Hydro wants to be climate neutral by 2020. "In Hydro, we see that the climate challenge can only be solved if we move from words to action," says President and CEO Svein Richard Brandtzæg.
Brandtzæg, who launched the target at a conference hosted by the environmental group ZERO in Oslo on Tuesday, says the climate challenges facing the world can be a business opportunity for a company like Hydro.
"Taking greater responsibility for our footprint also presents a market opportunity, because consumers are increasingly looking at such a footprint when they decide which car or smart phone to buy," he says.
Shared responsibility gives business opportunity
Brandtzæg said that the climate challenges is a shared responsibility, but added that the many qualities of aluminium – light weight, formable, and fully recyclable – give Hydro many opportunities. The goal to be climate neutral by 2020 will be reached by working along three lines.
"We will reduce the footprint from aluminium in the production phase, we will lift the climate benefit of aluminium in its use phase, and not least, we will expand our efforts in recycling to give new life to used products," Brandtzæg says.
He adds that the power source Hydro bases its production on – primarily hydropower – is a major part of this strategy.
"Aluminium that is produced using coal-based power emits about five times as much CO2 as aluminium based on renewable sources. Therefore, aluminium should be produced where there is access to green, renewable energy."
Part of the climate problem and part of the solution
Brandtzæg says the benefits of aluminium in the use phase should be included in any accounting of the company's climate footprint.
"In the production phase, aluminium is part of the climate problem regardless of whether we are best-in-class in production emissions. In the use phase, though, aluminium goes from generating emissions to reducing emissions. For example, aluminium makes it possible to build lighter cars that, in turn, pollute less. This climate benefit should be part of accounting for the climate effect of our activities," Brandtzæg says.
But does this use phase savings balance out production emissions in the long run?
"No, we must increase the amount of metal recycled to reach the goal. Aluminium can be recycled again and again, using just 5 percent of the energy required to produce the metal the first time around. We need to take greater advantage of that benefit."
Hydro also announced on Tuesday that it has entered into a strategic partnership with the recycling company Norsk Resirk to process all of the 500 million or so drink cans that are returned in Norway each year. The cans previously had been transported to France for recycling, so the new agreement will also save transport emissions.
Research and cooperation with customers important
Brandtzæg says that research and development, along with close cooperation with customers, will be important factors for succeeding with the climate strategy.
"We are evaluating the construction at our site in Karmøy, Norway, of what would be the most energy-efficient aluminium plant in the world," Brandtzæg says.
"But in addition to being even more efficient in the production phase, it is important that we will work even closer with our customers to make the greatest use of the competence in our organization. In this way, we can develop the best products and smartest solution with our customers so that Hydro, our customers, consumers and the climate will be the winners."