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Article

23 Jul 2021

Author:
Human Rights Watch and Inclusive Development International

Report addresses environmental & human rights impacts of aluminum production for the automotive industry, incl. deforestation, water pollution & displacement of communities

"Aluminum: The Car Industry’s Blind Spot – Why Car Companies Should Address the Human Rights Impact of Aluminum Production,” July 2021

...This report, a collaboration between Human Rights Watch and Inclusive Development International, argues that, given the reliance on aluminum of the global automobile industry, car companies have a responsibility under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to address the human rights and environmental impacts of aluminum production. The report begins by setting out the human rights consequences of the aluminum industry, using examples from around the world and an in-depth case study of bauxite mining in Guinea, based on extensive field and remote research from 2017 to 2020. The report then discusses the car industry’s current efforts to source aluminum responsibly, drawing on meetings or correspondence with nine car companies: BMW (headquartered in Germany), Daimler (Germany), Ford (United States), General Motors (United States), Groupe PSA (France, now part of Stellantis group), Renault (France), Toyota (Japan), Volkswagen (Germany), and Volvo (Sweden). Three companies, BYD (China), Hyundai (South Korea), and Tesla (United States), did not respond to requests for information. By combining field driven examples of communities’ experience of aluminum production with dialogue with car companies about their ability to respond, this report makes a compelling case for the car industry to do more to protect communities like Camara’s from the negative impacts of the aluminum industry.

Many of the world’s leading car companies have human rights due diligence policies that commit them to identifying and mitigating human rights abuses in their supply chains. However, despite the increasing importance of aluminum to the automobile industry, the human rights impact of aluminum production – and bauxite mining in particular – remains a blind spot. Although car companies’ knowledge of aluminum supply chains varies, none of the nine companies that responded to Human Rights Watch and Inclusive Development International had, prior to being contacted for this report, mapped their aluminum supply chain to understand the human rights risks within it. Car companies have instead prioritized supply chain due diligence for other materials central to electric vehicles, such as the cobalt needed for electric batteries, with several car industry executives underscoring the need for consistency between the transition to environmentally friendly vehicles and responsible sourcing...

...As part of the research, we also spoke with several aluminum and automotive industry groups, including Drive Sustainability, a coalition of 11 car companies that includes BMW, Daimler, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo; the International Aluminum Association, an aluminum industry group; and the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative (ASI), the leading certification scheme in the aluminum sector. We wrote to ASI in April 2021 to provide comments on proposed revisions to their standards. In June 2021, we also shared preliminary findings of this report with ASI. ASI provided comments during meetings in June 2021 and also provided a written response...