Soo Jung Kim

Head, Sustainability Communications

8 June 2020

Recognition is probably one of the most effective non-financial factors for people and businesses to spur engagement and drive improvement. It helps them to see that their work is appreciated and valued. It also motivates them to do more and live up to their name and reputation, meeting and exceeding expectations.

This was the underlying impetus for the creation of the Steel Sustainability Recognition Programme at worldsteel.

On top of this, as part of worldsteel’s drive to raise standards and set higher industry-wide benchmarks, we hope that by rewarding high performance member companies there will be a resulting impetus to prompt a parallel increase in standards across all members in line with our goals and expectations.

Challenging steel companies

Launched in 2018, the Sustainability Champions programme has been running for the past 3 years, producing 6 Champions in the first year and second years from more than 100 steel producing companies around the world.

To our delight, there are 9 Champions this year, and there will probably be more Champions next year.

Would it be too many to have 15 Champions? Probably, yes. While we are very proud of the increasing number of champions, our intention is to recognise those companies that clearly stand out as champions, while at the same time encouraging other companies to do better and to do more.

So, if more companies are meeting the standards we set, we need to raise that bar higher. Challenge makes us stronger and we would like to challenge steel companies to do more and aim higher.

What does it take to be a Steel Sustainability Champion?

The Champions programme takes a holistic approach looking at sustainability efforts and activities of steel companies from top management engagement to performance measurement and reporting practice, to implemented initiatives and real case studies.

The criteria include industry wide sustainability programmes that are initiated and co-ordinated by worldsteel.

Participation in each of these programmes requires substantial effort and resources from companies. Meeting all the requirements is an achievement that certainly deserves a meaningful and unequivocal recognition from the industry.

Commitment: the trickle-down effects

The first box to tick is the worldsteel Sustainable Development Charter, which needs to be agreed to and signed by the CEO or Chairperson of the steel companies.

The CEO’s involvement is key to drive a company’s sustainability journey and to align it with the company’s core business strategies.

The trickle-down effects of a CEO’s mindset and actions have an immense impact on the company’s sustainability strategy and programmes.

A recent report, published by the United Nations Global Compact reveals that 99% of CEOs believe that sustainability is important for the future of their business. Many of our steel CEOs share the same belief.

72 steel company CEOs worldwide signed the latest worldsteel Sustainable Development Charter. Signing the Charter means committing to the 7 sustainable development principles of the steel industry and being an active part of the sustainability drive by the industry.

Measurement: the first step for improvement

There is a difference between a company having a sustainability programme and actually being sustainable. One critical difference is measurement and reporting.

Many steel companies around the world spend significant resources to measure their performance and report to a list of ESG framework and reporting bodies. Evidence tells a true story and transparency keeps companies responsible.

This criterion therefore requires steel producers to provide company data for 6 sustainability indicators and to provide Life Cycle Inventory data for their steel production processes and steel products.

Of the 85 companies contributing to the Sustainability indicators data collection, 26 provided data for all 6 indicators. 21 companies passed the LCI data threshold.

Action: the quality check

Participation on its own will not make you a champion. This ‘action’ criterion involves ‘evaluation’ and ‘competition’, the final hurdle. Steel companies must be shortlisted in one of the Steelie Awards or Safety and Health recognition programme.

All nominations are rigorously checked and evaluated by both external and internal judges and only a few top-quality nominations are shortlisted per category.

126 sustainability related programmes were submitted and 30 nominations by 20 companies were shortlisted in 2019.

What is not yet in the picture?

The Champions programme evolves with time to reflect the most relevant aspects of the sustainability performance and challenges of the industry.

The growing number of Champions and increasing interest and participation of our members indicate that it is time to introduce a more challenging yet achievable threshold.

Given the size and the impact of the global steel industry, it is rather important that improvement and progress of our sustainability efforts and performance be a deciding factor for Champions.

We will be looking into that progress and how effectively it can be assessed to differentiate Champions from the rest of the group.

Recognition is like a reinforcing bar. Like a rebar that keeps the structure to strengthen and hold the concrete in tension, we hope our recognition programme helps steel companies to reinforce their sustainability efforts and keep them in the right track of their sustainability journey.