Making of sustainability reporting through the decades

Outokumpu has had a forward-looking approach to sustainability reporting since the 1970s. Ever since then, the development of general standards and active internal work have brought the sustainability in to the core of Outokumpu’s strategy.

Outokumpu published its first sustainability report in 1975. At that time, the sustainability reporting was mostly connected to environmental issues. In general, sustainability reporting wasn’t very common, which made Outokumpu a pioneer in its industry. ”During 1970’s public concerns were raised towards mining and metal industry. There was a need for transparent communication on environmental responsibility, which Outokumpu answered by public reporting,” says Tuomas Haikka from Outokumpu Supply Chain Excellence, who has also worked as Outokumpu’s Sustainability Director for four years.

At the beginning, Outokumpu’s reporting concentrated on environmental dimension, especially emphasising water emissions and groundwater protection. A ground breaking sustainable technology such as flash melting was also highlighted. According to Haikka, Outokumpu has been one of the first companies in the steel industry to take into account the recycling and circular economy in its sustainability report.

“It’s fantastic to go through the first report and notice the forward-looking approach in defining sustainability as the starting point of Outokumpu’s operations. When it comes to sustainability, Outokumpu’s work is exceptional and the whole supply chain is globally unique. Since 1975, we have wanted the reporting to reflect this excellence in an open and transparent way.”

External expectations and internal commitment

Sustainability reporting became more common in the 1990s, still focusing mostly on environmental issues. During the last ten years, the reporting has broadened to other issues as well. “The development of sustainability reporting has been tremendous. Compared to 1970s, the reporting is more standardised and covers far more issues, such as life-cycle affects and society related issues. In today’s reporting, there are also various frameworks to guide the reporting work of the companies.”

Through the years, Outokumpu’s reporting has developed alongside with the external expectations and internal commitment. Outokumpu is committed to follow Global reporting standards (GRI) and has various external stakeholder expectations from stock exchange rules to voluntary investor and NGO requests. According to Haikka, Outokumpu’s sustainability reporting is also actively managed and developed as a part of the business processes and communications. “Sustainability is in the core of our strategy work since the stainless steel itself is the answer for many sustainability challenges. Stainless steel can be recycled, has a transparent supply chain, pays for itself in the long term and is indispensable for many industries. These themes are also the four main sections in this year’s Sustainability review.”

In its current reporting Outokumpu also looks more outside of its own processes and focuses on global megatrends, such as population growth, urbanisation, energy efficiency, adaptation to climate change and transforming towards circular economy. “These are long-term factors creating demand for sustainable and fully recyclable products such as stainless steel. The other main characteristics in our sustainability reporting are emphasising high energy efficiency utilisation of sustainable technological innovations as well as systematic safety operations.”

Long-term commitment towards society

Over the years, Outokumpu has mostly been able to achieve the short and long-term targets set in its sustainability reporting. “We have for example excelled and acquired industry leadership in reducing carbon footprint by more than 60% and achieving industry leading recycling content +87%. Our environmental investments alone have been over 400 million euros during the last decade.” Haikka sees the achieved targets and the long tradition in reporting demonstrating the commitment towards society, safety and health.

According to him, Outokumpu has been able to take the whole stainless industry forward to higher level of sustainability and make the product desirable also from the sustainability point of view. “Sustainability reporting is an important piece in building a bridge of knowledge between our sustainable products, customers and other stakeholders. It is the main information channel for everyone interested in the topic and serves also as a platform for dialogue and further improvement.”

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Mar 01, 2018