November 10, 2011

Alcoa Foundation Invests $350 000 at École Polytechnique de Montréal

The grant will fund the development of ImpactWorld+,a new global life cycle impact assessment model

Alcoa Foundation announced today a $350 000 grant to École Polytechnique de Montréal to develop ImpactWorld+, a new global life cycle impact assessment model. This sum is allotted to “Advancing Sustainability Research: Innovative Partnerships for Actionable Solutions”, an initiative to which Alcoa Foundation has already granted 4 million $ to fund 10 sustainability research projects in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Russia and the United States.
 
“Companies are increasingly using the life cycle analysis (LCA) to make decisions on products they make or buy. It helps them understand the environmental impact of a product during its entire life, so they can better see what could be improved,” explains Lise Sylvain, Regional Environment and Sustainability Manager at Alcoa Canada Global Primary Products. “Having an enhanced method to assess these impacts will help decision making for all LCA users, not only for Alcoa but for all industrial sectors. This explains why the research project has garnered interest worldwide.”
 
The assessment of life cycle impacts is an important step in LCA. It notably allows to characterize a product’s or a service’s environmental performance, and to identify the environmental aspects requiring action. Though LCA is a powerful tool, the current characterization methods fail to meet the specific needs of several industries, namely because of the use of models that solely apply to a given geographic location, such as Europe or Canada, for example.
 
Stemming from the necessity to secure regionalized characterization factors for North America, the ImpactWorld+ project, to which Alcoa Foundation is associated, has a much broader purpose. The research activities aim to develop a life cycle assessment methodology that reaches beyond current regional modelization capabilities to assess, on a consistent basis, the environmental burdens of supply chains and the working concept of demand in the framework of a global economy. “In other words, the idea is to develop a first global regionalized method that would enable to assess and distinguish one same emission produced in different geographic locations around the world,” explains Valérie Bécaert, Research Officer at École Polytechnique de Montréal.
 
All industrial sectors will benefit from the research to be conducted over a 3-year horizon. However, research professionals expect the first advances in process and modelization knowledge, as well as the preliminary results, to emerge by the end of 2012.
 
“Alcoa Foundation’s financial support constitutes an incredible source of motivation for our research professionals. Not only is it a sign of recognition, it reflects a will to promote fundamental and applied research on important issues,” adds Mrs. Bécaert. “It is an essential study, and thanks to this grant, we are especially delighted to see École Polytechnique de Montréal’s innovative work receive the recognition it deserves.”
 
With regard to aluminum, the LCA allows to assess paths for optimization at each of the phases of the life cycle of aluminum products, from design to recovery to recycling, including manufacturing and usage. Various elements are taken into account during a product’s life cycle, for example the fact that aluminum can increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thereby diminishing the environmental footprint of vehicles.
 
About École Polytechnique de Montréal
Founded in 1873, École Polytechnique de Montréal is one of Canada's leading engineering teaching and research institutions. It is the largest engineering university in Québec for the size of its student body and the scope of its research activities. With over 37,000 graduates, École Polytechnique de Montréal has graduated 25% of the current members of the l'Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec. Polytechnique provides training in 16 engineering specialties, has 241 professors and more than 6,900 students. It has an annual operating budget of over $200 million, including a $72-million research budget. www.polymtl.ca.
 
About Alcoa Foundation
Alcoa Foundation is one of the largest corporate foundations in the U.S., with assets of approximately US$436 million. Founded more than 50 years ago, Alcoa Foundation has invested more than US$530 million since 1952. In addition to responding to local needs identified by Alcoa communities, Alcoa Foundation seeks to find solutions to broader sustainability issues, like climate change. In 2010, Alcoa Foundation awarded more than US$825,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations in communities where Alcoa Canada facilities are located. The work of the Foundation is enhanced by Alcoa Canada employees’ involvement, who dedicated more than 200 000 hours of volunteerism to 200 organizations over the past five years. All four Alcoa Canada Primary products plants have been awarded the ICI ON RECYCLE! certification from Recyc-Québec. For more information, visit www.alcoa.com/canada, under ‘Community’.
 
Alcoa, sustainable actions
In Québec, Alcoa Canada Global Primary Products (GPP Canada) is comprised of the Bécancour (ABI), Baie-Comeau and Deschambault smelters, as well as the Bécancour Rod Plant. These four plants have an annual production capacity of almost one million metric tons of ingots, castings, billets and aluminum rods. GPP Canada counts roughly 3,200 employees and its activities generate over $1.2 billion in economic spin-offs annually in Québec. Further information is available at www.alcoa.com/canada/en.