Leaders in sustainability: How the steel industry is shifting away from our take, waste, make society

The steel industry is taking control of its own future, taking a lead on the sustainability front and ensuring that the steel sector is part of the national conversation.

The Sustainable Steel Council (SSC) is a group of industry leaders committed to the circular economy – the economic system aimed at eliminating waste and continual use of resources – as well as a low-emissions future in New Zealand.

CEO of Metals New Zealand and member of the SSC, Nick Collins says, “Much of the conversation in New Zealand is about carbon because we have a piece of legislation to be carbon zero by 2050.

“While we were in lockdown, it showed that if we didn’t have industry and economy, we could certainly improve our air quality and a whole lot of other things.”

SSC offers a certification obtained through an audit process based on criteria aligned with the SSC Charter – it reflects the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework and relevant Sustainable Development goals.

The Living Standards Framework (LSF) represents the New Zealand Treasury’s perspective on what matters for New Zealanders’ wellbeing, both in the present and in the future.

“The Treasury’s framework provides a really good balance between the four capitals.

We can’t have all economic development, and we can’t return everything to a pristine environment just yet,” Nick says.

“It’s a balance, and it’s not just about carbon.”

What is included in the Living Standards Framework?

  • Twelve domains of current wellbeing outcomes
  • Four capital stocks that support wellbeing currently and in the future
  • Risk and resilience.

There are 12 domains of wellbeing that reflect the current understanding of how New Zealanders experience wellbeing.

The four capitals – natural, human, social and financial/physical – are the assets that generate wellbeing.

  • Civic engagement/governance
  • Cultural identity
  • Environment
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Income and consumption
  • Jobs and earning
  • Knowledge and skills
  • Time use
  • Safety and security
  • Social connections
  • Subjective wellbeing.

The Treasury continues to update and develop the framework based on feedback and as it learns more about the wellbeing of New Zealanders.

The NZ metals industry is the first sector in New Zealand to assess themselves against this framework with HERA commissioning BERL for this work.

HERA CEO and SSC Chair Troy Coyle says, “We believe the LSF is an exciting new way of looking at economic contribution, but we also see it has a lot of potential for disruption to business as usual. Getting on board with it early will be key – particularly in the capitals we don’t currently rank too highly in.”

The metal industry has a focus on delivering value

HERA has recently released a DRAFT Aotearoa Transformation Agenda and Plan which provides an industry wide blue-print to position industry for a sustainable future based on Treasury’s Living Standards Framework.

Feeding into this is the Sustainable Steel Councils focus on providing support when needed and the recognition members deserve towards shifting to a more sustainable way of running a business.

For example, SSC certified members can receive both a New Zealand Green Building Council and Green Star materials credit so their customers know that they’re making the right choice – a choice that can create a healthy place for people that minimises their environmental footprint.

Not only that, but SSC works on providing help and tools for members:

  • Supply chain risk management developed by SSC (currently under pilot)
  • Policy templates
  • Green Star points directory
  • Environmental management systems (EMS) guidance.

Tools currently being developed by Toitu Envirocare for small/medium sized businesses: Carbon risk management and sustainable procurement.

What’s on the horizon

“The first horizon, where we are at the moment, is how we help our industry to understand the change that’s going on and how they can position themselves so the change presents an opportunity rather than a threat to their business,” Nick says.

As time moves on, society is accepting the value and importance in how everyone can mitigate their impact so we can build a better future for everyone.

“Horizon two presents a really big change for all of our sector. How do we move from being a take, waste, make society?” Nick says.

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