional development work, with a goal of offering commercial licenses in 2024.
Through the International Aluminium Institute and Alcoa Foundation, we partnered with the World Resources Institute to better understand the barriers associated with setting and attaining science-based targets in the aluminum sector.
SDG 9/12/13: Energy
Energy is a critical resource for Alcoa due to the energy-intensive nature of our refining and smelting processes.
Securing low-cost and competitively priced energy that has minimal environmental impact is a focal point of our energy strategy. We also work to reduce the amount of energy we consume through operational efficiency and technological advances, which lower our energy costs and GHG emissions.
Our energy intensity increased by 0.2 percent in 2019 compared to the prior year. Our overall energy consumption increased by 2.4 million gigajoules, or 0.7 percent, in the same period. Key factors behind the increases are the restart of the Becancour smelter and process instability at two locations.
For energy consumption, we use the Greenhouse Gas Protocol developed by the World Resources Institute and World Business Council for Sustainable Development to establish boundaries for our calculations and account for mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, startups, curtailments and closures of operating facilities. We report energy consumption based on management control and the location- based method as defined in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Guidelines and country-specific databases, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’sEmissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database, continue to serve as our source of data on the characteristics of electric power generation and heat content values for fuel sources.
SDG 2/15: Biodiveristy and Mine rehabilitation
We operate in a manner that aims to minimize our environmental impacts and promote sustainable land use. We are also working toward the goal of no net loss of biodiversity for new sites and major expansion projects.
We endorse biodiversity conservation, and we consider the mitigation hierarchy of avoidance, minimization, restoration and offsets during the lifecycle stages of our operations.
We respect legally designated protected areas, such as national parks and nature reserves, where strict nature conservation is the management objective. We also have committed to not explore, mine or operate in World Heritage sites.
Prior to commencing new construction projects or significantly expanding existing facilities, we conduct an environmental assessment to identify any potential impacts to biodiversity. This assessment uses techniques, procedures and information generally accepted by the international scientific community as leading practices.
We believe that our operations and biodiversity conservation can coexist on the same land, as we have successfully operated bauxite mines, alumina refineries and aluminum smelters within areas of high biodiversity value. When areas are disturbed by bauxite mining, we progressively rehabilitate the land to mitigate impacts and return it to either a native state or other sustainable use. When feasible, this includes efforts to reestablish to pre-operating conditions.
In 2019, we adopted a new corporate standard for biodiversity management that formalizes our long-standing commitment to biodiversity conservation. The standard requires each site to conduct an assessment and identification of material risks to biodiversity and to manage any identified risks through the implementation of a biodiversity action plan. For new sites and major expansions of existing sites, the standard sets an ambition of achieving no net loss of biodiversity.
Rehabilitation is a post-mining activity, but we begin planning for it as early as possible. This includes the very early stages of development for a new mine. When we inherit legacy obligations at sites that were mined long ago, we begin rehabilitation planning as soon as we recognize such an obligation.
We engage with stakeholders to develop a rehabilitation
plan to ensure the site can be returned to sustainable use. In many cases, we strive to return the land to its natural state, such as forests, wetlands and grasslands. Where appropriate and in concert with government or local communities,
our rehabilitation supports other productive land uses, including farming and residential, commercial or industrial developments.
We strive to lessen the impact of our mining operations by minimizing the environmental footprint for each mine.
This includes minimizing the land disturbed for mining and progressively rehabilitating disturbed areas that are no longer required for operations.
SDG 6/9/12/15:Tailings Management
We manage impoundment facilities at active, inactive and closed sites around the world to store primarily two types of material—bauxite mine tailings and bauxite residue. Both materials are referred to generically as tailings.
Bauxite mine tailings are mud-like residues that remain after bauxite is washed at the mine site. Bauxite residue, which is a byproduct of the alumina refining process, consists of mud, some residual caustic soda and, in some cases, a coarse sand fraction.
Our strategic long-term goal for bauxite residue addresses our biggest challenge—reduce bauxite residue land storage requirements per metric ton of alumina produced by 15 percent by 2030 from a 2015 baseline. This metric remained steady through 2019, although we expect to see continued improvement with residue filtration technology now fully operational at our Kwinana and Pinjarra refineries in Australia.
