Decarbonizing the Automotive Supply Chain


The automotive industry is responsible for 9% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually and is a major consumer of materials that contribute the most to global emissions. High-carbon materials in vehicles like steel and aluminum account for 8% and 2% of global annual emissions respectively. The auto sector consumes 12% of global steel and 18% of global aluminum annually. As a major emitter of GHGs and consumer of high-carbon materials, decarbonizing the automotive industry supply chain is critical to the transition to a greener, cleaner, and more sustainable future.

Going Electric is Just the Start

The automotive industry is critical to achieving net-zero global emissions by 2050, a key part of the road map toward limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Currently, tailpipe emissions account for 65 to 80 percent of life-cycle emissions from gas-powered vehicles.

As automobile producers move to electric vehicles, by 2040 materials used for production will account for 60 percent of life-cycle emissions. This means in addition to going electric the auto industry must shift material supply chains to include green aluminum and steel, deforestation-free and sustainable leather, rubber, and other materials to be truly carbon neutral.

This is especially true for procuring green steel and aluminum.  Steel accounts for 8% of GHG annually and automakers consume 12% of global steel yearly. To meet climate goals steel emissions intensity will need to drop 93-100% by 2050. Global steel demand is projected to grow 30% by 2050. To meet the increased demand and stay on a trajectory to net Zero by 2050, the world needs 70 new green steel plants by 2030. Surging demand for green steel in the automotive industry is expected to drive the Green Steel Market from 2025-2030, making auto companies a key driver in the push to decarbonize the steel industry. Additionally, the auto industry's demand for aluminium will double by 2050 as companies shift to electric vehicles (EVs). The aluminum sector is responsible for 1.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution per year, about 2% of global emissions. Car manufacturers accounted for 18% of all aluminum consumed worldwide in 2019; as such, it has an important role in driving decarbonization.

Take Action

We applaud GM’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2040 but more must be done to fully realize its goals and ensure a carbon-neutral supply chain free of human rights abuses and exploitation.

A recent report from Sheffield Hallam University found that GM is connected to steel and aluminum from producers in the Xinjiang region of China using forced Uyghur labor

GM: Take the lead in driving comprehensive industry decarbonization including aluminum and steel making sure your supply chains are free of forced labor and human rights violations.

Add your name to tell GM: cut the carbon and human rights abuses.


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General Motors: No Dirty Steel & Aluminum. No Forced Uyghur Labor.

As a global leader in the automobile industry, General Motors (GM) is uniquely positioned to set the industry standard for supply chain decarbonization. In 2021 GM announced they planned to become carbon-neutral by 2040 and eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035. This past April GM invited suppliers to pledge to advance global climate action and protect human rights.

However, two reports released in 2022 connected GM suppliers in Xinjiang region of China connected to forced Uyghur labor. In April, Horizon Advisory released a report that found all aluminum producers in the Xinjiang region of China using forced Uyghur labor. Reporting identified GM as one of three auto companies associated with these suppliers. China produces more than half of primary aluminum worldwide, 90% of which is produced with electricity from coal. The eight aluminum producers linked to forced Uyghur labor represent 17% of China’s total production and if treated as one company the Xinjiang region would rank as the world’s largest aluminum producer.

In December of 2022, Sheffield Hallam University released a new report, Driving Force: Automotive Supply Chains and Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region, which connected GM to aluminium and steel producers connected to forced Uyghur labor. China is the world's largest steel producer accounting for 52.9% of global steel in 2021. Over 90% of China's steel is produced using dirty coal-powered blast furnaces. In 2021 GM delivered 2.9 million vehicles in China making it uniquely positioned to lead the transition to clean steel and aluminium by committing to only source from producers using renewable energy and free of forced Uyghur labor. 

In addition to forced Uyghur labor in China, poorly managed bauxite mining also creates serious ecological and human rights abuses in communities across the globe.

A recent report from Human Rights Watch identified Indigenous communities in Guinea, Ghana, Malaysia, and Australia who experienced the loss of land, polluted waters, and loss of livelihoods from bauxite mining. In Guinea, it is estimated that over the next twenty years bauxite mining will destroy more than 4,700 square kilometers of natural habitat, an area six times the size of New York City. West Africa has already lost significant critical ecosystem hotspots, and the expansion of bauxite mining in Guinea is driving critically endangered western chimpanzees to the brink, with populations plummeting.

GM: Cut the Carbon and the Human Rights Abuses

The ability of GM to meet its climate and human rights commitments is deeply intertwined with the decarbonization of the steel and aluminum industries. As a global leader in the automotive industry and a major consumer of aluminum, we are calling on GM to:

  • Adopt specific annual targets for purchases of carbon-free aluminum, reaching zero- carbon aluminum emissions by 2027.
  • Commit to ending the sourcing from any supplier connected to human rights violations or the exploitation of Indigenous lands or people.
  • Develop a public plan to assess human rights risks regularly, including at the bauxite mining, alumina refining, and smelting level.
  • Publicly disclose information regarding your aluminum supply chains, including mines, refineries, and smelters.

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