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.

Recent reports from Human Rights Watch and 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. In April of 2022, GM invited suppliers to pledge to advance global climate action and protect human rights.

However, three recent reports have connected GM to producers in the Xinjiang region of China linked to forced Uyghur labor. In April of 2022, 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 aluminum 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 aluminum by committing to only source from producers using renewable energy and free of forced Uyghur labor.

According to the February 2024 Human Rights Watch report the Chinese government has made Xinjiang a hub for heavy industry and automotive production, including aluminum production, even as it has expanded abuses against Uyghurs. GM has partnered with Chinese automaker SAIC and other companies, which have been at the center of that growth:

“The US imported $2.33 billion worth of passenger motor vehicles from China in 2022, up from $92 million in 2013… General Motors (GM), the biggest US carmaker by volume of sales in 2021, manufactures vehicles in China through joint ventures with SAIC and other Chinese companies. GM, through its joint ventures, delivered 2.3 million vehicles in China in 2022, with GM selling 2.27 million vehicles in the US the same year. GM owns between 25 and 50 percent of its joint ventures with SAIC, including 50 percent of the joint venture, SAIC-GM (known as SGM), that manufactures well-known GM brands such as Buick, Chevrolet, and Cadillac.”

Despite years of being linked to forced Uyghur labor in China GM insists it has “a robust Supplier Code of Conduct that sets clear expectations for our suppliers and contractors to uphold human rights, including the elimination of forced labor.” 

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:

  • Commit to procure, specify or stock 50% net zero steel by 2030.
  • Adopt specific annual targets for purchases of carbon-free aluminum, reaching zero-carbon aluminum emissions by 2027.
  • Join global initiatives supporting value chain emission reductions, including ResponsibleSteel, Steel Zero, and the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative.
  • Commit to ending the sourcing from any steel or aluminum 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 its steel and aluminum supply chains, including mines, refineries, and smelters.
  • Commit to supporting manufacturers with strong labor standards to help grow domestic manufacturing of clean technology parts and materials.
  • Commit to an equitable transition to electric vehicle (EV) production for U.S. autoworkers including the reshoring of EV manufacturing jobs.

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