Interview: Sustainability is a requirement for competitiveness in the long run

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Sustainability Outlook spoke to Tuomas Haikka, VP-Sustainability and Environment at Outokumpu Oyj

Can you tell us something about Outokumpu operations in India? What are the current and prospective focus sectors for the organization in India?

We have sales offices in New Delhi and Mumbai, and we have recently set-up a representative office in Vadodara. Focus sectors for us are manufacturing industries such as Commercial Catering, Food & Drink and Heavy Transport, as well as project and process industries, such as Energy, Chemical & Pharmaceutical, Building & Construction, Water Treatment and Oil & Gas.

Every organization has a different definition of sustainability involving different aspects (environmental and social) - how does Outokumpu define sustainability?

For Outokumpu, sustainable development includes economic, environmental and social aspects and their impacts on the Group’s stakeholders. In Outokumpu’s view, sustainability is a requirement for competitiveness in the long run. Sustainability means practices that support long term positive performance with regard and respect to social, environmental, and economic aspects.

We look at sustainability from both operational as well as product point of view. Outokumpu’s goals on sustainable development are that sustainability is an integral part of all Outokumpu operations, activities and decision making. It has a central role in Outokumpu’s strategies and planning, and with continuous improvement we are always aiming at a higher level. Furthermore, we work to ensure that our supply chain, i.e. business partners, subcontractors and suppliers, follow similar standards. To enhance transparency and accountability, Outokumpu strives for a continuous, systematic and open dialogue with key stakeholders.

For us, sustainability is at the core of our business, because the idea of sustainability is embedded in our product : stainless steel - fully recyclable and maintenance free material with excellent life cycle properties enabling sustainable solutions benefitting our customers and the whole society.

In our operations, sustainability stands for safe and healthy workplace and continuous development of our processes to minimize the environmental impact of production. The operations of the Outokumpu Group are guided by its ethical principles of human dignity, corporate responsibility, and good corporate citizenship together with a safe and healthy workplace.

Outokumpu advocates sustainable material usage to make products more sustainable. Have you seen an adequate uptake by the industry for sustainable materials (both in a global as well as Indian context)?

Development towards more sustainable material production, sourcing and solutions is a growing trend among industry . In several sectors, such as construction, transports, energy and water, sustainability is becoming a real factor in business decisions and industries are reacting to that. Outokumpu is an industrial leader and differentiates by being able to provide information (product declarations and life cycle data) and by being industry leader in performance.

How would you define “sustainable stainlesssteel”? How has Outokumpu used sustainable steel to develop sustainable products - can you give a few examples?

One could start by arguing that almost all stainless solutions are sustainable solutions. Stainless steel is corrosion resistant, durable, strong, hygienic and recyclable.

These properties make it an ideal choice for a variety of demanding industrial and consumer applications. Several life cycle studies indicate that in many applications the total cost of stainless steel is lower than that of competing materials. Stainless steel's unique properties make it difficult to find substitutes.

The development of new stainless steel grades allows, for example, green building requirements to be reached with the added corrosion resistance that helps to increase the whole structure's lifespan. Similarly in the transportation sector, high-strength grades enable the use of thinner gauges in a variety of applications such as tanks, pressure vessels and piping, and also in civil and structural engineering solutions. This leads to considerable savings in material costs, application weight and enables more efficient sustainable life cycles with corresponding energy savings and reduced emissions.

Sustainable solutions are more than environmentally friendly. High strength stainless, in addition to its many desirable properties, can also be tailored to increase safety. For example, high strength stainless steel can absorb up 60% more collision energy in case of accidents.

More information and several case studies for each of these application areas is available on our site.

Outokumpu has been a leader in environmental performance in the industrial sector. What is the business case that Outokumpu sees in taking up sustainability in their products and operations?

We see clear business benefits in being the leader in environmental performance. In stainless steel industry, investments that improve our environmental performance such as material and energy efficiency improvements increase our efficiency, and thus competitiveness. Environmental impact reducing activities like minimizing waste also reduce costs. Leadership in environmental performance also helps us to keep our image and brand stainless. Environmentally sound operations make Outokumpu a more attractive investment and reduce financial risks. At the end of the day we always put customer first; and since we see demands for products that are produced in environmentally responsible manner growing it is clear choice for us.

Would you like to highlight any sustainability related recent activity of the organization?

We have publically made available new Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) on our main products. These EPDs are externally assured statements allowing customers and designers to obtain information on life cycle impacts and environmental performance of Outokumpu Stainless Steel. On the operational side of sustainability, we have introduced a long term climate program where we have recently reduced our carbon profile by investing into wind energy and by improving energy efficiency
of our operations.

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