To understand the environmental performance of a product, its entire life cycle needs to be taken into consideration. A life cycle assessment (LCA) of a steel product looks at resources, energy and emissions, from the steel production stage to its end-of-life stage, including recycling. Steel can be recycled over and over again, indefinitely, without any loss of its inherent properties.
Life cycle thinking is key to every aspect of sustainability. While LCA is typically applied to environmental sustainability, an ‘integrated life cycle approach’ can also be used to measure the social and economic impact (life cycle costing, LCC) of products. Keeping all three in balance is key if we are to make sustainable products.
It is important to note that social and economic factors are as critical as environmental factors if we are to create industries and societies which are truly sustainable.
In 1996, worldsteel launched its innovative worldwide life cycle inventory (LCI) study for steel products. This was the first time that an international LCI study of a specific material had been carried out. The study was updated in 2000 and 2010, and the current dataset was released in September 2017.
A key goal of worldsteel is to provide support on the environmental credentials of steel to customers and users of steel, with the intention that those that specify and use materials in applications have access to relevant data to facilitate their own informed decision-making.