Taking responsibility for more sustainable steel

Sustainability is nothing new to Lendlease. In fact, our founder, Dick Dusseldorp, spoke of the importance of considering social and environmental impacts, alongside the economic, as early as 1973. We are committed to leading the evolution of our industry to be truly sustainable – environmentally, socially and economically, and we see this as fundamental to our vision to create the best places, meeting the needs of people today and for generations to come.

  • 8 Dec 2019
  • by
  • Cate Harris
Our industry has a very large footprint. It is a major consumer of natural resources and is responsible for nearly 40 percent of global carbon emissions1 contributing to climate change. We have been on a journey to reduce our emissions for many years, and in 2015 we set ourselves the target of cutting them by 20 percent by 2020 globally, alongside similar targets for water and waste. But now we need to take our efforts to another level, if we are to play our part in limiting global temperature rises to no more than 1.5-2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times2.
Given the scale and breadth of our business, there is a lot that we can directly control, such as the design of our buildings, to minimise energy demand and ensure that they are as resource efficient as possible. Increasingly we can also ensure that our buildings are powered with low or zero carbon renewable energy. But there are also many important things that we can’t directly control, such as the embodied carbon in the materials and products we procure to go into our buildings and projects globally – including those made from steel, cement and aluminium.
While it may not be our primary responsibility to reduce the carbon emissions associated with the 59 Eiffel Towers-worth of steel3 we purchase yearly, we believe we have a responsibility to use our influence as a big customer, to send a clear message to manufacturers and our suppliers. We want to buy steel and other materials from sources and suppliers that demonstrably commit to minimising their environmental and social impacts, and to embarking on a low carbon journey, with the same sense of urgency we have. We also want to work with our customers to encourage them to specify and demand responsible steel outcomes as a part of their projects.
We have been getting to know ResponsibleSteel over the course of 2019 – supporting some of their research into ways they can help minimise particular impacts of the steel industry. We’ve now taken the next step by announcing Lendlease as the first property and infrastructure company to become a full member of ResponsibleSteel.
I hope we will not be the only member from our sector for long. While Lendlease is a large company in our sector, we hope to see our partners and competitors joining us very soon, to add their voice and customer demand.

We have witnessed the success of previous initiatives to drive sustainability through our supply chains. A quarter of a century ago companies including Lendlease rallied behind the call to demand timber from sustainability managed forests. By demanding sustainable timber, we ultimately influenced the way forests were managed, to improve the environmental impacts and ensure local people benefited more from the harvesting of the trees.
I understand many people believe it will be more challenging to transform the global steel industry, but Lendlease believes where there is a will there is a way. If market demand moves decisively in the direction of low-carbon steel, in order to secure this critical product’s future in creating buildings, cities and places fit for the future, that transformation is not only possible, it is essential.
Lendlease is in the process of setting our new Sustainability targets for 2020 and beyond. We have engaged more than 200 leaders across our business, discussing with them the risks and opportunities we face in a changing climate. We will publish our new targets next year. What we already know is those targets will be very challenging, and in some areas it will initially be hard to know how we will achieve them.
We also know we cannot achieve our sustainability and carbon reduction targets on our own. We will need to work with our clients, customers and our supply chain partners. This must be a common endeavour – none of us can achieve the transformation we need to see on our own. We look forward to working with ResponsibleSteel, its members and stakeholders to move further, faster and in-line with our vision to create the best places, fit for the future.

1. Building and construction activities together account for 36% of global final energy use and 39 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions when upstream power generation is included. Source – Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction
2. The Paris Agreement entered into force 4 November 2016 to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Source – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
3. Lendlease purchases approximately 432,000 tonnes of steel per annum globally, or the equivalent of 59 Eiffel Towers at 7,300 tonnes each. Source –  City of Paris