Embrace digitization to unlock value
Many steelmakers are already digital leaders, adopting technology to improve defect recognition, process safety and quality assurance. But there is a potential to make greater use of digitization to quantify, monitor, record and assess processes to enhance sustainability performance and reporting.
Digital solutions can also help improve productivity by optimizing energy consumption, minimizing waste and controlling emissions. And blockchain offers the potential to verify the sustainability quotient of steel value chains, giving end users reliable data to assess their net carbon impact. It can also help create more agile supply chains, while cloud computing can allow central command and control centers to oversee geographically dispersed mine-to-metal value chains.
Collaborate with all stakeholders to accelerate the transition
Decisions made around sustainability initiatives cannot be based purely on financial costs to the business. Instead, steelmakers must act with all stakeholders in mind and be prepared to make a balanced trade-off between industry, end consumers and the environment. Aligning stakeholders will be critical to quicken the pace of change needed and to enable the collaboration required to co-develop feasible solutions to complex challenges.
Building the future of green steel
The steel industry’s transition to greener steel will not be uniform across regions. Steel producers in Western regions and countries already investing in improving sustainability are likely to see a more rapid adoption of low-carbon technologies compared with steel producers in China and India, where the combination of newer capital assets and cost pressures will force a more gradual transition.
Even in countries where progress will be slower, steelmakers should make incremental investments in process improvements to decrease energy intensity, reduce carbon emissions, increase material efficiency and promote the circular economy. Given the relatively large carbon footprint of steel production, even small steps will make a big difference in moving the industry closer to carbon neutrality.
Making this shift will require a staged digital road map to realize the potential of new technologies and achieve economies of scale, while improving sustainability across the steel value chain. And it will require steelmakers to join with a broad range of stakeholders, including governments, the United Nations, academia, communities and the World Steel Association, to build a greener steel industry.
Steel is one of the world’s most sustainable materials — permanent, forever reusable and the most recycled substance on the planet. Building a more sustainable production process is a long-term investment that will yield enormous environmental benefits over the full life cycle of green steel.