Sustainable Futures: Rusal
Aluminium is an extraordinarily recyclable metal. For Rusal, the company that mines the most aluminium in the world, sustainability is likewise a major priority. It focuses its efforts on local communities in its areas of operations and on upholding international standards. Emily Andrews investigates
The recent Ebola virus outbreak in west Africa instigated a new challenge for the Rusal aluminium company. By contributing to the fight against Ebola, Rusal – a Moscow-based mining company and the world’s largest aluminium producer – is able to behave in a manner that is in keeping with its brand’s ethical principles, while providing support for its employees and the wider communities in which it operates.
Rusal has made sustainability an integral aspect of its brand identity. This not only creates stronger relationships with company stakeholders, it also ensures that the industry, and Rusal, has a future.
Aluminium, one of the most widely used metals, can be endlessly recycled without losing any of its properties. In terms of consumption growth, aluminium outpaces steel, copper and zinc and its production process is one the most environmentally friendly across the metals and mining industry. Aluminium can be used to produce energy efficient transport and to construct eco-friendly buildings. Aluminium has the potential to have a positive impact on the global environment, on climate change and is one of the most sustainable materials in the extractives sector.
By minimising the environmental and social impact of aluminium during production, and across the entire supply chain, aluminium companies can push this even further.
Vera Kurochkina, head of corporate affairs at Rusal says, “For Rusal, sustainability means dynamic economic growth, with stable production and minimised environmental impact as well as best personnel and support of socio- economic and community development in the countries and regions we operate in.”
Headquartered in Moscow, Rusal consolidated the Russian aluminium industry when it merged with its compatriot and rival, SUAL, and the alumina arm of the Swiss Glencore in 2007. Rusal embarked on a large modernisation programme to turn all the Soviet-era aluminium smelters it inherited into modern plants. Between 2008 and 2013, $400m was invested in the project.
Kurochkina says, “The modernisation and construction of these smelters would not have been possible without continued innovation and a sophisticated engineering approach. Rusal has an in- house engineering and construction works and we are very proud that we are the only Russian company with very sophisticated in-house expertise.”
"It is important to perform sustainably in order to keep a leadingpositionintheglobal market. As the demand for aluminium grows, secure, sustainableprocurement becomes very important"
Rusal secures education and job opportunities for those interested in metal engineering. In Russia, the company creates specific programmes for high school students, provides scholarships for students in higher education
and arranges various training courses for its employees. Rusal scholarships are also gifted to promising prospective employees in Jamaica, Guyana and Guinea. By providing learning opportunities and education, Rusal is ensuring that has a pool of prospective employees, with the necessary skill sets and talent, to choose from in the future.
Rusal has assets in 19 different countries and has 60,000 employees across the globe. Consequently, many of its sustainability initiatives are focused on community and social development in the developing countries in which it operates. Rusal has had a presence in Guinea for over a decade
and is the west African nation’s largest foreign employer. It strives to uphold its reputation in the region by supporting the development of Guinean sports and culture, constructing social infrastructure facilities and reinforcing cross-cultural relations between Russia and Guinea through the education of Guinean students in Russia’s best universities. With these initiatives, Rusal ensures that it remains a desirable employer and gives back to the area and people that it relies upon for natural resources. “Rusal operates in an international and multicultural environment and that’s very important. While developing the community support projects Rusal is always mindful of local specifics selecting relevant projects to ensure essential and long term social impact,” says Kurochkina.
In response to the Ebola outbreak, Rusal has invested over $10m in the building of the Centre for Epidemic and Microbiological Research and Treatment in the Kindia administrative region of Guinea. Early this year, Rusal also signed the UN Business Action Pledge on Ebola Elimination. The UN coalition consists of over 50 companies with major interests in west Africa. Those that joined the pledge, commit to maintain sustainable economic development in the region and to continue to operate their business in Ebola-affected areas for as long as possible. In addition they are expected to prevent the spread of Ebola by educating their staff and their communities and should contribute financially to Ebola response. Kurochkina says, “Both domestically and globally, Rusal’s top priority is the healthcare and well-being of the local community. Thus, Rusal is the world’s only public company to have implemented a large-scale campaign to help fight the global spread of the Ebola virus.”
Rusal also invests in Russian communities. As a result of its scrutiny on the mining sector as a whole, Rusal prioritises acting responsibly. In the last few years, Rusal’s volunteer movement has spread outward from Moscow to northern Russia and Siberia from large regional centres like Krasnoyarsk to small towns like Krasnoturyinsk and Shelekhov. Kurochkina says, “Rusal pioneered the development of corporate volunteering in Russia. Today, the development of volunteer initiatives is a fundamental part of Rusal’s corporate social responsibility policy. For more than 10 years the company has supported the growth of a socially responsible society by creating an environment that encourages citizens to take an active part in the cities they live in.” Regional development programmes have strengthened Rusal’s relationships with local authorities and the volunteering projects create brand engagement among Rusal employees. Such sustainability initiatives are alsolikelytobeattractivetoinvestorssincetheyindicate that the business has a good long-term strategy and a strong sense of brand.
By strengthening community ties in all of the regions in which it operates, both in Russia and abroad, Rusal conveys positivemessagestoitsstakeholdersandensuresthatno part of its supply chain comes undone. While the challenges of supporting communities in Rusal’s mining regions differ greatly from the challenges of engaging communities in Russia, both are crucial for Rusal’s sustainability initiatives and the business results that come from that.
Kurochkina says, “The aluminium industry is extremely competitive. For Rusal, it is important to perform sustainably in order to keep a leading position in the global market. As the demand for aluminium grows, secure, sustainable procurement becomes very important.”
While aluminium in itself is relatively sustainable, Rusal is maximising on this to maintain its position as a leading aluminium company.