Though the industry has made significant strides in the past few decades in the direction of environmental responsibility, Norsk Hydro’s CEO Svein Richard Brandtzæg, much more is yet to be done.
In an interview with Metal Bulletin on Wednesday, Brandtzæg said that there’s no going back to the pre-responsibility days, noting that the People’s Republic of China has begun the journey to join the rest of the world’s responsible aluminium producers.
“A market without strict environmental standards, where industry is rewarded by lowering its cost at the expense of the environment, is history. Now, and even more so [in the future], you have a serious problem if you are a part of the problem and not a part of the solution.”
He noted with optimism the recent push by Beijing to curtail polluting capacity, including the winter cuts of last year. China recently announced that those cuts would be repeated again this year.
“This is what we see in China too, when people and authorities no longer accept poor air quality and pollution. So I am optimistic that more and more of the industry will have to take part in the race to produce at higher standards.”
He continued by opining that, so long as the playing field for all aluminium smelters is level, adding environmental regulations to the mix should not be an impediment to development.
“On the contrary, I believe – and experience – that an improved environmental and climate footprint is more and more valued not only by NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and governments, but also in the financial community and among industrial customers and end-consumers.”
Brandtzæg said that certifications like those offered by the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) also offer a competitive edge to the push for sustainability.
“Hydro has taken active part in developing the framework of ASI,” he added, “and will certainly work to certify Hydro plants throughout the value chain according to ASI standards.”
Norsk Hydro’s CEO was speaking in the run-up to Metal Bulletin’s 33rd International Aluminium Conference, which will be held September 12 through 14 in Berlin.