Aluminum is a key material in vehicle construction, not least because of its special properties as a lightweight material. Mercedes-Benz works closely with its suppliers to ensure responsible and environmentally sound procurement along the entire value chain. In future the company will only source primary aluminum certified by the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative (ASI) for its stamping plants and foundries in Europe.
For a sustainable aluminum supply chain, Mercedes-Benz relies on a comprehensive approach: to protect our environment and resources, we are systematically increasing the proportion of recycled aluminum in our supply chain. At the same time, when sourcing so-called primary aluminum, we are committed to the socially responsible and environmentally sound mining of the raw material bauxite, which is needed to produce the material. Mining of the raw material is attracting criticism, especially in Guinea, due to social and ecological aspects and the consequences for the local population. Bauxite is therefore one of the potential raw materials of risk that we are examining more closely with respect to human rights risks.
Responsible sourcing of aluminum
Some of the bauxite for our primary aluminum comes from Guinea. In line with the principle of using leverage before withdrawing, our approach is not to generally exclude critical countries as sources of supply, but to work with all parties involved to improve the local situation.
To this end, Mercedes-Benz relies on the implementation of strong sustainability standards and robust certification: As first automotive manufacturer we will in the future only source primary aluminum certified by the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative (ASI) for stamping plants and foundries in Europe. This certification only applies to Europe in the first stage, and will be rolled out to other locations outside Europe in the medium term. It confirms that the raw materials are obtained and processed responsibly and in an environmentally friendly manner - irrespective of the source country - from the mining through smelting and refining to the point where the material reaches our stamping plants and foundries. This ensures that the raw material only comes from independently certified mining, and that due diligence obligations are met at all stages of the supply chain. With immediate effect, the initiative's 'Chain of Custody Standard' becomes an key criterion for awarding contracts of aluminum volumes. The certified material will be used in body parts such as engine hoods and tailgates, for example.
Mercedes-Benz has been engaged in the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative for several years, and supports the implementation of an independent certification scheme for the entire aluminum value chain. The certification also takes into account the situation of the local population in the vicinity of the bauxite mines: With the council 'Indigenous Peoples Advisory Forum' the interests of indigenous communities are represented on an equal footing with those of other stakeholders in the process of defining the standards. It speaks out for the rights of local people, and actively participates in the development and implementation of the standard. You can find more information about the ASI here.
With ASI certification, we ensure that our requirements for sustainable raw material sourcing are met. In addition, Mercedes-Benz has entered into direct dialog with its direct aluminum suppliers, the mining companies involved in Guinea, the bauxite processing companies and representatives of civil society to address the impact of bauxite mining in Guinea. Since improvements in complex supply chains can only be implemented jointly, we have made the results of our risk assessment available to our direct suppliers. This particularly includes aspects related to the impact of mining - such as resettlement or land access - and the involvement of the local population in these issues. Our suppliers are requsested to address these issues in their own supply chains
Reduction of emissions
The production of primary aluminum generates considerable CO₂ emissions due to the high demand for energy. Together with battery cells and steel, aluminum accounts for about 80% of the carbon footprint in the supply chain of an all-electric vehicle. On the road to climate neutrality, and together with its suppliers, Mercedes-Benz is therefore addressing the supply chain for primary aluminum with particular vigor. The goal: the systematic reduction of emissions. Mercedes-Benz is already sourcing primary aluminum with a significantly reduced carbon footprint. The use of renewable energies in the supplier’s production results in an average of 50% less CO₂ emissions than it is usual for aluminum processed in Europe. In the case of structural castings alone, such as shock absorber mounts or cross members and side members manufactured at the foundry in Mettingen, Germany, we save about 15,000 tonnes of CO₂ per year in this way.
Conservation of resources: recycled aluminum
At the same time Mercedes-Benz is focusing on the increased use of recycled aluminum, so-called secondary aluminum. The advantage: when using secondary aluminum from aluminum scrap, about 90 percent of the energy required can be saved compared to the production of primary aluminum – while simultaneously conserving resources. Mercedes-Benz has therefore set itself the goal of successively increasing the proportion of secondary aluminum used. To conserve resources, we are working with our suppliers to develop aluminum alloys with our suppliers that meet our high requirements, for example in structural castings, and at the same time allow the use of recycled aluminum from old vehicles, beverage cans, facade sheets or the packaging industry. For example, we source selected castings made of secondary aluminum alloy for the shell of the upcoming Mercedes AMG-SL, thus saving more than 90% CO₂ emissions in aluminum production.