To understand the environmental performance of a product, its entire life cycle needs to be taken into consideration. A life cycle assessment (LCA) of a steel product looks at resources, energy and emissions, from the steel production stage to its end-of-life stage, including recycling.
Life cycle thinking is key to every aspect of sustainability. While LCA is typically applied to environmental sustainability, an ‘integrated life cycle approach’ can also be used to measure the social and economic impact (life cycle costing, LCC) of products. Keeping all three in balance is key if we are to make sustainable products.
It is important to note that social and economic factors are as critical as environmental factors if we are to create industries and societies which are truly sustainable.
In 1996, worldsteel launched its innovative worldwide life cycle inventory (LCI) study for steel products. This was the first time that an international LCI study of a specific material had been carried out.
The study was updated in 2000, 2010, 2017, 2018, 2019 and we released our current 2020 LCI dataset at the beginning of 2021. This study contains new global and regional LCI data for 15 steel products, from hot rolled coil to plate, rebar, sections and coated steels. Data for an additional two products (UO pipe and ECCS (tin-free steel)) is also available, but has not been updated at this time.
The study has been carried out in accordance with the worldsteel LCI methodology report and ISO standards 14040 and 14044 and is the most comprehensive and accurate LCI dataset for steel products produced in the world.
The study report for the 2020 data release provides a more detailed insight into the data collected and the results published.
A key goal of worldsteel is to provide support on the environmental credentials of steel to customers and users of steel, with the intention that those that specify and use materials in applications have access to relevant data to facilitate their own informed decision-making. This is achieved by generating this LCI database for steel products and making it available to stakeholders all around the world.
For a much more comprehensive understanding of the approach, check out our Q&A via this link.