Two Essential Steps to Assure Sustainability in Automotive

September 13, 2022

In a breakthrough for sustainability in the automotive industry, Rio Tinto recently announced a partnership with Volvo Group. In this strategic partnership, Rio Tinto will supply responsibly sourced low carbon products and solutions to Volvo. The two companies will work to pilot Volvo Group’s sustainable autonomous hauling solutions to decarbonise Rio Tinto’s operations and value chains.

Partnerships such as these strengthen stakeholder assurance, as the automotive industry demands more visibility into responsibly sourced and produced materials.

Powered by blockchain technology, START provides end-to-end traceability of raw materials and supporting sustainability metrics. With START, companies can advance their climate goals and empower their customers to make responsible purchasing decisions. Read on to learn more about how START provides crucial stakeholder assurance in a complex automotive supply chain.

Taking the steps

Assurance. It’s a simple concept, but profoundly difficult for automotive and trucking companies to prove they are truly acting in the best interest of people and the planet.

So how can you assure your most important stakeholders? There are two essential steps:

  1. Source sustainable materials

  2. Enable total visibility

No. 1: Sourcing sustainable materials

Demand is rising for electric vehicles (EVs)—not just for the family car, but for industrial trucking and shipping. Production materials such as lithium, aluminium, and copper are more essential than ever for powering the green vehicle transition. Traceability of these materials’ origins is no longer optional.

196 kg

Since the 1990s, average aluminium use per car has spiked from 50 kg to an expected 196 kg in 2025.

Source: The Raw Material Outlook


Aluminium is experiencing a major boom in use across vehicle components such as body panels, bumpers, and battery foils and enclosures.

Aluminium is:

  • Lightweight

  • Strong

  • Infinitely recyclable


Compared to conventional cars and trucks, EVs use significantly more copper. It’s found in EV motors, batteries, wiring, and even their charging stations.


EV batteries need lithium, making it one of the most sought after minerals on earth.

Materials sourcing

While all of these materials hold highly beneficial qualities, it’s not enough to simply source these progressive materials. Leading automotive companies must ensure these materials such as aluminium are sourced from a responsible producer.

What, exactly, does “responsible” mean?

As a responsible aluminium producer, Rio Tinto accounts for the impact on People, Planet, and Progress.

Understanding and measuring how processes affect communities and the environment—now and in the future—is imperative to a net zero world. As a responsible materials producer, Rio Tinto considers potential risks and confront them swiftly.

So, what should original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), suppliers, and other automotive industry stakeholders expect from a responsible materials sourcing company? What value chain visibility is needed when it comes to acting responsibly toward people, the planet, and overall sustainability progress? What metrics do you need to support sustainability claims?

Consider these leading examples from START and Rio Tinto across People, Planet, and Progress categories—traditionally known as environmental, social, and governance (ESG).


In the time-strapped race toward net-zero carbon emissions, investing in fossil fuel free technology is paramount.

Aluminium that’s produced in traditional smelters is energy-intensive, powered by fossil fuels. But there’s an answer to this problem: Hydropower.

Rio Tinto is continuing to decarbonise the aluminium value chain on a global scale with ELYSIS™. This breakthrough technology eliminates direct greenhouse gas emissions from the aluminium smelting process. Entirely. What’s left is pure, clean oxygen.

And, in Canada, Rio Tinto's smelters run on renewable hydropower, resulting in some of the highest quality, lowest-carbon footprint aluminium in the world.

7 million tons

Scaling ELYSIS™ technology could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7 million tons—the equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.

In 2019, BC Works operation was certified by the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative for producing aluminium to the highest internationally recognised standard for responsible ESG practices.


Leaving a positive community impact is an important step for ESG assurance in automotive. In British Columbia, Rio Tinto works collaboratively with the surrounding watershed community through the Water Engagement Initiative to manage water resources responsibly. And, Rio Tinto has invested more than C$10 million annually1 to support health, education, youth, and environment programmes for the First Nations people in the area.

Located at Gulkula, in Northeast Arnhem Land, sits the first mine in Australia to be 100% owned and operated, across the supply chain, by Traditional Owners–the Gumatj, one of the Yolngu clans in the area. The Gulkula Mine Training Centre, partly funded with $2.4M (AUS) from Rio Tinto, gives on-the-job training and support to the Yolngu people to help them build mining careers in the Northern Territory and beyond.


Both customers and investors are increasingly concerned with diversity and inclusion efforts.

Rio Tinto continues to expand gender diversity targets in order to increase representation of women across the workforce and in leadership roles. In 2021, senior leadership representation improved from 1.3% to 27.4%.

See, measure, share

The substantial headway mentioned above is valuable to the automotive industry’s sustainability agenda. However, OEMs, suppliers, and other industry stakeholders must be able to see, measure, and share that progress. That’s what START provides—transparency across key sustainability metrics for the automotive industry.

START is rethinking the way we talk about ESG—placing greater emphasis on what’s impacted by production choices.
The START platform provides unprecedented traceability and transparency across these metrics:
No. 2: Enable Stakeholder Visibility

There are two components to enabling total visibility: Acquiring value chain data, then sharing it. START helps you do both.

What benefits do you get from value-chain-wide traceability and transparency? Stakeholder trust, improvement insights, and competitive differentiation.

Stakeholder trust

More than ever, investors are considering sustainability risk factors when making investment decisions2. Providing them with transparent value chain data is essential to assure both new and existing shareholders that your company is resistant to future risks.

Customers want to see provenance information on the aluminium used in their products. With it, they can make responsible purchasing decisions and become advocates for brands who show true ESG commitment. START provides this assurance instantly, at their fingertips.


75% of companies should address ESG issues, even if it reduces short-term profitability

Source: PwC 2021 Global Investor Survey

Placing a greater focus on ESG metrics aligns your company more closely with auditors and regulatory authorities, which will only become more important as the industry accepts new reporting standards such as START.

Improvement insights

With START’s insights, you can identify areas where your business practices can evolve, including material assessment and overlooked ESG metrics.

Material assessment

Comparative Life Cycle Assessments included in the START programme can show the positive ESG impact of replacing some production materials with low carbon aluminium.

ESG metrics

Many automotive companies concentrate on the environmental aspect of ESG, (carbon emissions, mainly) yet place less priority on social and governance factors3.

Competitive differentiator (increased brand value)

Showing your ESG commitment—and having the data to support it—lifts your brand above competitors. You’re seen as a pioneer, empowering a more sustainable and equitable future.

Leadership like this has a lasting, positive impact for your brand—something other companies won’t be able to match if they aren’t involved early.

Assure stakeholders, join START

It’s clear: Your stakeholders need assurance that you’re sourcing materials produced with responsible practices. By investing in START, you can deliver on that promise by:

  • Verifying sustainable materials through unparalleled traceability

  • Enabling visibility into key sustainability metrics

Ready to showcase your involvement in empowering a more sustainable and equitable future? Then contact us to learn more about START and what we’re doing to change the aluminium value chain. Forever.

1BC Works communities / We have contributed over C$10 million annually through First Nations initiatives, as well as health, education, youth, and environment programs. | Rio Tinto

2The economic realities of ESG | PwC 2021 Global Investor Survey

3 Top Automotive Suppliers’ ESG Reports Focus Mostly on Environment and Little on Governance, New Study Shows | Bianchi PR