In recent years, the understanding of sustainability - and the importance of incorporating sustainable practices and products in architecture and design - has grown exponentially. Specifiers and other stakeholders increasingly expect clear and transparent information about the sustainability performance of building products to inform their decision-making.
Ecolabels and Standards such as Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), Global GreenTag GreenRate™ certification and ResponsibleSteel™ are a powerful source of truth when it comes to an organisation’s or product’s sustainability credentials. BlueScope, a leading manufacturer of innovative steel products, systems and technologies, considers them key to their offering.
“Responsible products and supply chains are a critical part of BlueScope’s broader sustainability strategy,” says Philippa Stone, BlueScope’s Sustainability Manager. “The third party verification that accompanies our sustainability certifications ensures that the information is robust and credible,” she continues.
Environmental Product Declarations
For BlueScope, transparency underpins their sustainability efforts. “Specifiers and customers want to know the impacts of the products they're using,” Philippa explains. That’s why BlueScope was an early adopter of EPDs, being the first manufacturer in Australia to publish one under the EPD Australasia Programme in 2015, and why these documents sit at the very centre of the company’s sustainability value proposition.
An EPD communicates transparent data about the environmental impact of a product over its full lifecycle. It’s an environmental declaration born from the need for credible, consistent and transparent product disclosures.
“An EPD doesn't suggest whether a product is environmentally ‘good’ or ‘bad’ - what it does, is provide the user with a set of facts that enable them to make an informed choice, much like a nutritional label,” Philippa explains.
“The information included in an EPD includes environmental indicators such as global warming potential (greenhouse gas emissions), water use and resource depletion. This data can be entered into a life cycle assessment (LCA) model for a building which then helps design teams make informed decisions about which products will help to achieve their sustainability objectives. And the data can assist when undertaking embodied carbon assessments.”
Importantly, BlueScope’s EPDs can contribute to the achievement of credits under green building rating schemes such as Green Star and IS Rating. “The interest and demand for green building projects is growing. Momentum is really building in this area as evidenced by EPDs now being recognised by programs such as Green Building Council Australia’s (GBCA) new Responsible Products Framework,” Philippa says. Not surprisingly, EPDs are becoming more common in the building industry and BlueScope’s EPDs can help to gain specification preference for both BlueScope and their customers.
EPDs have to be reviewed every five years - or more often if there’s been a significant change to relevant processes - to ensure they continue to be a fair representation of a product. In Australia, BlueScope has updated a number of their EPDs in the last few years, along with releasing new EPDs for selected products in the COLORBOND® steel range, ZINCALUME® steel, TRUECORE® steel, DECKFORM® steel, GALVASPAN® steel and GALVABOND® steel.
“We have an ambitious goal to publish EPDs for all our branded products and more EPDs are due to be released in the coming months”, Philippa says. “It’s a significant undertaking, the LCA model underpinning our EPDs mimics our steelworks which is incredibly complex. That means as significant changes in the steel works occur, or as our inputs like raw materials and energy consumption change, we revise our model to reflect them. Updating existing EPDs was also an opportunity for us to build on the information we first published in 2015, providing our stakeholders with more specific and accurate information about our products,” Philippa continues.
Global GreenTag GreenRateTM
An ecolabel is a mark that can help customers and consumers quickly identify products that meet specific environmental performance criteria. As with EPDs, products with ecolabels can contribute points under green building rating tools such as Green Star and the IS Rating Scheme.
With EPDs as a solid foundation, BlueScope has continued to build upon their product credentials, with a number of key products certified by the Global GreenTag GreenRate™ certification program achieving the highest rating ‘Level A’.
While an EPD doesn’t evaluate the product, the GreenRate™ ecolabel establishes what good looks like, and sets a standard for products to achieve. This provides independent recognition of the product’s sustainability credentials.
GreenRate™ takes a broad view of sustainability considering both environmental and social factors. Philippa mentions some of the elements taken into consideration: “Factors that are assessed include the availability of a carbon footprint, a water footprint and health and eco toxicity of the product, but also the company’s approach to social sustainability including human and labour rights. It’s a holistic assessment,” she concludes.
Ecolabels such as EPDs and GreenRate™ are incredibly valuable, not just for BlueScope as a manufacturer. They have a crucial role to play in building rating tools, like Green Star. Selecting products that have these ecolabels attached to them can be an easy and cost-effective way to contribute to Green Star ratings.
ResponsibleSteel™ is the steel industry’s first global independent multi-stakeholder standard and certification program. Their mission is to be a “driving force in the socially and environmentally responsible production of net-zero steel globally”. As Philippa explains, BlueScope has long held the view that certification can give customers and communities confidence in the environmental, social and governance performance of steelmaking and steel processing facilities.
Launched in 2019, BlueScope has proudly played a leading role in the development of the ResponsibleSteel™ Standard. The stewardship scheme provides a simple and robust framework for organisations and project teams to meet their sustainability objectives and manage risk in their supply chains when using steel in their design. There are 13 guiding principles that include climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, water stewardship, biodiversity and human and labour rights.
“The rigour of the Standard is what sets ResponsibleSteel™ apart,” Philippa explains. “The strength of the scheme is its multi-stakeholder approach. Along with BlueScope, steel giants such as ArcelorMittal and Tata Steel, amongst others, are also ResponsibleSteel™ members. Broader steel value chain members in Australia include BHP, South32 and Lendlease. Civil Society Members such as CDP, The Climate Group and Mighty Earth ensure that the Standard is robust and Associate Members such as the Green Building Council of Australia, Infrastructure Sustainability Council, Australian Steel Institute and the Australian Supply Chain Sustainability School facilitate its adoption in industry,” Philippa explains.
In 2022 Port Kembla Steelworks became the first site in the Asia Pacific region, and the fourth steelmaker in the world, to obtain ResponsibleSteel™ certification. BlueScope’s Western Port site achieved certification in September 2023.
In Australia, ResponsibleSteel™ certification has been formally recognised in the Green Star ‘Responsible Products Framework’, operated by the Green Building Council of Australia. All products manufactured at a ResponsibleSteel™ certified site are recognised as ‘Good Practice’ products under the Framework. This means that all BlueScope’s Australian products, produced from steel manufactured at Port Kembla Steelworks, can support customers to achieve Green Star ratings.
“When considering their sustainability objectives, steel certification, ecolabelling and product declaration frameworks are vital tools for supporting our customer’s decision-making,” Philippa concludes. “Our enduring product solutions can support sustainable development and form part of a critical circular economy.”
BlueScope’s commitment to transparency, stewardship and continuous improvement sets them apart as an Australian-based steel manufacturer and as a sustainability leader in the Australian steel industry.
For more information, please visit steel.com.au/sustainability