The following article was originally published in Steel Australia (March 2017) and is republished here with the kind permission of the Australian Steel Institute.
OneSteel has proven its commitment to sustainability by becoming the first Australian manufacturer of steel long products to release Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).
OneSteel has released five EPDs in a bid to provide greater transparency about the sustainability credentials of its supply chain and products.
Corporate Manager, Environmental Sustainability for OneSteel parent company Arrium, Phil Ridgeway, said it’s a significant achievement for the company which has recognised its customers’ needs for a standardised and open method of assessing the environmental impacts of steel products used in construction.
OneSteel’s EPDs help to shore up its commitment to sustainability and prove its dedication to conducting business to global environmental, social and commercial standards.
OneSteel’s sustainability work also encompasses manufacturing practices, most notably with the use of its Polymer Injection Technology to prevent millions of car tyres ending up in landfill while reducing the economic and environmental costs of steel manufacturing.
“There can be no doubting the value of EPDs when it comes to assessing the environmental impact of steel products,” he said.
“OneSteel is responding to the way the market is headed. Companies want life-cycle information, so this is about responding to the market and having information made available in a standardised format.”
Benefits conferred by EPDs
An EPD acts as a transparent disclosure of a product’s environmental impacts. In Australia, they are registered under the Australasian EPD Programme, a body which is aligned with the International EPD® System and must be deemed trustworthy and independently verifiable to be accepted.
EPDs for building and construction products are based on the EN 15804 standard which defines the core rules for the category of construction products. The standard was developed after a consultation process involving stakeholders in the European construction sector and experts in life-cycle assessment (LCA). It provides a structure to ensure that all EPDs of construction products, construction services and construction process are third-party verified and presented in a harmonised way.
Importantly, they enable steel industry professionals to understand the true impacts of the products they use in a project. They offer suppliers, such as OneSteel, a simple way to communicate their credentials. And engineers, builders and architects can be empowered to make informed choices about what materials they can use to improve the sustainability of their projects.
EPDs and sustainability
OneSteel currently offers five EPDs, among them hot rolled structural products, reinforcing rod, bar and wire and reinforcing mesh. Significantly, all are product-specific EPDs which gives them greater weight over industry-average EPDs for projects to attain sustainability rating tool points.
In conjunction with the use of high grades of steel and by using fabricators who are members of the ASI’s Environmental Sustainability Charter (ESC), product-specific EPDs can assist construction projects to gain Green Star points in the Materials category of the Green Building Council’s (GBCA) Green Star Design and As Built rating tool.
Infrastructure projects can also gain IS rating tool points as part of the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) scheme. Industry-average EPDs, the likes of which are associated with some steel products sourced from Europe, earn less rating tool points as they do not provide information specific to that product.
Ridgeway said it’s one reason why the industry should be cautious about comparing one EPD with another. Though several independent EPD schemes operate around the globe, EPDs can differ as to whether they have been third-party verified and in terms of the life-cycle stages considered. Some may not comply with EN 15804 or they are produced using different product category rules.
All EPDs, then, are not created equal.
But GBCA Senior Manager–Technical Solutions, Nicole Sullivan confirmed that there is undeniable credibility offered by EPDs registered under the Australasian EPD Program and provided by steel suppliers such as OneSteel.
She likens the role of an EPD to that played by nutrition labels. Just as the nutrition labels provide easy-to-understand information about the content of a breakfast cereal, she said: “an EPD contains the environmental information needed for a product, in one place, and in a meaningful and credible manner”.
She added that it’s a massive undertaking for OneSteel to commit to attaining EPDs for its suite of building products.
“What an EPD currently portrays is that a company is an early mover in the market and demonstrates that that company has a commitment to environmental responsibility,” she said.