5. Trusted user of air, land and water

Without air, land and water, we have no economy, no society, no eco-systems. They are all essential resources for our business, but ones which we share with others. As the world’s population grows, these resources are under increasing pressure. We must be trusted to use them and share them responsibly.

Why is this important to us?

Natural resources are at a premium: water demand is predicted to outstrip supply by 40% by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum, while clean air is becoming a real challenge in today’s increasingly urbanised world. Natural capital – the world’s fresh water supplies and land-based ecosystems – is vital to both business and society, since it provides society with countless benefits every year. It’s no surprise that this is the focus of two of the emerging new UN sustainable development goals.

The commercial imperative

What kind of challenges do we face?

Our sector depends heavily on natural resources: mining sites have an impact on extensive areas of land, which later need restoration; older steel mills have often had a poor reputation for air quality; and steelmaking requires large amounts of water (even though its net use is actually relatively small). In addition, our steel and mining operations may have impacts relating to noise and vibration, wastewater and soil protection. Where we don’t get these right, our business faces disruptions, and we know the risk of pollution fines or reputational damage is likely to increase. 

What do we need to do?

Developing the trust of our stakeholders to use natural resources responsibly is essential to maintaining our social licence to operate and pre-empting disruptions to our business. We need to continue to reduce air pollution and protect sensitive natural habitats – and prove that we do so. We must further bring the perspectives of our stakeholders into our business outlook, and anticipate new regulations, so that we can prevent problems before they arise, and act quickly if they do. We need to engage better with our stakeholders on these challenging issues, knowing that this is the only way to build and retain trust over time. 

What is the potential to create value?

We are learning the value of being more open about actual and potential issues, so that we and our stakeholders can build a common understanding of the problems we face. While our operations may have some unavoidable impacts on local air, land and water resources, we can create more innovative ways of enhancing habitats and protecting biodiversity by seizing the opportunity to work alongside our stakeholders. Our long-term partnership on Sustain our Great Lakes is an excellent example, as is our work on the environmental management plan for East Nimba, Liberia.

Our stakeholders’ expectations

As populations grow, so too do expectations on access to clean air, land and water. The expectations of governments and communities in this area are also rising: in most countries where we operate, governments are requiring more data on companies’ environmental emissions, and demanding that these are progressively reduced. Businesses that do not comply face fines and sanctions, while those that disclose poor performance face a different kind of risk: the erosion of their licence to operate, and increased pressure from NGOs and community groups. Likewise, customers across the world expect more sustainability information and certification, and are beginning to include this as a criterion for their supply chains. And as climate change results in more droughts, floods and other extreme weather events, access to the basic resources that sustain us will become ever more critical. This is why global commentators are stressing the need to protect the ‘natural capital’ on which we depend. This is the business reality within which we – and companies like us – now operate.

The outcome we need

Our local communities and stakeholders trust us to share the vital resources of air, land and water, because we operate responsibly and transparently, and have clearly improved our impacts. We understand these impacts, and work collaboratively to protect and enhance the natural capital we and our communities and partners rely on.

Achieving our new outcome

We invest in our equipment to improve emissions – some $2.6 billion since 2007 – and our operations carry out a range of environmental assessments relating to air, land and water issues. We are now asking the management of all our operations – both steel and mining – to complement this by ensuring these assessments and our responses incorporate not only the perspectives of our stakeholders, but long-term social and environmental trends that will affect them. For example, the expectations of local landholders; community concerns relating to air pollution, and civic pressures on water resources.

What's new?

News 21.09.2016 Steel goes circular: The Circular Building
Our Stories01.05.2016 Steel goes circular: re-using sheet piles
Our Stories01.04.2016 Collaboration on the Great Lakes
Our Stories01.04.2016 Getting on the front foot in Ostrava: dealing with dust
Our Stories01.04.2016 Fertile thinking: farmers benefiting from steel slag
Our Stories01.04.2016 Clearing the air: new products for indoor environments
Our Stories01.04.2016 New ideas, new technology: interns in Argentina
Our Stories01.01.2015 Engineering low-carbon solutions for buildings
Our Stories01.01.2015 Sustain Our Great Lakes
Our Stories01.01.2015 Measuring impact in South Africa
Our Stories01.01.2015 Liberia: Mobilising the response to Ebola
Insight30.05.2015 Steel packaging and the circular economy
SD Update19.01.2017 Gender diversity award for ArcelorMittal Ostrava
SD Update31.10.2016 Moroccan steelmaker heads for 90% wind-powered steel
SD Update10.10.2016 Largest exporter in Bosnia & Herzegovina
SD Update25.09.2016 Judiciary honour for social outreach work in Brazil
SD Update27.06.2016 ArcelorMittal assesses contribution to South Africa
SD Update16.05.2016 Nafta: review of 2015
SD Update13.05.2016 How does ArcelorMittal create value for society?
SD Update03.12.2015 Presenting lightweight solutions at Megatrends India
SD Update12.11.2015 The building you can build again and again
SD Update30.07.2015 Building for the future: the b home