SDG 12/15: Waste and Spills
In line with the circular economy, we work to reduce or eliminate waste in our operations and keep resources in use for as long as possible.
We first focus on reducing waste generation at the source. We then work to increase reuse and recycling and manage materials in an environmentally protective manner.
Our waste management hierarchy consists of the following:
- Source reduction: Reduce the volume
or toxicity of waste at the source through changes in industrial processes, material substitution, segregation practices, maintenance activities and more sustainable procurement practices.
- Reuse: Reuse the waste or industrial byproduct onsite or offsite for its original purpose or for another beneficial purpose.
- Recycling/composting: Recover value and resources from wastes.
- Energy recovery: Recover heat value from wastes.
- Treatment/disposal: Reduce the volume, toxicity or other hazardous characteristics of wastes prior to disposal or discharge. Disposal is the least preferred option for waste management.
In 2019, we updated our waste management standard and communicated the requirements to all locations. These requirements include a site waste management plan; an inventory of all waste streams generated onsite; onsite waste storage areas that meet all local regulatory requirements; a comprehensive waste training program; and tracking of non-hazardous and hazardous waste metrics.
Our landfilled waste increased 7.7 percent in 2019 compared to prior year. This was primarily due to:
- The landfill of demolition material from our former Poços de Caldas smelter in Brazil. This accounted for approximately 15 percent of the increase in landfilled waste;
- Materials generated from significant housekeeping and maintenance-related activities, including high-impurity alumina and carbon stockpile removal, dredging and sludge removal; and
- An increase in spent pot lining sent to the landfill due to supply chain disruption.
Our landfilled waste data excludes certain streams, such as bauxite residue, refining process waste and fly ash. We manage these particular materials separately with onsite storage or impoundment areas and do not send these materials to landfills. Overburden and rock generated from our mining activities, which are also not included in the data, are not considered waste because the materials are used for mine rehabilitation.
In 2019, we revised our long-term waste goal to focus on landfilled waste rather than by-product materials. This was due to a desire to emphasize waste reduction at the source and move from disposal to other options, including reduction, reuse and recycling, using the waste management hierarchy.
Our new goal is a 15 percent reduction in landfilled waste by 2025 and 25 percent by 2030 from a 2015 baseline.
In 2019, we generated 23.2 million metric tons of bauxite residue (see the Tailings Management section).
Our collaboration with external organizations and universities on residue reuse opportunities continued in 2019.
Through the Alcoa Foundation, we are supporting research at the University of São Paulo that is focused on using bauxite residue in the manufacture of cement to help reduce that industry’s GHG emissions and use of non- renewable raw materials. In parallel, we are working with the International Aluminium Institute to identify potential pathways for the adoption of bauxite residue in cement production and use.
The University of São Paulo research has demonstrated that it is technically feasible to replace a portion of the cement with bauxite residue for diverse types of cementitious products. Future research efforts will focus on investigating how these formulations behave when combined with steel rebars used in reinforced concrete. This is one of the most relevant aspects regarding durability and represents a primary interest for structural engineers.
In addition to our work in the cement industry, we continue to explore potential opportunities in Western Australia to use the coarse sand contained in bauxite residue as a construction material or general fill.
We are also supporting a project through the International Aluminium Institute that could rapidly transform in situ bauxite residue into soil, depending on specific criteria. The research focuses on strategies that would consider initial residue properties, desired end land uses and the unique climate of each residue storage area.
This work is investigating the interactions between chemical, physical and biological drivers of remediation during initial stages of soil formation in bauxite residue. The study has progressed from microbially based remediation strategies that were tested in glasshouse trials to now being tested at field scale, with trial plots established at our Kwinana refinery in Western Australia.
Spent Pot Lining
Spent pot lining is the carbon and refractory lining left from retired smelting pots.
Our approach to managing spent pot lining is to first minimize the volume we generate by focusing on reduction at the source via process optimization, which increases the lifespan of our smelting pots. This reduces the amount of required re- linings and replacements.
We continue to pursue ways to transform our spent pot lining into a raw material or fuel source for other industries. For example, the cement industry uses spent pot lining as both a fuel and raw material. It also can be used as a raw material in the production of steel and a fuel source in the manufacture of rockwool insulation.
