European Aluminium Association

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The European Aluminium Association (EAA) is a lobbying, trade, communications and public image body for the European aluminium industry. It is based in Brussels, close to the European Parliament. Its members are Europe's primary aluminium producers and national aluminium trade associations.

The EAA declares its purpose as;

to secure sustainable growth of aluminium in its markets and to maintain and improve the image of the aluminium industry towards target audiences.

To this end the EAA have been very active in promoting aluminium (one of the world's most polluting industries) as a 'green metal' with many sustainable applications. This has been achieved through public relations, industry-sponsored research on green applications, and coordinated communication on the issue throughout the international and national aluminium trade bodies.

A major lobbyist in Brussels

EAA Offices at 12 Avenue de Broqueville, shared with Eurometaux and Euromines

The EAA shares offices with the European Association of Metals or Eurometaux close to the European Parliament and is one of the larger lobbying bodies in Brussels. The building at 12 Avenue de Broqueville is also shared with the European Association of Mining Industries, Metal Ores & Industrial Minerals (Euromines) and the European Carbon and Graphite Association.[1] According to their entry on the European Commission's Transparency Register they spent between €350,000 and €400,000 on lobbying activities in 2010 and €50,000 on a 'media outreach' programme carried out by an un-named PR firm. [2]

EAA accused of under-reporting lobbying

In June 2011 the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation published a survey of the 40 largest industry lobby groups which revealed that the EAA (alongside a number of large lobbying groups) had under-reported the scale of their influence on the EC Transparency Register. The EAA was named as the fourth of 10 'worst offenders' for under-reporting, claiming to have spent between €100,000 and €150,000 on lobbying in 2009 while employing a total of 17 staff. The paper argues that most of these staff will be engaged in activities which come under the definition of lobbying, and that dividing the declared spend per staff member puts expenditure per member of staff at €8,824, an unrealistically low number.[3] Interestingly the EAA's 2010 disclosure had quadrupled it's estimated spend to €400,000 despite not altering staff numbers.[4]

Lobbying for exemptions to climate change policy

One of the EAA's main concerns in Brussels is climate change policy, which they argue is making European aluminium production costs uncompetitive with the rest of the world. The EAA (alongside other metals trade associations) have repeatedly denounced the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. In 2008 Patrick de Schrynmakers, secretary general said:

Europe will export jobs and import energy intensive products, with no environmental gain
As the legislative process moves forward, EAA exhorts Parliament and member states to protect the sustainability of this important sector of the European economy. [5]

They have argued that restrictions on the European aluminium industry are likely to lead to 'carbon leakage', as companies move to countries with more lax environmental standards where operation would be cheaper. Their lobbying resulted in aluminium being included as potentially exposed to carbon leakage, and therefore entitled to free emissions certificates (carbon credits) and some subsidies on energy costs. It is proposed by the EU that aluminium will be properly included in the scheme from 2013.[6] The EAA have also joined with the European Alliance of Energy Intensive Industries and others to call for compensation for raised costs to electricity in Europe due to carbon taxes. They claim raised electricity prices are unfair, uncompetitive and against the Lisbon Treaty and EU2020 strategy.[7]

Industry exemptions under the EU-ETS have been criticised by a number of environmental groups and researchers for submitting to the wishes of industry, rendering it ineffective as a climate change solution (See page on Carbon Trading). Larry Lohman discusses how billions of Euro's worth of emissions credits have been given out free to energy intensive industry, while small businesses are forced to comply.[8] The result is that emissions continue to increase (Britain's emissions increased by 18% between 1992 and 2004 according to Defra).[9]

Greenwashing aluminium

Interview with EAA Secretary general Patrick de Schrynmakers in SAPA magazine. The depiction of the metal as natural and green is typical of the EAA's greenwash.

