In his tenth year with Outokumpu, Johann Steiner, a member of the Leadership Team, has recently assumed additional responsibilities as the Executive Vice President of Sustainability, People, and Communications. With almost two decades of experience in HR leadership roles, Johann's interests extend beyond human resources, and he does not categorize himself solely as "the HR guy." At Outokumpu, he is the go-to person for those seeking a strategic and transformative perspective on business, guidance in creating future-proof organizations, and insight into connecting the dots between the past, present, and future.
Recently, Johann took on a new role leading the sustainability efforts at Outokumpu. This pivotal domain lies at the very heart of the company’s overarching strategy and innovative pursuits as Outokumpu is committed to its position as undisputed sustainability leader in stainless steel.
What is your view on the role of sustainability at Outokumpu?
We are a company with a history spanning over 100 years, driven by the ambition to become the most sustainable stainless steel company globally—a commitment we aim to uphold for the next century. I take immense pride in the fact that, systematically over the years, we have positioned ourselves as industry leaders in sustainability, integrating it as a cornerstone of our business model.
Achieving this goal involves translating technology into tangible actions and leveraging our competitive advantage to generate real business value. This necessitates mobilizing our entire organization and engaging with partners, academia, customers, and other stakeholders. Decarbonization, far beyond a mere capital expenditure, demands passion, creativity, and out-of-the-box thinking, exemplified by initiatives such as Circle Green.
I firmly believe that sustainability should permeate every facet of our operations—from innovation to our business practices, ultimately shaping our brand and communication strategy. It's about doing the right things and cultivating the necessary capabilities to reflect our true identity.
What I find most gratifying is that, at Outokumpu, we have showcased the potential of decarbonization by aggregating small initiatives into a comprehensive, impactful strategy throughout the years. The dedication of our people goes beyond the efforts of our sustainability team; it's a pervasive mindset that envelops the entire company. We are committed to leaving no stone unturned in our pursuit of continual improvement in sustainability performance.
What are the next steps to be taken in Outokumpu’s sustainability journey?
Our forthcoming actions in our sustainability journey involve striking the right balance between technology investments and managing capital expenditures. Given the highly dynamic nature of the market, where innovations emerge globally, we must stay abreast of developments and seek optimal solutions to bolster our decarbonization efforts amid this innovation landscape.
Simultaneously, we aim to unlock value in our downstream value chain, identifying opportunities that allow us to present our sustainable steel as valuable to our customers.
Looking ahead, my overarching ambition is to transform our already remarkable sustainability performance into a driver of business value creation. Sustainability, in our view, is not merely a cost burden but a genuine value proposition for the company and its stakeholders.
What distinguishes Outokumpu as a leader in sustainability?
Our standout feature lies in our in-house ferrochrome production in Kemi, Finland, setting us apart significantly. With locally produced ferrochrome, we can manufacture stainless steel with 70% fewer emissions than our industry counterparts. This impressive figure encompasses our entire production. For instance, when we consider Circle Green, our carbon footprint is only 7% of the global benchmark, a level of sustainability unmatched in the marketplace. Our competitors have yet to come close to our CO2 figures. Additionally, the renewable energy landscape in the Nordics gives us a distinct advantage over competitors in Europe and the Americas.
Moreover, the Nordic heritage of our company and its values are deeply ingrained in our business practices. Adhering to the world's highest standards in social responsibility, compliance, and business ethics forms a robust foundation that serves as a competitive advantage.
Notably, we proudly stand as the sole stainless steel provider with an approved 1.5-degree Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) commitment, and we are progressing well on our path to achieving ambitious climate targets.
What continues to drive your enthusiasm after a decade at Outokumpu?
Over the last 10 years, I've witnessed Outokumpu undergo a remarkable transformation—from an economically fragile patchwork of components to an unequivocal leader in sustainability, boasting a robust balance sheet and a strong market presence across Europe and the Americas.
This evolution instills in me a profound sense of confidence and optimism, anticipating a bright future filled with abundant opportunities. The process of exploring and charting the right course fascinates me, providing a constant source of energy and motivation every day.