Making science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Outokumpu understands the risks posed by climate change and has publicly committed to promote efficiency in production and identify innovative approaches to corporate greenhouse gas target setting.

As governments around the world strategize on how to respond to climate change, momentum is similarly building in the private sector as businesses join the crusade to curb its effects. What can companies do to help keep global warming in check?

To raise awareness and increase corporate ambition on climate action, the UN Global Compact (UNGC) has formed Science Based Targets, an initiative in cooperation with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are considered science-based if they are in line with the level of decarbonization required to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial temperatures.

Commitment and continuity

Outokumpu is one among 172 committed companies that are aiming to reverse the worldwide trend by committing to reduce their own carbon footprint.

“Since 2010 we have had two very challenging long-term key performance indicators (KPIs) related to climate issues: CO2 emissions target and energy efficiency target. We have reviewed these quarterly and know that Outokumpu is the forerunner in carbon footprint of the industry,” shares Juha Ylimaunu, Head of Environment & Sustainability at Outokumpu. “Because the year 2020 is approaching and the Paris Agreement came out with the 2°C Scenario for 2050, we decided early this year in our internal Environmental Network and Emission Trading Network to renew our climate target following this new Science Based Targets initiative.”

As a responsible company, Outokumpu has already accomplished a lot in this area. For instance, the company’s carbon footprint has decreased by 8.3 percent in 2015 compared to the baseline. Its CO2 emissions per produced stainless steel ton has decreased as well. Ylimaunu says that Outokumpu’s commitment to playing its part in climate protection is a natural course of action and one that represents continuity.

According to Verena Schulz-Klemp, Director Sustainability and Environment at Outokumpu, the group’s sustainability actions focus on resource efficiency. The company has seen an improvement in recycling in terms of recycled content per ton stainless steel of 87 percent in 2015 and in energy efficiency given in energy use per ton stainless steel to 10.5 GJ/t, which means a reduction of over 17 percent compared to the baseline.

“Direct consequences of these improvements include a reduction in emissions,” says Schulz-Klemp.

Setting ambitious goals

Outokumpu revised its climate target following the Sectoral Decarbonization Approach (SDA) for the steel industry. The SDA aims to provide businesses such as Outokumpu with a convenient and research-supported way to set emissions goals.

To meet the criteria to get Outokumpu’s targets approved, Schulz-Klemp says that the main steps involve efficiency connected to the restructuring of the company. “This requires the concentration of sites and the optimization of production to become more efficient in capacity utilization and turnout.”

Adds Ylimaunu: “This is something which we follow all the time in all our process steps from ferrochrome production, steel melting, and hot and cold rolling and from the finishing of steel products for customers. All this development calls for the involvement of own personnel, R&D, and process development.”

While setting ambitious emissions goals beyond current practice is one thing, meeting them is another. By relying on science-based targets and data to help get results, however, members of the global business community such as Outokumpu are now doing more to help usher in a decoupling of CO2 emissions from economic growth and pave the way for a low-carbon future.