Dr Baris Bekir Çiftçi

Head, Strategic Initiatives and Raw Materials Markets, worldsteel

1 December 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak has already given a significant boost to both technological progress and the green transition [1], which are the two main transformational forces of this century.

The accelerated speed of change is not likely to stop.

Increased adoption of e-commerce and online services, online work and education tools will support the development of new enhanced technological tools and services, creating a self-reinforcing cycle for technological progress.

Concerning the green transition, the COVID shock-induced increase in awareness of the looming environmental risks will almost certainly lead to increased public pressure on governments and businesses for an acceleration in mitigation of risks. It will increasingly be required of them to take the necessary adaptation measures to protect people (preparedness).

We already see some countries announcing “green recovery packages” that place supporting renewable energy development and decarbonisation technology development at the centre of their plans for economic recovery from the pandemic.

Let’s now consider the resulting industry-specific consequences of an accelerated green transition and a technologically progressive environment for the global steel industry.

1. Increased focus on decarbonisation

Our efforts towards decarbonisation are likely to receive a boost from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Investments in energy efficiency, electrification and higher scrap use, and efforts towards the development of breakthrough low CO2 emission steelmaking technology are likely to be accelerated.

2.  Accelerating product portfolio evolution

Our product portfolio has always evolved in response to changing requirements of steel-using industries.

However, the pandemic most likely accelerated some of the changes we expected to see in our customers’ requirements.

So, we will need to accelerate our efforts in providing steel solutions for zero-emission mobility, smart & green buildings, solutions for climate change adaptation projects and infrastructure modernisation.

3. Increased focus on the life cycle and circular economy characteristics of steel

The pandemic is likely to underpin the global steel industry’s efforts towards studying the life cycle and circular economy characteristics of its products, towards improving these characteristics and communicating the superior attributes of its products very strongly.

4. Increased focus on collaboration: sustainability partnerships

The massive scale of the climate change challenge will require increased collaboration with the following partners:

  • energy and chemical companies:
    for decarbonisation in carbon capture and use projects and hydrogen steelmaking, and the use of steel co-products and recycled gases.
  • steel-using industries:
    in the design phase for the development of the appropriate steel solutions for smart and green applications.
  • our supply chain:
    for meeting ESG standards and transparency, better management of steelmaking materials involving sorting and beneficiation processes that will result in a smaller environmental footprint.

worldsteel is setting up a membership expert group to review in detail how the five identified key megatrends will shape the global social and economic landscape and the steel industry value chain in the years and decades to come.

Diagram adapted from Blackrock, 2019, “Megatrends: the forces shaping our future"

[1] We observe that increasing environmental consciousness and pressures are driving a reformation of the global socioeconomic order. This has been most evident in the energy and automotive industries so far. This process is also known as the green transition.

Your opinion would be very much appreciated.