We recycle and/or reuse SPL in accordance with applicable country-specific requirements.
In addition to bauxite residue and spent pot lining, we are actively seeking alternative uses for our secondary materials to avoid their disposal. These products include carbon, electrolytic bath, fly ash and secondary aluminas.
We use a three-tiered classification for our secondary materials:
- Commercial: Materials sold as a commercial product;
- Transition: Materials that have some limited commercial
financial outcome than landfilling; and
- Disposal: Materials that are typically landfilled or
In 2019, we began selling our electrolytic bath to manufactures of fluxes for the aluminum remelt industry. This new market will help increase the reuse of this high-volume byproduct.
We sold 148,380 metric tons of secondary materials in 2019, generating US$18.5 million in margin.
We deploy several operational control measures aimed at minimizing the impact of spills on the environment. These controls vary depending upon the nature of the material and the risk presented to the environment.
Control measures include secondary containment, inspection practices, work practices during loading/ unloading operations and a variety of technology-based leak detection systems on critical piping and tank systems.
We require any uncontained spill or release of oils, process liquids or solids in excess of 20 liters with a potential environmental impact to be reported internally as an incident, regardless of whether reporting to external agencies is required.
SDG 6/9/12/14: Water
Fresh water is a precious resource and critical raw material in our operations, particularly for ore processing, cooling, casting, rolling, dust suppression and potable uses.
Our power stations, refineries and casthouses are our largest users of water. Within our operations, the main consumptive water uses are evaporation from tanks, vents and storage, entrainment in tailings and uses within our casting locations.
In some countries, such as Canada, Iceland, Norway and parts of the United States, water is plentiful and even powers some of our smelters via hydroelectric dams. The situation is markedly different for our operations in Western Australia, where the drying climate is a challenge. In Brazil, we manage our water use to account for high seasonal variation in rainfall.
Our operations in water-scarce locations recycle and reuse water multiple times through the process until it is lost to evaporation or entrainment. Minimal discharges occur at these sites. Other facilities, including our Warrick power station in the United States and smelters in Europe, discharge most of the water that they withdraw for non-contact cooling purposes to the same environment from which it came.
Many of our facilities also discharge rainwater that is captured within the site but not used in the process. These diversions are not included in our water balance, which aligns with the Minerals Council of Australia’s Water Accounting Framework that we have adopted.
Our 2019 net water consumption was 812.9 million cubic meters, which was a 0.1 percent decrease compared to 2018. Our locations in water-stressed areas had a net consumption of 46.5 million cubic meters. This was a 14.1 percent increase compared to the prior year.
The increase in water consumption at our sites in water-stressed areas was due to a variety of factors that included:
- Rainfall that was well above average at our Alumar location in Brazil, which meant the location captured more rain for use in its processes. The location also used extra water for construction dust suppression and had more open residue areas due to a project delay, which resulted in increased water inputs due to the larger open area.
- A relatively dry year in Western Australia, which increased both evaporation from ponds and sprinkler use for dust suppression at the refineries and mines.
- Emissions and Energy: 1.3 percent reduction from 2015
- Water: Updated our water and wastewater standard and set a new goal
- Waste: Sold 148,380 metric tons of secondary materials in 2019
- Bauxite Residue: since 2015, 5.8 percent reduction of bauxite residue land requirements per metric ton of alumina produced
- Mine Rehabilitation: 0.97:1 ratio for the 2015 to 2019 period
- Health and Safety: Zero fatalities and three serious injuries in 2019
Alcoa is the world’s leading producer in alumina. Aluminium production is highly energy intensive, with electricity making up the largest share of energy consumed. However, once produced, aluminium can be recycled repeatedly without loss of quality or properties.
The company holds sustainable certificates, including the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative for 10 of its locations and has beeen recognized by the Dow Jones Sustainable Index. Alcoa has made a lot of efforts towards sustainability and their consumption of energy: in 2018, 72% of the electricity consumed by their smelters was from renewable sources, and they have set precise objective for 2020. Being a leader in a highly energy intensive industry, Alcoa cannot achieve a high rating, but the sustainable efforts are appreciated. Therefore, it is given the rating “C”.