The EAA are the key body responsible for promoting aluminium as a 'green metal' which is part of the solution to environmental issues and climate change, and not part of the problem. This has been central to the aluminium industry's PR tactic worldwide and has been very successful in shaping public opinion on the qualities of the metal. Despite it's status as one of the most energy intensive and polluting metal to produce (with a much higher environmental impact per ton than steel)[10] the EAA goes as far as to claim that aluminium's applications make it 'a major contribution to a greener world'[11] and that 'during its use phase ... aluminium is able to show its impressive contribution to sustainability, more than offsetting the consumption of raw materials and energy needed for its primary production'.[12] Their argument is based on three applications of aluminium which they claim contribute to sustainability:

1)Light-weighting of vehicles by using aluminium instead of steel, reducing emissions in the use phase. 2)Aluminium as part of energy saving and recyclable designs in architecture. 3)Aluminium packaging to prevent food spoiling and wastage. [13] The misleading nature of these arguments is examined in the sections below.

The EAA advances its claims to sustainability using a variety of lobbying and PR techniques: they have joined with the architecture and construction, automotive and packaging industries to promote their aluminium applications as 'green'. Extensively funded work on Life Cycle Analysis of metals, influencing the scientific discourse on how the sustainability of metals is evaluated. Funded research institutes such as the Wuppertal Institute to create sustainability programmes for the industry. Coordinated with the global aluminium industry lobby, for example by funding the global aluminium industry's sustainability programme Aluminium for Future Generations which host a website dedicated to promoting 'green' aluminium. [14] Lobbying on EU environment and efficiency policy alongside other metals trade associations.

Light-weighting vehicles

The EAA (along with other aluminium trade associations and lobby groups) promotes the idea that using aluminium (rather than steel) to create lighter cars reduces fuel use over the life of the vehicle therefore reducing overall carbon emissions. 'From an environmental point of view, the EAA estimates that, over its whole life-cycle, 1 kg of aluminium introduced in a truck saves more than 20 kg of CO2.' they claim.[15]

This claim is misleading for a number of reasons. It is based on a comparison between the weight and recyclability of aluminium and steel, assuming that the truck is used until the end of its life and then fully recycled. But this figure masks the enormous difference in the original carbon and material intensity of producing steel and aluminium. The embodied carbon in steel is 1.8 kg CO2/Kg steel compared to 8.2 kg CO2/kg aluminium.[16] But greenhouse gas emissions are not the only environmental impact of metal production and it is when other wastes are taken into account that the intensely polluting nature of aluminium becomes apparent. The Wuppertal Institute estimates the abiotic intensity (solid waste products) of aluminium production to be 37 kg waste/kg aluminium for primary aluminium compared to only 9.32 kg waste/kg basic oxygen steel, while the gaseous emissions are 10.87 kg airborne emissions/kg aluminium compared to 0.77 kg/kg steel. Water usage is even more striking at 1047 kg water/kg aluminium compared to 81 kg water/kg steel! (see table below)[17]

Material Intensity of aluminium and steel. Adapted from Wuppertal Intstitute for Climate, Environment and Energy. 'Material Intensity of materials, fuels, transport services, food' 2011 [18]
Type of metal Specification Abiotic material intensity (kg/kg) Water intensity (kg/kg) Air intensity (kg/kg)
aluminium Primary aluminium 37 1047.7 10.87
Secondary (recycled) aluminium 0.85 30.74 0.95
Wrought alloy 35.28 996.84 10.37
Cast alloy 8.11 234.13 2.93
average 18.98 539.21 5.91
steel Plate, hot dipped galvanised, basic oxygen steel 9.32 81.86 0.77
Rebar, wire rod, engineering steel, electric arc furnace route 1.47 58.76 0.52
average 7.5 66.59 0.53

The EAA have exerted continued pressure in Brussels to secure financial and regulatory benefits for increased aluminium in cars as a sustainability measure. A 2009 EAA position paper on the European Union's European Green Cars Initiative states:

The aluminium industry welcomes regulatory initiatives aiming at stimulating the demand for low CO2 emitting cars.
EAA’s Automotive and Transport Market Group chairman Roland Harings points out: “Our industry is highly concerned that, in its current shape, the proposal ignores the most straightforward option for emission reductions which is lightweighting, and which can be applied immediately.”
The European Aluminium Association is therefore ready to help legislators amend the proposal towards more technological neutrality. [19]

