Fauna & Flora International (FFI), along with WWF and IUCN, has been working with the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) since 2014 to produce a standard to certify responsible aluminium production. We understood the goal of the process was to ensure the production of aluminum – including mining for the industry’s raw material, bauxite – did not harm the natural ecosystems that support wildlife and human wellbeing.

Regrettably, the current version of the ASI Standard falls well short of these objectives and bears little resemblance to the global best practice objectives towards which FFI believed it was working.

Despite NGO objections, ASI has chosen to delay the changes to the biodiversity section of its standard (which relates to mining operations within or immediately adjacent to protected areas) until the next major review, which is not due until 2021. In practice this means that damaging mining operations could be developed in, or expanded into, protected areas, including World Heritage sites, yet the aluminium subsequently extracted would still be certified as ‘responsible.’

Given this loss of integrity, and in particular the decision to delay a decision on incorporating ‘no impact’ rules on mining in and adjacent to protected areas, FFI has been left with no choice but to withhold its approval for the current ASI standards.

We are extremely concerned that this flawed certification programme is now being rolled out despite the absence of these critical protections. Not only could this have devastating impacts for our planet, it also risks misleading consumers who believe that they are purchasing environmentally responsible products. This is illustrated by a recent article in the Financial Times, which states that Rio Tinto will be supplying ‘ethical’ aluminium for NespressoTM pods. Although Rio Tinto has indeed been certified according to the ASI Standard, without the critical wildlife and ecosystem protection recommended by the NGO community, the current standards cannot guarantee responsible aluminium by any definition of the term.

As a result, products that have been, or will in the future be, certified as containing responsible aluminum under the ASI standards, cannot be guaranteed to provide adequate protection for the environment. In light of these failures we are also concerned by the suggestion that certified aluminium may eventually command a market premium on the basis of a flawed standard.

We hope that ASI will halt the roll out of the certification programme and revise its governance procedures so that we can return to the table, agree best practice and implement the necessary changes.