Climate change and the sustainable and responsible use of natural resources are among the main challenges for society today. This puts them at the top of the political environmental agenda, where they are likely to remain for the foreseeable future.

Product design and consumer behaviour can affect the overall sustainability performance and efficiency of a product. Companies making the products are paying closer attention to manufacture, utilisation, reuse and end-of-life, which are increasingly important for material specifiers.

Among the tools and methodologies available to evaluate the environmental, economic and social performance of materials and consumer products (including their impact on climate change and natural resources), life cycle assessment (LCA) provides a holistic approach that considers the potential impacts from all stages of manufacture, product use and end-of-life (reuse, recycling or disposal).

A full life cycle approach is the only way to assess a product’s impact on the environment.

It is also, therefore, the best way to help society make informed decisions on the use of materials and their economic importance.

Focusing solely on one aspect of a product’s life, such as the material production or a single impact such as Global Warming Potential (GWP), distorts the real picture and could lead to unintended consequences because it might ignore increased impacts during another life cycle phase (e.g. the use phase) or in another environmental impact category. LCA ensures that these unintended consequences are understood and avoided.

An LCA ensures that improvements in one life cycle phase do not result in unintended consequences in another phase or impact category.

LCA, based on sound methodology and transparent reporting, is an essential tool to assist with policy-making.

Key points from this report

Circular economy and life cycle assessment

LCA in worldsteel

At a very early stage, the steel industry recognised the need to develop a sound methodology to collect worldwide LCI data, to support the markets and customers.

As the global body for steel, worldsteel is in a unique position to provide the most consistent and accurate information about LCA in the steel industry.

In the mid-1990s worldsteel established the LCA Expert Group to undertake a work programme on LCA.

A thorough set of guidelines was developed for companies that carry out or use LCA, which recommended maintaining the highest standards in both the undertaking of LCA studies and their disclosure.

This is to prevent the reduction of complex issues to simplistic and partial analysis, which is especially important when using LCA to compare the use of alternative materials in product design.

Worldsteel has been collecting life cycle inventory data from its member companies worldwide since 1995, when worldsteel first launched its LCI methodology and data collection.

Data is provided, on request, as cradle-to-gate data. The net benefits associated with recycling steel scrap at the end of the product’s life are also provided to enable cradle-to-grave studies to be carried out, demonstrating the importance of steel in the circular economy.

This data is used worldwide in LCA studies, not only by industry, but also by universities, governments and customers to ensure informed material selection decisions can be made. The worldsteel programme helps to identify ways to improve the eco-efficiency of steelmaking.

The worldsteel LCA methodology provides a common basis of measurement of environmental and efficiency performance around the world.

The LCI data quantifies ‘cradle to gate’ inputs (resources, energy) and outputs (environmental emissions) of steel production from:

the extraction of resources and use of recycled materials, production of steel products to the steelworks’ gate, reuse and remanufacturing, and end-of-life recovery and recycling of steel.

Contribute, improve and communicate

worldsteel started collecting LCI data in 1995 and now collects data on an annual basis. The sixth LCI database was completed in 2019.

The LCA Expert Group engages all stakeholders in the LCA process, to make better use of LCA as a tool in inter-material competition and decision-making.

Future mission

worldsteel has a clear mission to achieve the following objectives in the coming years:

LCI data and all related documents are available via If you are carrying out an LCA study, you can fill in the data request form at