Pushing aluminium vehicles in India

The EAA, along with the Aluminium Association of India (AAI), the International Aluminium Institute (IAI) and The Aluminium Association (USA) have linked up in a campaign to promote 'lightweight' aluminium vehicles in India, a country with one of the fastest growing transport sectors, and most of the world's remaining bauxite. [20]

Due to the latter fact, aluminium companies are well established in India, maintaining close relations with the large hydro lobby and governments pushing this rapid industrial form of 'development'. Das and Padel's research explores the 'neo-colonisation' of India by aluminium companies, and their push to increase per capita demand for aluminium up to Western levels. [21] The EAA are using their well developed 'green cars' argument here to suggest increased aluminium consumption as a climate change policy in India.

Green Aluminium Architecture?

The EAA claims that increased use of aluminium in construction is a green measure due to the longevity of the metal (with an expected lifetime of 80 years in buildings), its use in energy efficiency technologies such as solar panels and reflective curtains, and it's recyclability at end of use. The International Aluminium Institute also hosts a website dedicated to promoting the sustainability of aluminium in construction.[22]

As in the case of light-weighted cars these claims extole the perceived benefits of the use phase ignoring the comparitively polluting and material intense production process of aluminium (see previous section).

The EAA have been lobbying in Brussels to influence regulations on building sustainability. They argue that the end of life recyclability of metals should be included in sustainability evaluations, not just the recycled content of materials used. A 2010 position paper even makes the bizarre argument that we should use up primary metals today, and consider this a contribution to sustainability as they can later be recycled:

The metal material has value and should be managed for that value: the material stock should be used today for its maximum utility while at the same time being conserved and recycled to meet the needs of future generations.[23]

Packaging reduces waste?

The EAA claims that aluminium packaging contributes to sustainability by increasing the shelf life of food, and therefore preventing wastage due to expired food being thrown out. Their 2010 'Sustainability of the European Aluminium Industry' report even claims that aluminium-wrapped single use packets of coffee are more sustainable than a large packet due to the risk of water and coffee wastage when too much is made.[24] It's section on packaging begins:

Aluminium packaging is part of the solution for more sustainability in production and consumption

by delivering quality food, drinks and pharmaceuticals in pristine conditions to the consumer. Aluminium packaging is able to meet today’s challenges of product safety, convenience, marketing and sustainability whereas the sustainability aspect is becoming increasingly important. And more than anything else this means preventing spoilage and waste. The ecological performance of aluminium packaging should be discussed against this background and should be put in the right perspective. In a world with a rapidly growing population living mainly in cities, less packaging doesn’t necessarily mean less food wastage. On the other hand resource efficiency can also be met by increasing the recycling and recovery performances of used aluminium packaging.[25]

Life Cycle Analysis

The EAA's greenwash arguments for the sustainability of aluminium cars, buildings and packaging are largely based on the science of Life Cycle Analysis which compares the cradle to grave impact of different materials. Since the early days the aluminium industry (particularly the Aluminium Association and International Aluminium Institute) has played a key role in developing this system and influencing it's theory, skewing it to benefit the industry. For example the considerable primary and secondary emissions from hydro-electric dams which much of aluminium smelting relies on are not included in the carbon intensity calculations.[26]

Secat (Aluminium research body)'s Subodh Das has helped make the argument for increasing aluminium content in cars through his published research, in collaboration with the Center for Aluminum Technology at the University of Kentucky, of which he is director.[27] He has previously worked for ARCO Aluminium, Alcoa, and sits on the board of the Aluminium Association and is a fellow to the American Society of Metals, demonstrating that he is far from a neutral scientist.[28]

With the help of academics like Subodh Das, the aluminium industry has participated in laying the foundations of the science of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) right from the start, working with academia, authorities and the consumer to ensure its success.[29] The industry contributes to the European Platform on Life Cycle Assessment which is developed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. [30]

Patrick de Schrynmakers highlights the advantages of EAA's LCA research in creating a green image for aluminium:

