Worldsteel forum highlights steel image change

The attitude of the steel industry “has completely changed” in a matter of hardly more than three years, says Edwin Basson, director general of worldsteel.

At the association’s Open Forum – Climate Action conference in Antwerp, Belgium, speakers discussed the changing self-concept within the industry, but also its perception from the outside.

“Steel executives know that decarbonisation needs to be done,” Basson said in the opening keynote of the conference. That target will force change in other industries, too, like raw materials, “so we need to lead the discussion beyond the boundaries of the steel industry”, he said at the event attended by Kallanish.

His point was complemented by this year’s worldsteel chairman, Jeong-Woo Choi, who stated that “the challenge is greater than the sum of the steel industry”. Speaking in a recorded video address, the Posco Holdings chief executive reiterated that “years ago the steel industry was seen as rusty and smoky”.

This image is still prevailing to a large extent, as relatively cleaner steel production stands against growing concern over climate change. In surveys carried out in 2018 and 2022, testing the “familiarity” with and the “favourability” of the steel industry, it turned out that the latter has suffered in the USA and western Europe.

However, this scepticism in developed economies concerns not only steel, but also materials like cement and aluminium, as well as manufacturing industries in general, according to worldsteel spokesman Bradley Forder.

Against that, both familiarity and favourability have risen in India, a region with less than 100kg of steel consumption per capita per year on average. In China, with its consumption of more than 500kg per head, people are more critical. Poll respondents felt very much familiar with, but remarkably less favourable towards the industry, which is an indicator of the proverbial air pollution the country needs to come to terms with.

Christian Koehl Germany