You may not think that an accounting degree and accounting background is a typical path to becoming a Chief Sustainability Officer and one of the world’s foremost experts on aluminum, but Alcoa’s Kevin Anton took just that path. Anton spent three-plus decades in finance in the metals and mining industry, but it wasn’t until the recent financial crisis that he really started to think about his legacy. Instead of leaving his perch at Alcoa to try a new venture, the CSO position was created specifically for him. It allowed Anton just the kind of positive legacy he was looking to create. Anton stresses that sustainability is not a new trend at Alcoa, but he recognizes that the company only recently linked “the green agenda of sustainability to the green agenda of business.” More than a year after taking the CSO position, Anton has moved the company down a greener path. It all starts with our daily needs for aluminum products. Soda cans are only the tip of the iceberg. Aluminum, also known as the “wonder metal,” is used in all sorts of infrastructure and buildings, as well as transportation, airplanes and much more. “It’s the perfect package,” Anton says. “It’s infinitely recyclable. That water can you drink out of can be recycled in 60 days, back on the shelf, back in your hand. So, the soda can you had at your Fourth of July picnic can actually be back [in time] to use for your Labor Day picnic.” It doesn’t stop there. Aluminum is beneficial in the transportation industry, increasing fuel efficiency and lowering costs wherever it is implemented. And again, it can be recycled over and over. Anton also cites the architecture industry as the fastest growing segment that has been turned on to aluminum, helping to lower energy costs and secure LEED certification points. One of the biggest changes Anton has helped to implement at Alcoa has been employee engagement. Nearly half of Alcoa employees regularly volunteer in their communities, helping to strengthen the company’s bond with the public. Furthermore, the focus has turned to waste and energy minimization. Anton won’t rest until Alcoa becomes a zero-waste-to-landfill company, and he is constantly stressing ways to cut back energy usage throughout the company. Anton’s green quest will continue as he hopes to help the American aluminum recycling rates tick upward, as well as increase energy efficiency and reduce the footprints of Alcoa’s facilities worldwide.
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