Projects related to customers and markets are aimed at building links to customers to address more effectively the life cycle challenges facing the company. In addition, Hydro Aluminum has gained a much better understanding of logistical challenges and is finding ways to improve distribution and recovery logistics by working with selected customers.
Hydro Aluminum has focus on logistics because material used in packaging contributes to waste, and the public is concerned about overcrowded and environmentally unfriendly transportation systems. Energy data related to the logistics of distributing and recycling aluminum products are needed. In addition to affecting energy use and environmental impact, improved logistics can help realize cost and capital savings. By selecting a few projects and working with customers to analyze the transportation logistics involved, opportunities to improve the use of packaging material and patterns of transport and recycling have emerged.
Cooperation with customers has provided the company with a better understanding of the metallurgy in some markets that favor closed-loop recycling and has highlighted the importance of using systematic approaches to sharing data with large customers and helping more resource-limited customers. In the building market, which consists of smaller customers and fewer social and environmental pressure to recycle, cooperative links are weak. As a big company dealing with many smaller customers, Hydro Aluminum increasingly finds it has to take the lead in defining research and development needs and gathering data for life cycle studies.
The most significant lesson Hydro Aluminum has learned from its industrial ecology experiment is the need to inform and educate. In the mid-1980s, Hydro Aluminum and several other big companies were under attack by environmental groups. Norsk Hydro, Hydro Aluminum's parent company with a turnover of roughly 60 billion NOK (about one-tenth of Norway's GNP of about 650 million NOK), was considered ''a good enemy." It was operating its plants within government regulations but could do better by 1990s standards. The 1980s experience led to a change in information strategy.
Today, the company's policy is to be completely open about EHS matters. The change in policy results from a recognition that environmental groups represent society at large, and the company's employees are also members of society. Because the information the company provides to regulators is passed on to society, it seems prudent to directly communicate with the public. Well-informed employees are a company's best ambassadors, which means that a company needs to inform and educate its own employees. Environmental matters involve complex