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How you can compare the footprints of low-carbon aluminium products

Low-carbon aluminium offerings are increasing, and there are many seemingly similar products to choose from. But there are differences in how the footprints of these products are measured, and I want to point these out to you.

Low-carbon aluminium has not been marketed as such until the last couple of years, so it is unsurprising that companies in the aluminium industry are pushing products that on the surface seem to be the same, but in reality are not.

That is why in the current market, customers of low-carbon aluminium might find it difficult to compare apples with apples. When your supplier says they offer low-carbon aluminium, you believe them.

But what you ought to do is ask your aluminium supplier how they calculated the footprint of their low-carbon products, to be able to compare them with others on the same level.

Three scopes of carbon footprint calculation

Calculating carbon footprint is an excellent way to understand the environmental impact of a product, even though it is focused solely on greenhouse gas emissions.

The good thing about this metric is that it creates a level playing field, and in fact, the scopes that we use to calculate carbon footprint are the same across the board, for all products, including aluminium metal.

Here are the three scopes used in determining carbon footprint:

  • Scope 1 covers the direct emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the manufacturer
  • Scope 2 refers to the indirect emissions from the consumption of purchased electricity
  • Scope 3 covers all other indirect emissions that are consequences of the manufacturer’s operation. This includes the production of purchased goods and materials, third-party distribution and logistics

Ask your supplier which scopes are included

Most aluminium companies include the direct emissions of their low-carbon products, but not everyone includes all the indirect emissions. This is where you can wind up comparing apples with oranges.

So how do you measure equals? You start with the three scopes mentioned above, and ask your supplier which scopes are included in the calculation of the footprint of their low-carbon aluminium products. If they are including one or two or all three of the scopes, then you will have your basis for comparison.

Another question is whether their carbon footprint calculations are certified by an independent third party. This simple yes-or-no question is nothing more than a checkpoint, but it is still an important one to ask.

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