In 2009, worldsteel commissioned the TU Bergakademie Freiberg (Chair of Environmental and Resource Management) to carry out a stakeholder survey. The aim of the survey was to better understand stakeholders’ perceptions of sustainability issues related to steel and the steel industry, and to help improve worldsteel reporting efforts.
The researchers gathered responses via 351 telephone interviews, from nine groups of steel industry stakeholders in 12 countries. They concluded that stakeholders perceive the following issues to be the most significant:
- Climate change (96% perceive it to be significant)
- Efficient use of energy resources, and Protecting the environment (94%)
- Efficient use of water resources (91%)
- Education, and Recycling (90%)
Other sustainability issues added by respondents can be grouped as:
- Social responsibility – e.g. equality, peace, fight against poverty, and community development
- Greenhouse Gas emissions – e.g. CO2 emissions, embodied energy, and carbon footprint (strongly linked to Climate change, above)
- Economic issues – e.g. globalisation, steel production moving to developing countries, responsible development, demand growth and political stability
Material characteristics that most influence stakeholders’ decision to select a product made with steel when buying or designing products are:
- Durability (310 out of 351 respondents)
- Cost effectiveness (up from 4th place in a similar study from 2007)
These were followed by 'consistent quality', 'strength' and 'adaptable to many different uses and for re-use and recyclability', as having the most impact.
Commenting on steel products as being part of the problem, solution or both, when considering the many challenges facing the environment globally, 52% consider steel to be both a part of the problem and the solution. Steel is considered part of the solution by 25% and part of the problem by the remaining 23% of respondents.
Major reasons stated for steel being part of the solution were:
"Steel products are essential" (material for green technology solutions with wide applications and large use, including for machines for nearly in every industry, as well as for development), and "Steel is recyclable and can be re-used".
The reasons stated as most important for considering steel as part of the problem include: high energy consumption, CO2 emissions, pollution of air and water, and environmental impacts.