The aluminium industry has taken a leadership role by establishing a uniform, quantitative, global approach to energy and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. The industry publishes a complete life cycle inventory report every five years and the results of performance against a number of sustainability indicators annually.

The primary aluminium industry transforms bauxite ore into metal through the input of energy, in the form of electricity and heat. While the mining of bauxite uses relatively little energy, the chemical process of alumina production in a refinery requires significant amounts of thermal energy. The electrochemical reduction of alumina to aluminium metal in a smelter requires the most energy input of all the processes, in the form of electrical energy. The casting process requires thermal energy inputs, though these are small compared to the refining and smelting processes.

Between 1990 and 2010 total direct greenhouse gas emissions from the production processes of primary aluminium, including bauxite mining, alumina refining, anode production, aluminium smelting and casting increased by only 20%, despite over 100% growth in primary aluminium production.

Over the same period, the production of aluminium from recycled products worldwide rose from 8 to 20 million tonnes per year, saving energy and avoiding greenhouse gas emissions while meeting the demands of modern society for strong, lightweight, safe and sustainable aluminium products. Recycling of aluminium products needs only 5% of the energy required for primary aluminium production and avoids over 95% of the emissions.