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Feature: measure for measure

The International Iron and Steel Institute (IISI) has published the first sustainability report of the world steel industry. Forty two companies worldwide, including the world's top five steel producers in 2003, voluntarily reported on 11 sustainability indicators. These companies represent over 33% of world crude steel production and created $191 billion in revenue in 2003.

In 2003 11 indicators were devised and agreed by the IISI's board of directors to measure the industry's economic, environmental and social performance and are also intended to be used to track the industry's progress towards sustainable development.

The industry's environmental performance is measured through greenhouse gas emissions, material efficiency, energy intensity, steel recycling and environmental management systems. Employee training and lost time injury frequency rate are used to measure social performance.

The indicators were developed by representatives of IISI member companies in consultation with external organisations and the number of indicators was purposefully kept small to encourage the greatest possible participation by member companies in the data collection exercise.

As a 100% recyclable material, steel is easy to handle and separate from other materials in the recycling stream and has high recycling rates in many parts of the world. According to the report, a recent world survey of steel can recycling found an average recycling rate of 63% with some countries reporting rates in excess of 85%. Over the past 10 years the US has consistently reported rates of over 90% for automotive steel.

The IISI report, The Measure of our Sustainability, states of that the steel industry is already recycling vast quantities each year, with IISI statistics showing that in 2002 383 million tonnes of steel were recycled, amounting to 42.3% of total world crude steel produced that year. The report is the result of many years of work and aims to encourage steel companies to fully integrate sustainability into their business.

As the automotive industry is a key driver for innovation in steel, a number of consortia collaborating through IISI are working to demonstrate that innovation in steel products leads to a direct improvement in vehicle performance. The most recent project has been the UltraLight Steel Auto Body - Advanced Vehicle Concepts project, which focused on the application of the latest advances in automotive steel grades.

Steel companies are also collaborating through IISI to undertake a new five year programme to further research, develop and commercialise housing solutions using steel. The aim of the work is to meet the growing demand for housing while providing more sustainable solutions.

The report states: "The need for housing will pose a serious challenge to economic development and place greater demand on the environment and social fabric in which people live. An increasing emphasis on sustainable development that considers these factors in a systematic way is needed to provide a solution."

A PDF version of the IISI Sustainability Report can be downloaded free from www.worldsteel.org

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