Sustainable Steel and Global Climate Goals: A Path to Net Zero

George Cooper

Sustainable Steel and Global Climate Goals: A Path to Net Zero

At U.S. Steel, we are committed to building a sustainable future. As a leading steel producer, we recognize the urgent need to address the global climate crisis and contribute to the achievement of net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Our goal is ambitious: to achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. This means eliminating the carbon footprint associated with our operations and products.

In April 2021, we took a significant step forward by announcing our commitment to reduce GHG emissions intensity by 20% by 2030, compared to a baseline year of 2018. As part of this commitment, we are actively exploring and developing new technologies to reduce emissions, collaborating with partners across industries, and seeking innovative solutions to lower our environmental impact.

Our sustainability efforts encompass Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, which primarily arise from our manufacturing processes and purchased electricity. We are also working towards measuring and disclosing Scope 3 emissions in the future, which include emissions produced from the entire lifecycle of our products, including raw materials extraction, transportation, and end-of-life recycling.

As an industry leader, we are investing in research and development to explore various avenues for emissions reductions. This includes advancing technologies like electric arc furnace (EAF) technology, direct reduced iron/hot briquetted iron (DRI/HBI) using natural gas, hydrogen-based DRI, carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), and improving the electric grid infrastructure to enable the use of cleaner energy sources.

Key Takeaways:

  • U.S. Steel is committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • We have set a goal to reduce GHG emissions intensity by 20% by 2030.
  • Our sustainability efforts cover Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, with plans to address Scope 3 emissions in the future.
  • We are investing in research and development to explore emissions reduction technologies such as EAF, DRI/HBI, hydrogen-based DRI, CCUS, and grid improvements.
  • Collaboration with partners across industries is crucial in achieving our climate goals.

The Role of the Construction Industry in Sustainable Steel

The construction industry plays a significant role in global greenhouse-gas emissions, accounting for approximately 25% of the total. Steel is a major component in construction, responsible for more than 50% of global steel demand.

The production of steel is energy-intensive and contributes a significant amount of emissions to the construction process. To achieve the global climate goals, the construction industry needs to shift to greener business models and utilize materials such as sustainable steel.

The use of sustainable steel in commercial buildings can reduce embodied carbon by up to 70% by 2030. This reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions can make a significant impact on mitigating climate change and addressing sustainability concerns in the industry.

However, the transition to greener steel requires changes in pricing models and increased investment in sustainable technologies. Construction companies need to make astute decisions to position themselves for the transition and adapt to a new cost base.

Government support and regulatory alignment are also essential in promoting sustainable procurement practices and addressing embodied carbon emissions in construction projects. Collaborative efforts between the construction industry and policymakers are crucial for driving the adoption of sustainable steel and achieving the desired environmental outcomes.

Benefits of Sustainable Steel in the Construction Industry

By incorporating sustainable steel in construction projects, the industry can reap several benefits:

  • Reduced greenhouse-gas emissions: Sustainable steel helps to lower the carbon footprint of construction activities, contributing to global climate goals and reducing environmental impact.
  • Improved energy efficiency: Sustainable steel production methods focus on optimizing energy usage, leading to more energy-efficient construction processes.
  • Enhanced resource management: Sustainable steel promotes the efficient use of resources, minimizing waste and maximizing material utilization.
  • Enhanced corporate reputation: Embracing sustainable practices, including the use of sustainable steel, can enhance a company’s reputation as an environmentally responsible organization.
  • Regulatory compliance: Utilizing sustainable steel can help construction companies stay in line with evolving regulations and standards related to carbon emissions and sustainability.
Key Strategies for Transitioning to Sustainable Steel in the Construction Industry
1. Embrace greener business models
2. Invest in sustainable steel technologies
3. Collaborate with steel manufacturers to promote sustainable production methods
4. Educate and train industry professionals on the benefits and importance of sustainable steel
5. Develop and enforce sustainable procurement policies

The SteelZero Initiative: Driving Demand for Responsible Steel

The SteelZero initiative, led by ResponsibleSteel and supported by various companies, is at the forefront of accelerating the transition to responsible steel production and driving the demand for net-zero steel. As part of the SteelZero commitment, participating companies pledge to purchase or specify 100% net zero steel by 2050, with an interim goal of using 50% responsibly sourced steel by 2030. This commitment sends a powerful message to the steel industry, encouraging the adoption of sustainable practices throughout the supply chain.

Steel producers are actively responding to the growing demand for responsible steel by prioritizing their decarbonization strategies. By embracing cleaner and greener production methods, the industry aims to reduce its environmental impact and contribute to the global pursuit of net zero emissions. To ensure a standardized approach, the adoption of a globally applicable standard is crucial. The updated ResponsibleSteel Standard 2.0 plays a pivotal role in defining and verifying low emission and near-zero steel, providing clarity and transparency to stakeholders.

Yet, achieving a sustainable steel industry is a collective effort that extends beyond individual companies. Governments have a vital role to play in supporting the transition to net zero emissions. Clear policies, public procurement practices, and regulations addressing embodied carbon are essential in creating an enabling environment for sustainable steel production. Additionally, supporting the development and deployment of emerging technologies and fostering a level playing field for net zero steel production are critical steps toward a more sustainable future.

George Cooper