steel manufacturing

All around the world, steel manufacturers are keen to extol what they say are the environmental benefits of  their products, including steel’s low weight relative to its strength as well as high levels of recyclability and reusability, which industry participants say reduces energy consumption and carbon emissions over a building’s life cycle.

Now, the industry’s global body says companies are lifting their game with regard to sustainability.

At the very least, they are publishing more reports and making more commitments. Releasing its latest update on the progress of initiatives to address sustainability challenges, the World Steel Association (worldsteel) says participation among steel manufacturers in programs and efforts in this area is on the rise.

In particular, worldsteel says that, globally in 2012:

  • 100 steel manufacturers produced ‘Sustainability Indicators’, a set of indicators established in 2003 which measure the industry’s progress in sustainability performance. These manufacturers are responsible for 676 million tonnes of steel and 45 per cent of world production.
  • 66 companies had signed up to the Sustainability Development Charter, up from 50 in 2008, confirming their support for the commitments toward sustainable development.
  • 44 steel producers submitted emission data under the CO2 Data Collection and Climate Action Programme, up from 38 at the program’s inception in 2007.
  • 38 submissions were made to recognize excellent safety and health initiatives under the Safety and Health Excellence Recognition program, up from 12 in the program’s first year in 2009.

Rolling Mill

Worldsteel also says than in 2010, a study to evaluate the environmental performance of steel products and the steel industry – the third of its kind – received data from 49 steel producing sites in 17 countries, covering around one quarter of total global steel production.

Of course, these figures do not, in themselves, necessarily mean that the actual environmental performance of steel manufacturing is  improving.

Indeed, at face value, a cynic might say that all these figures actually mean is that more reports are being produced and more commitments and noise are being made, while actual results, rather than reports or verbal commitments, are what really matters.

Furthermore, at this stage, worldsteel has not actually made public the results of its Sustainability Indicators.

Still, what gets reported on gets measured by definition, and what gets measured is more likely to be properly managed. Hopefully, then, the increase in number of firms reporting on their sustainability indicators will help further lead to better practices.

Provided these reports are accurate, relevant and clearly presented in a meaningful way, higher levels of disclosure and information can lead to greater public accountability on the part of the industry with regard to its performance in this area.

Whether or not practices are actually improving cannot be seen from this report. What can be seen from this report, however, is that more commitments are being made about sustainability in steel manufacturing.

By Andrew Heaton