ResponsibleSteel is the first international standard for responsible steel production. Tata Steel is a founding member of ResponsibleSteel and is currently undergoing assessment for its various sites.
The ResponsibleSteel certification process involves a detailed review of key policies and their implementation by an independent external assessor.
Responsible Steel Certification is a voluntary certification scheme for the steel industry that aims to promote and verify the social and environmental performance of steel production and processing. It is based on a set of 12 principles that cover topics such as climate change, natural resources, water management, human and labor rights, governance, transparency, etc. To achieve certification, steel sites have to undergo third-party audits and certification decisions by independent certification bodies, such as DNV.
The certification process also involves stakeholder engagement, site visits, and transparent audit findings and certification decisions. ResponsibleSteelTM certification can help steel companies demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, enhance their reputation and brand value, reduce their risks and costs, and access new markets and investors.
What are the 12 principles of Responsible Steel certification?
Responsible Steel is a standard and certification initiative created by the organization “ResponsibleSteel”. The standard was initially published on November 5, 2019, and aims to certify steel producers who act sustainably. The standard includes 12 principles, covering topics of social governance as well as environmental protection or social interaction with employees.
These principles are:
- Corporate Leadership: The site shall demonstrate leadership and commitment to responsible business practices.
- Social and Environmental Management Systems: The site shall establish, implement and maintain effective social and environmental management systems.
- Occupational Health and Safety: The site shall provide a safe and healthy working environment for all workers.
- Labour Rights: The site shall respect the rights of all workers, including those of contractors and subcontractors.
- Human Rights: The site shall respect human rights and avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts.
- Local Communities: The site shall engage with local communities and other affected parties, respect their rights and interests, and contribute to their social and economic development.
- Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The site shall measure, manage and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and support the transition to a low-carbon economy.
- Noise, Emissions, Effluent and Waste: The site shall prevent or minimise adverse impacts on air, water and land quality from its activities.
- Water Stewardship: The site shall use water efficiently and equitably, and safeguard the quality and availability of water resources.
- Biodiversity: The site shall protect and enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services in its area of influence.
- Decommissioning and Closure: The site shall plan and implement responsible decommissioning and closure of its facilities.
- Sourcing of Input Materials: The site shall source input materials responsibly.
Certification to ResponsibleSteel allows producers to meet the sustainability needs of their customers, promote steel as a responsible material, and reduce GHG emissions.
How does a company get certified by Responsible Steel?
A company can get certified by ResponsibleSteel by following these steps:
- Site self-assessment against the ResponsibleSteel International Standard
- Stage 1 audit, including a desktop review of site documentation, data, records, and self-assessment, and a stakeholder and media analysis
- Stage 2 audit, including an on-site visit, interviews with site management, workers and external stakeholders
- Audit report compilation by the certification body and review by an independent Assurance Panel
- Certification decision and publication on the ResponsibleSteel website
- Surveillance, including ongoing monitoring and a surveillance audit
The certification process is designed to ensure high levels of independence, impartiality, stakeholder engagement and transparency.
What are some benefits of Responsible Steel certification?
Some benefits of ResponsibleSteel certification are:
- Meeting the sustainability needs of customers who demand more transparency and responsibility from steel producers
- Improving responsible sourcing and production and reducing risk in the steel supply chain by complying with social and environmental standards
- Promoting steel as a responsible material that contributes to a low-carbon economy and a circular economy
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts such as noise, waste, water use and biodiversity loss
- Creating jobs that benefit individuals and communities by respecting human rights, labor rights, health and safety, and local development
- Generating operational efficiencies by implementing best practices and continuous improvement
- Increasing investor attractiveness by lowering ESG risks and demonstrating progress towards the SDGs
- Differentiating products from competitors by making credible claims about the responsible processing and production of steel
How many companies are certified by Responsible Steel?
According to the Responsible Steel website, there are currently 57 certified sites across Europe, Asia, Australia and North and South America, covering 100 million tonnes of steel. Some of the companies that have received site certifications from Responsible Steel include Tata Steel, Aperam, ArcelorMittal, Thyssenkrupp, US Steel and Voestalpine.
What is the difference between site certification and product certification?
Site certification and product certification are two different types of product certification that have different scopes and purposes. Site certification applies to a specific site or location where a product is processed or produced, while product certification applies to a specific product or product category.
Site certification evaluates the social and environmental performance of a site against a set of criteria, while product certification evaluates the quality and safety of a product against a set of standards.
Site certification is usually voluntary, while product certification can be mandatory or voluntary depending on the product and the market. Site certification can be used to demonstrate responsible practices and transparency across the supply chain, while product certification can be used to demonstrate compliance and conformity with customer requirements.
How does Responsible Steel ensure the credibility of its certifications?
Responsible Steel ensures the credibility of its certifications by:
- Developing standards through a multi-stakeholder process that involves representatives from business, civil society, governments and academia
- Aligning with the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice for standard-setting, assurance and impact evaluation
- Requiring third-party audits and certification decisions to enable high levels of independence and impartiality
- Conducting site visits and stakeholder consultations to enhance confidence in audit findings
- Publishing audit summaries and certificates on its website to ensure transparency and accountability
- Establishing an independent Assurance Panel to review audit reports and certification decisions
- Providing a complaints and appeals mechanism for any affected parties to raise concerns or disputes
How does ResponsibleSteel measure its impact?
Responsible Steel measures its impact by:
- Developing an impact evaluation framework that defines the intended outcomes and impacts of the standard and certification programme
- Collecting and analysing data from certified sites, members, stakeholders and other sources to assess the performance and progress of the standard and certification programme
- Reporting and communicating the results and learnings of the impact evaluation to internal and external audiences
- Using the feedback and insights to inform the improvement and revision of the standard and certification programme
What are some challenges of implementing responsible steel production?
Implementing responsible steel production can come with a variety of challenges:
High Costs: Transforming traditional steel manufacturing processes to more responsible or sustainable ones often requires significant investment. This includes upgrading equipment, adopting new technologies, and training employees on new procedures.
Technological Hurdles: Some of the technologies necessary for responsible steel production are still under development or aren’t yet scalable. This means they may not be feasible for wide-scale use in the short term.
Regulatory Barriers: In some regions, existing regulations may not support the transition to more responsible production methods, or there might be a lack of incentives to encourage such shifts.
Supply Chain Complexity: Steel production involves a complex supply chain that can span multiple countries. Ensuring responsibility at every stage can be a daunting task, requiring extensive coordination, transparency, and trust among all parties involved.
Consumer Demand: There may be limited demand for responsibly-produced steel if consumers are not aware of the benefits or if it comes at a higher cost.
Energy Requirements: Steel production is energy-intensive. Shifting to cleaner energy sources while maintaining productivity and quality can be challenging.
Despite these challenges, the move toward responsible steel production is an important one for the sustainability of the industry and the health of the planet.
Some more challenges of implementing responsible steel production are:
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving net-zero carbon targets, given the high energy intensity and reliance on fossil fuels in steel making
- Implementing sustainable mining practices and ensuring responsible sourcing of raw materials, such as iron ore, coal and scrap metal
- Ensuring employee safety and labour rights and addressing issues such as occupational health hazards, accidents, wages, working hours and collective bargaining
- Meeting customer requirements and preferences for steel products that are environmentally friendly, socially responsible and cost-effective
- Adopting new technologies and innovations that can improve efficiency, quality and sustainability of steel production and processing
- Managing global competition and trade barriers and coping with fluctuations in demand, supply and prices of steel and its inputs
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