Driving human rights change in the aluminum industry

Calling on car brands to end harmful mining practices in their aluminum supply chains

With the world embracing better and cleaner technologies to combat climate change, the market for light and electric cars is set to boom. This is driving a massive demand for aluminum, which is used to make lighter weight vehicles.

Unfortunately, the current practices involved in mining bauxite – a type of rock which is the main source of aluminum – devastate local communities’ livelihoods and the natural resources they rely on.

In Guinea – where the largest reserves of bauxite are – tens of thousands of people are deprived of their livelihoods as they are pushed off their ancestral lands and their farms are destroyed to make way for giant mines. Meanwhile, local rivers are contaminated making it harder for Guinean women to find safe water for household use.

We can’t build a better future for some people at the expense of others – when it comes to creating a fair and carbon-free global economy we have to recognize that we’re all in it together.

The good news is the car brands that sit on top of these global supply chains wield incredible clout within the industry and have the power to drive change – they just need to be convinced to use it. And we have a plan to convince them.

Inclusive Development International has partnered with Human Rights Watch to take a look under the hood of the global car industry to expose the human rights problems in their aluminum supply chains – problems that they have the power to repair.  Our forthcoming report will provide a blueprint for meaningful reform in their supply chain due diligence.

In researching this report, our team has been meeting with executives at car companies and some seem to be taking the matter seriously, while others are trying to avoid their responsibilities.

So over the coming months, we’ll be providing members of the public with ways to help us get the attention of the car brands that aren’t engaging. Together we’ll get them to the table.

In addition to harnessing the clout of the car industry to drive change in the aluminium industry, our strategy has two other crucial components.

It’s one thing getting companies to sign up to industry standards on human rights and the environment, but it’s another making sure those standards actually result in improved outcomes on the ground. In 2021, the global Aluminium Stewardship Initiative is reviewing and updating the standards of its certification process which is currently the main benchmark for the industry. We’ll be doing all we can to ensure the standards are strengthened so the move to cleaner and better technologies like light weight electric cars can benefit everyone, including communities in Guinea.

We’ll also continue to challenge the companies that are clearly failing in their human rights due diligence.

Our case against Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG), is a prime example. This huge mine – a joint venture of three multinational aluminum producers, Rio Tinto, Alcoa and Dadco – is having a devastating impact on tens of thousands of local farmers, who, despite the fortune being extracted from their ancestral land, are literally being left in the dust.

After lodging a complaint to the International Finance Corporation’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman on behalf of 540 people from 13 affected villages, we are currently accompanying the communities in a formal mediation process with the company.

With your help we’ll drive real change in the aluminum industry and for the communities in Guinea by:

  • Encouraging car brands to use their prime position in the industry and take responsibility for cleaning up their supply chains,
  • Improving industry standards such as those set by the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative, and
  • holding to account multinational mining companies that violate human rights and destroy the livelihoods of local communities in places like Guinea.