Working Groups

Product Stewardship of Non-ferrous Metals


Product Stewardship Principles and Criteria - Working Paper





Working Paper


Porto, 12 - 13 November 2001


Non-ferrous metals are an essential and integral part of our modern society. Building on their unique properties and availability, metals are used in every facet of our daily lives. Without non-ferrous metals and the mines from which they are derived, society could not till the soil, build equipment, heat, cool and light homes, transport goods and maintain living conditions beyond the most primitive. The extensive industrial network associated with the exploration, production, use, and recycling of metals not only generates wealth and provides employment, but also supports a wide range of social infrastructure requirements.

While these metals are undoubtedly essential to modern society, the use of non-ferrous metal-bearing product applications must also be properly managed to reduce any potential adverse effects or risks to human health and the environment. In managing these issues, the concept of product stewardship plays an essential role. It applies to specific elements, substances or products and their associated risks based on assessments of all stages in the life cycle.

Today, there is a growing expectation on the part of civil society and governments for industry to practice stewardship in both its processes and product areas. While regulatory regimes exist in many countries to regulate domestic processes and products, it is recognised that mechanisms are needed for industry to develop voluntary product stewardship schemes that in turn can be recognised by regulators and other stakeholders as an alternative or as a complimentary approach to regulations.

Ultimately, for any formal stewardship scheme to be successful, it will need to be implemented primarily by companies, on their own or through associations. Where appropriate, the scheme may also need the support of governments and the endorsement and participation of other stakeholders. Whatever the approach, implementation should allow for a progressive buy-in by organisations at different speeds, and take into account regional, sectoral and product-specific priorities and circumstances. Adopting such a stewardship programme may produce measurable benefits in the sustainable development performance of individual companies and provide the incentive to use these achievements for recognition in the market place. Nevertheless, to be effective in the long run, a scheme should aim at broad collaborative action across industry, including both global players and small and medium sized enterprises.

This document forms the basis for a voluntary approach to product stewardship for non-ferrous metals by outlining the guiding principles and criteria that would be central to any stewardship scheme. It is intended that these principles and criteria form the basis for action, to varying degrees, by governments, industry associations, companies and civil society groups. The principles were developed to cover five main themes of stewardship: governance, information and communication, product design, recycling, and research and knowledge base. The criteria are indicative, and show how principles are capable of being translated into measurable indicators of progress.


Governments and industry are increasingly adopting the concept of integrated decision making, that is to say the incorporation of economic, environmental and social considerations into the decision-making process. The challenge faced by decision makers, working under what could also be called a sustainable development approach, is to find the right balance between the competing needs and expectations of society and the tendency to follow a single focus approach. That is not to say that an equal balance between all three areas for consideration is always achievable, or in many cases even necessary, but that any sustainable development approach must demonstrate that all three areas have been taken into account and included in the decision-making process. When such decisions are taken in an open, transparent process, where accountability can also be measured, this forms the basis for what many consider to be an essential element of good governance.

Headline Principle:
The commitment to sustainable development should be reflected in the high-level policies of governments and companies, and demonstrated in business practice and governance arrangements.

Principle A: Corporate/Sectoral Policy.

Sustainable development should be a corporate commitment, requiring leadership from the CEO and the senior management team, and should be seen as a component of all activities.

A1 Environmental, social and economic aspects are integrated into the decision making processes.

A2 Have diversity in management structure and approach in place that is aligned with sustainable development policies.

A3 Employees are trained and development programmes established that build awareness of the contribution individuals can make to sustainable development in the workplace.

A4 Resources are committed to implement a product stewardship programme.

Principle B: Procurement.

Internal sustainable development approaches should be extended throughout the supply chain and to other business partners.

B1 Suppliers, contractors and joint-venture partners are required or encouraged to implement practices that are consistent with corporate policies on sustainable development.

Principle C: Business Conduct.

High standards of governance and an adherence to ethical business practices should be demonstrated. This contributes to the elimination of illegal activities, increases transparency in government-business relations, and promotes respect for human rights internationally.

C1 Sustainable development performance is evaluated through internal and external form of verification and reporting on environmental and social performance.

C2 Corporate codes of conduct exist that define ethical behaviour in dealings with any legitimate stakeholder.


Information and communication with stakeholders is key for any successful product stewardship scheme. For sound integrated decision-making to take place, information related to the product life cycle is essential. This requires the collection and dissemination of information related to the benefits and risks associated with any given product throughout its life cycle and the education of other members of the supply chain regarding the safe use of the product.

Headline Principle:
Implementation of sustainable development starts with the free availability of accurate and relevant information between stakeholders.

Principle A: Stakeholder dialogue.

