Beverage cartons made with ASI-certified aluminium will soon be hitting the supermarket shelves for the first time thanks to SIG’s ASI certification – an industry first.
Most SIG packs include an ultra-thin barrier layer of aluminium foil (ten times thinner than a human hair) to protect the contents from light and oxygen, and keep products like milk or fruit juices safe and nutritious.
We aim to source all our key materials from certified responsible sources and the new certification from the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) aims to enhance responsibility and traceability throughout the aluminium value chain.
Our ASI certification means customers can trace the aluminium foil in SIG packs from responsible sourcing and processing of the raw material to responsible production of the finished cartons.
But what does this mean in practice?
For natural resources
Aluminium is the most plentiful metal on Earth. But you won’t find it just lying around ready to use. It has to be extracted from bauxite ore that’s mined in countries like Australia, Brazil, Guinea, India and Jamaica.
Bauxite is usually found quite close to the Earth’s surface so the most effective way to extract it is by cutting the rock out of the ground one layer at a time. This type of open pit mining uses large tracts of land so it’s important to mitigate any potential impact on biodiversity. The ASI requirements on this include biodiversity risk assessments before mining begins and rehabilitation of habitats after a mine closes.
It takes between four and five tonnes of bauxite to produce one tonne of pure aluminium. The remaining bauxite residue must be carefully contained with controls in place to avoid it leaching into the environment. The smelters where pure aluminium is extracted from aluminium oxide also generate a lot of waste, but much of this can be used as a raw material for other industries, including in the production of concrete, cast iron and alloys.
Producing aluminium uses a lot of natural resources. But once it’s produced, it can be reused again and again because it’s recyclable.
We make sure that every SIG carton can be fully recycled after use. This means that the ultra-thin layer of aluminium that goes into most of our packs can be used again to make new products, such as furniture or car parts.
We also partner with stakeholders to support increased collection and recycling of cartons after use through local projects to improve infrastructure and raise consumer awareness. Our support for recycling played an important role in achieving SIG’s ASI certification.
Recycling aluminium also significantly cuts its impact on climate change, using just 5% of the energy – and 5% of the greenhouse gases – that it takes to extract new aluminium from bauxite.
For climate change
It takes a lot of energy to produce aluminium. First, the bauxite is heated and dissolved in caustic soda to remove other unwanted elements in the ore. This produces aluminium oxide (alumina). Pure aluminium is then extracted from the alumina through electrolysis at very high temperatures.
The intensive energy use involved in aluminium production can result in high levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Some smelters use renewable energy, like hydroelectric power, to help reduce this climate impact. But on average an estimated 12 tonnes of CO2-equivalent are emitted for every tonne of aluminium produced.
ASI-certified smelters are committed to achieving a rate of less than eight tonnes of CO2-equivalent per tonne of aluminium produced by 2030, and new smelters starting production after 2020 must hit this target before they can be certified.
The climate impact of smelters is a particular focus for ASI because they account for around 80% of the GHG emissions from the whole aluminium industry globally. But all ASI-certified companies – at every stage of the value chain – must show that they are committed to combatting climate change by setting targets to cut their emissions.
The aim is to support global efforts to keep global average temperatures below 2°C – or even 1.5°C – above pre-industrial levels in line with the latest science and the Paris Agreement on climate change. SIG’s targets to cut operational GHG emissions and decouple value chain emissions from growth have been approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative.
For people and communities
ASI certification is not just about the environment. It’s about people and communities too.
Certified companies must respect the human rights of everyone affected by their operations. This includes upholding fundamental labour rights for workers at every stage of the value chain – from providing safe and healthy working conditions to paying a living wage that meets workers’ basic needs.
Mining operations, particularly open pit mining over large areas of land, can have a big impact on the people living nearby. The ASI standards set out good practice requirements for consulting local communities, respecting indigenous people’s rights and heritage, and obtaining free prior informed consent before mining operations begin.
ASI-certified mines must also take appropriate steps to prevent and address any adverse impacts on community livelihoods and avoid displacement where possible. Where this is unavoidable, a resettlement plan must be developed in consultation with those affected.
For the future
By setting clear standards on responsibility in the aluminium industry for the first time, the ASI certification has the potential to catalyse improvements for people and the environment throughout the value chain.
SIG’s ASI certification supports our ambition to go Way Beyond Good by putting more into the environment and society than we take out. And it adds value for customers by helping to meet growing consumer demand for sustainable packaging.
Find out more about how we’re going Way Beyond Good.