Third-party Opinion

Yuko Sakita Journalist and environmental counsellor

Overall report

The current year, 2016, is becoming an important year as more people and companies have begun to focus on the future of the earth and think about their roles and responsibilities. This is because at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), or COP21, held in Paris in December 2015, all countries, including emerging countries, have agreed on a framework to deal with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation.

The opening column “The role of steel in forming the future of the earth” states that, while steel demand is expected to grow in line with factors including improvement of living standards in emerging countries, NSSMC is committed to make progress in the steelmaking technologies, which has a history of 4,000 years, continue to strive to conserve energy and other natural resources, and contribute to the future of the planet by providing high-grade steel products. I was impressed with NSSMC’s determination to “be dedicated to steel.”

As mentioned in “A Message from Top Management,” Japan’s industry and business community have been making voluntary initiatives as a part of the government’s Plan for Global Warming Countermeasures to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26% from their 2013 level by 2030 (fiscal year base). This is stated in Japan’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution. As a major company, NSSMC has made its position clear, based on its “Ecological Management” policy, and is continuously reducing burden on the environment across the life cycle of steel by keeping foremost the “three ‘ecos,’ namely eco process, eco products and eco solutions, and the development of innovative technologies.” I have high respect for NSSMC’s viewpoint concerning those activities.

At the same time, many households and smaller businesses have continued to increase CO2 emissions. Here is a serious challenge to society. The Japanese government is thus promoting the new national movement called Cool Choice, encouraging the public to make smart choices by selecting environmentally friendly products and services, and in daily life. I hope that the NSSMC’s Sustainability Report is given attention by society at large, including shareholders, and investors, and the company’s over 84,000 employees and their families, who are expected to take a lead in practicing environmental actions.

Environmental report

During the G7 Ise-Shima Summit held in Japan in May 2016, the realization of a recycling-oriented society with highly efficient use of resources was identified as one of the global critical issues, since the global demand for natural resources is projected to double by 2050. In case of steel, however, its overall life cycle has already been controlled and a closed recycling loop has been formed. I was amazed to learn NSSMC’s in-house recycling rate of resources is 98% and the domestic recycling of steel materials for automobiles is 94%. In my view, it is important to properly announce this type of information. By the way, relining of a coke oven has resulted in need for NSSMC to dispose of fire bricks, which are unusual in that they cannot be recycled. As a result, the amount of their final disposal turned out to be the only reported environmental item which showed a slight increase. I believe that such information disclosure too is helping to make the entire data more reliable.

Regarding leading-edge initiatives of eco products, advanced materials for fuel cells and steel for high-pressure hydrogen environments (that would improve the safety of hydrogen stations) are mentioned. I found this information is particularly important as we yet have little accurate information that responds to needs of safety in the hydrogen-oriented society, despite some major moves to promote realizing such society, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In the areas of eco solutions for solving issues in global cooperation, NSSMC has been promoting transfer of superior energy-saving technologies of Japan’s steel industry. Its proactive initiatives, such sending lecturers to the South East Asia Iron and Steel Institute (SEAISI), shows another important direction.

The section on the environmental risk management explained the comprehensive control of chemical substance discharge, which unfortunately did not mention about the issues related to mercury. Japan is aiming to take a world-leading initiative in action based on the Minamata Convention on Mercury. While steelmaking facilities are not considered as “mercury-emitting facilities” that are covered under the air pollution regulations, they also emit the similar, relatively significant amounts of mercury. That is why some of those facilities voluntarily strive to restrain emissions and discussions have been made. I would like to urge NSSMC to continue proper monitoring in this regard.

Social initiatives

Last year when I first read NSSMC’s Sustainability Report, I wrote that I would like to see mentioned such subjects as the passing on of technology to the next generation and the establishment of a good working environment for women. This year, I was very pleased to find such information, including the establishment of an in-house daycare center and the award system, which proves that the PDCA cycle is being effectively implemented.

NSSMC is making consistent efforts at the “Creation of Hometown Forests” and the “Creation of Sea Forests,” both of which are intended to utilize inherent ecosystems in the surrounding areas of 16 steelworks around the nation. They are wonderful initiatives. Over time, some endangered animals may become established in some of those areas. I hope that NSSMC will continue those initiatives concerning biological diversity, working closely with local residents.

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