ASI certified aluminum: Audi leads the way

AUDI AG is the first car manufacturer to be awarded the Chain of Custody certificate of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) – a milestone for the company.

01/12/2021 Reading Time: 6 min

In 2020, AUDI AG became the first car manufacturer to receive the Chain of Custody certificate of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI). The certificate confirms that Audi can comply with the materials flow chain for sustainably produced aluminum in accordance with the ASI standard and can also input the correspondingly certified material to the Aluminum Closed Loop with its suppliers. In this way, the level of sustainability attested by the ASI is completely maintained, not just for vehicle components but also for the process scrap from Audi press plants that is retained in the loop.

Conserve resources of the planet

  

“The responsible use of resources is self-evident for us. At Audi we see it as our duty to treat our planet’s valuable resources with respect.”

Josef Schön, Corporate Responsibility

“We are convinced that we can bring about change. And Audi’s use of aluminum is a really good example of how the company wants to play a role in achieving greater sustainability,” says Josef Schön from the area of Corporate Responsibility.

Sustainability is a focus for Audi in all stages of the value creation process, with particular emphasis on aluminum – whose production is especially energy-intensive. Here the company has a variety of approaches to enable sustainable use of the material in all its different facets. The economical use of resources is a priority. This also means using the required material in the right place and in the right quantity. Lightweight construction with aluminum has been one of Audi’s great strengths for decades. The company has particular expertise in the use of this material in vehicles and components.

Aluminium coils in the press shop at the Audi site in Győr.
Aluminium coils in the press shop at the Audi site in Győr.

Quick facts about aluminium

Basics

Aluminum (Al) is a metal. It belongs to the group of light metals and has a density of 2.7 g/cm³. This means: One liter weighs less than three kilograms. By comparison: A liter of steel weighs approximately 7.85 kilograms, and a liter of gold around 19.3 kilograms.

Properties

Aluminum has two main properties: It is lightweight and does not rust. It therefore has many different uses and is frequently used in vehicle construction and in aerospace applications. Aluminum has been a popular material for use in vehicle bodies since the early days of the automobile: The NSU 8/24 with all-aluminum body was manufactured as early as 1913.

Occurrence

Aluminum is not manufactured, but extracted from bauxite. Bauxite is a mineral whose aluminum content can, among other things, be electrolytically melted. The name has its origins in the French village of Les Baux-de-Provence, where the ore was first found. Today, bauxite is mined primarily in Australia, China, Africa and Brazil.

Extraction

A great deal of electrical energy is required to extract pure aluminum. Around 507,000 metric tons of primary aluminum was produced in Germany in 2019, requiring approximately 7.6 terawatt hours of energy – slightly less than a nuclear power plant generates per year. That is why it pays to collect and melt down used aluminum parts again.

Certified sustainability

Those involved with sustainability and aluminum will no doubt be familiar with the work of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative. With 143 stakeholders, this organization has developed a global standard for handling aluminum that defines ecological, social and business ethics criteria along the entire aluminum value chain. Representatives of indigenous peoples are an established part of the organizational structure of the ASI, and dialogue with labor union representatives also plays an important role. As early as 2018, Audi became the first car manufacturer to receive the ASI Performance Standard certificate for its responsible use of aluminum for the battery housing of the Audi e-tron – but that was just the start.

Recently, the Chain of Custody certificate of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative was awarded for the Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm sites. Audi is therefore the first car manufacturer in the world with the right to bear this award to this extent. It certifies that the company can demonstrate its ability to input sustainably produced material into closed loops. “We heartily congratulate Audi on being awarded the ASI Chain of Custody certificate for its two press plants and for being the first OEM to introduce CoC into its own operations,” said Fiona Solomon, CEO of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative. “Over the course of 2020, we have identified growing interest among downstream aluminum users in sourcing responsibly produced aluminum for their products and being able to demonstrate this to their customers. Together with the Aluminum Closed Loop at these sites, CoC certification allows Audi to fulfill the expectations of consumers and the demand for more sustainable products.” The next steps are already being planned, with further sites to be certified to the ASI standard in 2021. The cross-sector and industry-wide mechanisms of the ASI provide assistance here: Its Chain of Custody ensures that only ASI-certified material reaches Audi.

Power consumption, combined*: 24.3–21.4 kWh/100km (NEDC); 26.1–21.7 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Power consumption, combined*: 24.3–21.4 kWh/100km (NEDC); 26.1–21.7 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Certificates and standards help us ensure that our local suppliers comply with internationally recognized human rights and environmental standards.

Josef Schön, Corporate Responsibility

ASI-certificate & „Chain of Custody“

What does “Chain of Custody” stand for?

The Chain of Custody (CoC) documents where a company sources what volume of aluminum and where it is sold. This ensures that the entire aluminum cycle of certified companies is traceable. The CoC is a recognized method of managing material based on its mass – because it is not outwardly obvious where aluminum comes from if, for example, it passed through a melting plant. Put simply: Before now, a roll of aluminum had no label to indicate origin and production, as is meanwhile typical with supermarket items like bananas. Now, traceability is achieved by awarding certificates, which are a central element of this method of accounting for materials.

Active involvement required

Even if the processing of aluminum is certified at various Audi sites over the coming months, the goal is still far from being reached. Josef Schön: “Certificates alone are not enough for us. A central pillar of Audi’s sustainability strategy is its desire to improve continually and be actively involved. And our work in initiatives like the ASI – which is also required by the UN in the Sustainable Development Goals – is an important part of our commitment.”

Yet, the sustainable use of aluminum is a complex endeavor, since it starts far from the AUDI AG factory gates. Work in the deeper tiers of the supply chain and beyond contractual relations requires intensive involvement. Audi has been a member of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative since 2013 and Audi experts can be found around the (virtual) table when it comes to developing new standards and improving existing ones. As a member of the ASI, Audi is currently supporting the advancement of ASI certifications, some of which are to be adopted as early as 2021. Longevity is another important component of Audi’s commitment to the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative. Trust and strong partnerships ultimately have to grow too. According to Mathias Kellner, who heads up Metal Procurement at Audi: “We can do a lot more when we work together with other manufacturers, suppliers or stakeholders from the industry. Responsible action means engaging in dialogue with all the stakeholders, taking the interests of others seriously – and ensuring that no one is left behind.” Industry-wide consensus must be reached, and binding standards and processes established that ideally apply to all.

Closed loops

Audi uses the purchased aluminum efficiently, with the volume of offcuts kept to a minimum and reused. So that even less primary aluminum is required in manufacturing in the future, Audi launched the Aluminum Closed Loop in 2017. It ensures that high-grade aluminum production offcuts are not simply sold on the scrap metal market, but are fed back into the material loop. “In this way we protect valuable resources,” explains Alois Winkler, project manager in Procurement Strategy. “The Aluminum Closed Loop allows us to retain valuable raw material in the loop, with sustainable production guaranteed along the value chain based on the ASI Chain of Custody standard.”

With the Aluminum Closed Loop, aluminum waste arising during production is returned to the supplier, who uses it to produce aluminum coils of original quality and returns these to Audi.

With the Aluminum Closed Loop, aluminum waste arising during production is returned to the supplier, who uses it to produce aluminum coils of original quality and returns these to Audi.

So, how does this work? Aluminum offcuts from the press shop go directly back to the supplier. The supplier can recycle the scrap and use it to produce new material that Audi then uses again in the press shop. In addition to the plant in Neckarsulm, the Ingolstadt plant joined the Aluminum Closed Loop process in January 2020; the plant in Győr in Hungary is set to follow in 2021.

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