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Sustainability, transparency said key to aluminum sector

Keywords: Tags  American Extruders Council, Rio Tinto Alcan, Jerome Fourmann, sunstainability, automotive, emission standards, construction, green building transparency

ORLANDO, Fla. — "Sustainability" and "green aluminum" aren’t just catchphrases; they’re critical to the aluminum industry’s future success, one Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. executive said.

Aluminum has a "wonderful growth story" thanks to trends like lightweighting in vehicles and the push for more environmentally friendly buildings, Jerome Fourmann, technical services manager at the Montreal-based company, said.

"Sustainability matters for our industry and ... the entire supply chain," he said. "So we don’t want the growth story to be tainted by a reputational challenge or by materials (that) would do something better than we do."

That means the aluminum industry has to act responsibility and transparently in its dealings with both consumers and communities and not allow "bad players" to hurt its public image, Fourmann said March 15 at the Aluminum Extruders Council’s annual meeting and leadership conference, citing a 2010 reservoir breach in Hungary that devastated parts of the country.

While the sector promotes the benefits of aluminum use, it must also work to be more transparent about sourcing and production costs, Fourmann said. "We are collectively facing the perception of the mass public ... and are increasingly challenged by NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and civil society to give the complete story," he said.

But the story is in many respects a positive one, Fourmann said, ticking off the benefits of aluminum, including recyclability and reduced emissions. Rio Tinto Alcan sources approximately 94 percent of its power requirements from low-emission sources such as hydroelectricity, he said.

Besides, going green is hardly a drag on the bottom line, Fourmann said. Increasing energy efficiency, for example, shows that "sustainability goes together with profit," he said.

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