Head of Politics
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Steel's contribution to a low carbon Europe 2050 (BCG)
Sustainability in the German steel industry
Going about the steel business in an sustainable way ensures that work can be carried out under the same conditions over the long term whilst maintaining an ecological, economic and social balance.
Sustainability means taking environmental protection, economic efficiency and social aspects into account equally. This approach also plays a major role in the steel industry. Steel production can now be considerably more environmentally friendly than 50 years ago due to improved resource and energy efficiency. Thus, for example, the consumption of fresh water has been reduced by 70 per cent since 1960 and CO2 emissions have been cut by about 60 per cent. The highly efficient use of resources and thoughtful treatment of the environment have secured the steel industry in Germany a leading position in international competition.
Balancing act between environmental protection and economic efficiency
Within the framework of environmental protection, steel companies must always also consider the economic efficiency of the plants they operate. Neither investments made to increase environmental efficiency nor directly and indirectly related jobs can be maintained without steel production being appropriately profitable. Whereby future political decisions must also respect the three pillars of sustainability. In this regard, a balance must be found between positive and negative effects on the environment, on the economy and on society. Competitiveness requires freedom of action and security – for which politicians must create the necessary framework conditions. The German steel industry has long delivered products for sustainable consumption, while “sustainable consumption and production” (CSP) have long been practiced in the steel industry in Germany.
The steel industry is well aware of its social responsibilities
Social partnership has a long tradition in the steel industry. More than ever, companies now consider themselves responsible for further education and qualification of their personnel. The number of accidents at work has also been considerably reduced by means of technical and organisational measures. The training rate has been above-average during recent years.
Environmental policy must not endanger sustainable growth
Flexibility regarding plant approvals and operation has worsened continuously.
It has not been unusual for environmental legislation in Germany to lead to a mix of over-regulation and multiple regulation. The necessary flexibility regarding plant approvals and plant operation in the steel industry has worsened continuously during recent years – both for authorities and for the plant operators. All environmental regulations must therefore be subjected to serious examination at both the national and European levels – when amendments are planned, at the latest – and their interactions analysed and eliminated. This also applies for all new regulations, such as those involved in the “Year of Air” initiated by the European Commission, e.g. the Air Quality Directive or the National Emissions Ceilings Directive. In this regard, it is also necessary to take into account the effects on jobs and cost-effectiveness within the framework of a consideration of the sustainability of resource conservation.