Programmes should be established to communicate openly and in a timely manner about products and processes with relevant stakeholders on activities related to resource management, environment, safety and health.

A1 Identify those groups that have a legitimate stakeholder interest through regular analysis of activities and strategies.

A2 Ensure that appropriate information, including information regarding the impacts and benefits of products to society, is freely available and accessible to interested parties, whilst respecting necessary commercial confidentiality.

A3 Ensure that mechanisms are established to initiate dialogue with stakeholders. A wide range of communications mechanisms should be considered, such as: training events, advisory services and outreach programmes designed for the local community, suppliers, customers, governments and other stakeholders.

A4 Work with governments and other legitimate stakeholders in the development of well-balanced legislation that takes into account sound science, regulations, product standards, and voluntary agreements that protect as well as provide benefits to employees, the community and the environment.

Principle B: Hazard and risk communication.
The relevant aspects of hazard and risk associated with products, including those relating to health, safety and the environment, should be communicated to stakeholders.

B1 Ensure that an assessment of the risks associated with the use of products is undertaken. Recommend improved risk management measures and inform employees, customers, the community and other relevant parties.

B2 Promote the safe use of the product and the relevant responsibilities (including those of the user). This should include information regarding the safe use, transport, recycling and disposal of the product.

B3 Clearly identify and accept the extent of responsibility regarding the product to stakeholders.

Principle C: Reporting.
The reporting of timely, reliable and accurate information is essential for public understanding and informed decision-making.

C1 Report promptly on health and environmental risks to customers, employees, regulators and the public.

C2 Establish a process for an objective appraisal of performance under the stewardship programme.

C3 Periodically report, review and evaluate sustainable development performance.


The unique properties of metals, alloys and advanced metallic materials provide product designers with the opportunity to create and meet consumer demand for a wide range of products and product applications. While product designers must take into consideration such factors as form, function, performance, safety and value to the consumer, consideration should also be given to the entire life cycle of the product in the context of sustainable development. This requires an understanding of life cycle assessment, including the safe use of the product, as well as consideration for extending the use of the metals contained in the product through recycling.

Headline Principle:

Building on the unique properties of metals, promote the design of products that are safe and efficient in their use of energy, natural resources and materials, and that can be recycled.

Principle A: Design for Sustainable Development.

Work in partnership with the scientific community, product designers and manufacturers to advance design for sustainable development, including durability, reuse, recyclability, ease of dismantling for asset recovery and efficient recycling.

A1 Improve the quantity and quality of materials flow data and life cycle inventory (LCI) data for non-ferrous metals.

A2 Improve understanding on the part of product designers concerning the value and current limitations of life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle impact analysis (LCIA) methodologies as well as the positive contribution of metal recycling in minimising life cycle impacts of products.

A3 Advance LCI, LCA and LCIA methodologies and other product-oriented tools to clarify appropriate recycling approaches, recognise the value of materials that can be recycled repeatedly and define data requirements to support scientifically sound and transparent analytical and integrated decision-making processes.

Principle B: Efficient use of materials.
Develop metal containing products that maximise the efficient use of natural resources and reduce the potential burden on the environment.

B1 Promote policies and programmes that encourage design for (i) extending product life and thus reduced waste generation, and (ii) recycling, diversion of end-of-life products for recycling and use of recycled materials.

B2 Establish and maintain a system of continual improvement that makes sustainable development impacts key considerations in designing, developing and improving the life cycle performance of products.

Because of their value, consistent performance characteristics, durability, chemical properties, and versatility of use, metals can be re-used almost without limit. As a consequence, recycled materials are a vital source of supply. Recycling closes the life-cycle loop, extends the efficient use of metals, reduces pressures on landfills and incinerators, and may save energy. For product stewardship schemes to be effective, cooperation between producers, recyclers, governments and other civil society groups to develop and implement national and international policies and strategies that encourage the sustainable management of recoverable non-ferrous-metals-bearing materials/resources is essential.

Headline Principle:
Optimise recycling of products and materials containing non-ferrous metals to maximise the efficiency of resource use, to reduce environmental pollution and to address other concerns related to long-term disposal and/or any adverse population or occupational exposure.

Principle A: Collection.
Work with first users, downstream manufacturers and distributors, governments, local authorities, other material suppliers, the public and other partners to enhance collection volume of end-of-life products containing non-ferrous metals and minimise collection costs, while ensuring effective protection of human health and the environment.

A1 Encourage information exchange within and between businesses, industries, governments, local authorities, consumers and the public to facilitate waste diversion for recycling.

