Most steel end-users are still relatively oblivious to the challenges their businesses face from the transition to low-emission steel usage, found participants at worldsteel’s Open Forum-Climate Action earlier this month.
Speakers largely agreed that small and medium-sized users (SMEs) are still a long shot from the green steel issues discussed at the level of steelmakers. In the case of thyssenkrupp, when talking to its customers’ customers, Marcel Hilgers of the group’s Technical Customer Service found that SMEs plan to follow the big users, once they advance their transitions. But the ultimate decision would still be made at chief executive level. “It is a strategic decision,” Hilgers pointed out.
He noted that SMEs can be overwhelmed when serving big buyers that want to go green. “I have seen tenders requesting sustainable steels in the small print with so many exceptions and complex conditions,” he said at the event attended by Kallanish. This left companies insecure about how to deal with green steel, he added.
The particular challenges of the construction industry were addressed by Olivier Vassart, ceo of ArcelorMittal’s Steligence division. He noted that a premium of €200/tonne ($220) for green steel would be minimal, and would mean only GBP 1 in extra building costs per square metre in London newbuilds. But such rationales stand against an industry where most players “do not have pricing power and every penny counts”, he explained.
He noted that, to favour structural steel over concrete, the architect must be intercepted at an early sketching phase. “You cannot build a building in steel once it is designed in concrete,” Vassart said. Along the same lines, Hilgers added that policymakers, too, must be made more aware of steel as an option. “For them, concrete is simply bad, while wood is good. And with steel, they would not know if it is good or not,” he maintained.
In a general remark on consumers’ mentality, Hilgers stated: “It will take a while before people start choosing the sustainable toothbrush from the store shelf.”
Christian Koehl Germany