After 10 years of dedication, investment and research, we have come up with state of the art validated methodologies, rigorously collected and thoroughly assessed data to show what resources are saved by using lightweight, corrosion resistant and strong aluminium in products such as cars, trucks, aircraft, food packaging, windows, facades, solar panels and other renewable energy equipment. We have the systems in place to evaluate the benefits of recycling the scrap from end-of-life products - especially in terms of emissions. This enables us to prove that the environmental balance of producing, using and recycling aluminium over and over again evens out, ensuring that our material and the products made of it contribute to a sustainable economy and society.[31]

Despite this domination of aluminium life cycle science, the EAA has also been critical of the way LCA has been used in comparing between materials and hence making decisions on their environmental credentials. They note that LCA has become a very important and accepted tool for making political decisions.

The EAA's document "Life Cycle Assessment and Aluminium: What you need to know", produced for the European Aluminium Industry critiques several political decisions made using LCA which were not in aluminium's favour. Firstly the Danish government's rate of tax on packaging, and secondly The German government's UBA II study into re-usable glass bottles versus aluminium cans. In both cases they claim that the science was inconclusive and the judgement was subjective and value-based on the part of the assessor, and therefore unfair.[32]


Primary Aluminium

Downstream aluminium companies

European Trade Associations

National Associations



The EAA is a member of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), the American European Community Association (AECA), the Energy Forum and Eurometaux according to it's entry on the EC Lobbying Transparency Register.[37]

Public Relations

The EAA's major PR campaign Aluminium for Future Generations was assisted by lobbying and public affairs firm GPC International. In particular Sandy McLean (previously with Fleishman-Hillard) was reported in 1999 to be managing long term strategic media relations for the EAA who were to be her main client at GPC International. [38]



Previous staff



  1. Euromines[ Contact Us] Accessed 21/02/2012
  2. EC online Transparency Register European Aluminium Association entry Accessed 6/2/12
  3. The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics in the EU (ALTER-EU) June 2011 The missing millions – how the new lobby register needs to tackle the 'under-reporting' by industry lobby groups Accessed 6/2/2012
  4. EC online Transparency Register European Aluminium Association entry Accessed 6/2/12
  5. Agence France Presse MPs' climate package vote brings little joy for industry October 7, 2008. Accessed 30/04/10
  6. EEA Annual Report 2010 Accessed 14/05/10
  7. EAA position paper European Alliance of Energy Intensive Industries opposes EU unilateral move to -30% 6th May 2010. Accessed 03/02/2012
  8. Larry Lohmann, "Carbon Trading: A critical conversation on Climate Change, Privatisation and Power", Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, Durban Group for Climate Justice and The Corner House, Oct 2006, p. 31, Accessed April 2009
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  12. European Aluminium Association Sustainability of the European Aluminium Industry March 2010 p.30. Accessed 03/02/2012
  13. European Aluminium Association Sustainability of the European Aluminium Industry March 2010. Accessed 03/02/2012
  14. Aluminium for Future Generations EAA. Accessed 13/05/10
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  17. Wuppertal Intstitute for Climate, Environment and Energy [ Material Intensity of materials, fuels, transport services, food] 14th July, 2011. Accessed 03/02/2012
  18. Wuppertal Intstitute for Climate, Environment and Energy [ Material Intensity of materials, fuels, transport services, food] 14th July, 2011. Accessed 03/02/2012
  19. European Aluminium Association, Position papers EAA position on EC's Regulation proposal to reduce CO2 emissions from Light Commercial Vehicles 06 November 2009. Accessed 03/02/2012
  20. 'Aluminium Co's Eye Auto Industry for a Major Push' Nov 5th 2008. Financial express. Accessed 13/05/10
  21. Felix Padel and Samarendra Das, 2010 'Out of This Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel' Orient Blackswan. New Delhi.
  22. International Aluminium Institute Green building website Accessed 03/02/2012
  23. European Aluminium Association, Position papers CEN/TC 350 neglects the value of recycled materials 4th March 2010. Accessed 03/02/2012
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  25. European Aluminium Association Sustainability of the European Aluminium Industry p.37. March 2010. Accessed 03/02/2012
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  30. EAA website, Environment LCA accessed 30/04/10
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