A2 Recognise that non-ferrous metals in the waste stream often retain residual value that makes them of use to manufacturers, consumers and recyclers, which provides an economic incentive for the collection and recovery of wastes that contain them.

A3 Consider the benefit of avoided public and societal costs for disposal in assessing the net cost of diversion programmes.

A4 Maximise economic drivers for waste diversion and responsible recycling through the adoption of a mix of complementary measures, which could include disposal restrictions or differentiation of movement controls.

A5 Increase recycling by developing and implementing appropriate public education and outreach programmes.

Principle B: Technology.
Promote the development and application of technologies for recycling of non-ferrous metals and other materials.

B1 Encourage and support studies to characterise the quantity and quality of particular waste streams containing non-ferrous metals that contribute to losses to landfills.

B2 Adopt policies to encourage research, technology development and demonstration, and reduce investment risks.

B3 Establish appropriate programmes for technology transfer, financing and capacity building.

B4 Ensure that technology assessments consider national and local circumstances and priorities, including technological and managerial capacity, supply of recyclable materials, local skills levels, relative costs of capital and labour and any other policy objectives together with local resources and needs.

B5 Recognise the potential to improve the environmental performance and economic efficiency of recycling facilities through skills upgrading, adoption of appropriate environmental management systems and technical co-operation.

Principle C: Supporting Policy Infrastructure.
Adopt or adapt policies that promote, rather than hinder, recycling.

C1 Adopt public policies and other frameworks that encourage responsible recycling and discourage disposal by identifying, minimising and equitably apportioning costs of collection and transportation.

C2 Identify and correct policy failures that provide economic disincentives for recycling such as limiting access to or reducing competition for recyclable materials, restricting the movement between countries of materials destined for recycling, imposing unnecessary transaction costs or depressing market prices for recyclable materials.

C3 Consider the special characteristics of the informal sector and adopt policies that reduce environmental impacts and enhance social and economic contribution by integrating informal operators into the formal collection and recycling sector to raise their environmental performance and reduce adverse environmental impacts.

C4 Promote policy stability to provide the assurance that recycling facilities will be able to freely compete for access to supplies of recyclable materials, while ensuring that inefficient recyclers are not sheltered from competition.

C5 Study, provide technical input to and assist interested countries in developing practicable methods of implementing the concept of "Environmentally Sound Management" of recyclable metal-bearing products.

The non-ferrous metals industry seldom exists as a fully integrated industry. Typically the full life cycle of any non-ferrous metal consists of many separate companies with widely differing characteristics, ranging from major international companies to local small and medium enterprises. An individual company has the ability to generate high quality data related to its prime activity, but may have problems generating quality data relating to activities upstream or downstream to that company. Generation of such "integrated" data requires the willingness of each link in the chain to collaborate and the establishment of some form of organisation to take responsibility for the integration. Initially, the principles and criteria should concentrate on meeting the obvious priority (key) data needs for assessment of sustainability rather than on generating a fully comprehensive data set.

Headline principle:
Many of the objectives relating to sustainable development can only be met by ensuring that data is generated, integrated and made available over the full metal life cycle throughout a product's life.

Principle A: Disclosure of data.
Key data needed to assess the priority sustainable development impacts of products should be freely available to interested stakeholders.

A1 Periodically disclose key data on the sustainable development impacts and benefits of the products.

A2 Where such key data does not exist, act to fill the relevant data gaps.

Principle B: Integration of data.
Data relevant to sustainable development should be integrated to reflect the full metal life cycle.

B1 Establish and support mechanisms for producing the integration of sustainable development data to reflect the full metal life cycle.

B2 Encourage other companies up- and downstream of the product chain to join the activity to integrate sustainable development data.

Principle C: Assessment of data.
A commitment should be made to participate in a voluntary assessment of the sustainable development impacts of the life cycle relevant to the product. The assessment should aim to identify the beneficial and the problematic sustainable development impacts of this cycle.

C1 Establish and maintain a system to identify, characterise and improve knowledge on safe uses, benefits, risks and challenges associated with existing and new products.

C2 Participate in the assessment of the sustainable development impacts and use the outcomes of the assessment to establish priorities and responsibilities for fostering and promoting beneficial as well as preventing and mitigating detrimental sustainable development impacts of products.

Principle D: Action plans for Impact Management.
Solutions for the priority sustainable development problems identified by the sustainable development Impact Assessment should be developed.

D1 Develop action plans and establish measures for preventing or mitigating identified priority sustainable development challenges, including the setting of measurable targets and time-lines for implementation.

D2 Control the outcomes of the action plans by means of a credible verification process and revise the action plans, if necessary.

International Copper Study Group International Lead and Zinc Study Group International Nickel Study Group