The world is in the midst of a massive enterprise. From the floods in Queensland and New South Wales in Australia that devastated thousands of homes and businesses to the snowstorm in Virginia that left hundreds of drivers stranded on a freeway for more than 24 hours, Extreme weather events resulting from climate change are occurring with increasing frequency.
In order to mitigate any further damage and protect our planet for future generations, there needs to be a global consideration of how we have operated in the past and work to bring about meaningful change.
Over the past decade, public awareness of the need for a holistic approach to sustainability has grown. While in the past much of the responsibility for sustainable action fell on the consumer (encouragements to “reduce, reuse and recycle” among others), it is now clear that individuals, households and even entire communities able to make a substantial difference on their own. You can recycle every plastic bottle you use, but if it was made from new, i.e. “virgin”, plastic and it sits unrecycled in a warehouse due to lack after the fact, the impact of your work will be negligible.
For this reason, the pressure is strong for there to be a holistic approach to making the world a more sustainable place, in which government agencies, businesses and corporations, and individuals all work together to create a sustainable future. Government policies can help shape change effectively and efficiently, creating regulations and guidelines for consumers and businesses to follow, but perhaps the greatest impact can come from initiatives taken by industries. .
“It is up to companies like ours to lead the way,” says Vik Bansal, Managing Director of Australian vertically integrated steel manufacturing and recycling company InfraBuild. “And that’s what we’re trying to do. We try to lead the peloton saying ‘look, we can do it’. This is our job and our responsibility. This is what corporate social responsibility is for. It’s not just about saying it, but proving it to people.
With over twenty years of leadership experience, including six as CEO of Australia’s largest waste management company, Vik Bansal became passionate about creating “cognitive resonance” in the companies he leads. For InfraBuild, this means embodying its mission statement of “building the future through sustainable steel” in every action taken by it and the company itself.
Indeed, many consumers are no longer interested in patronizing companies that are content to “walk the talk”. In the past, it was often acceptable for companies to simply state that they believed in sustainability, but today the public expects to see what concrete steps are being taken to make it happen. Global public opinion and data firm YouGov found in a survey of Australians that 87% believed companies had a responsibility to do social good, and 58% believed companies had a responsibility to ensure that their supply chain did not harm the environment.
From the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to Environmental Public Statements (EPDs), there are a growing number of frameworks through which companies can create transparency in their operations, but the ones that are making the most progress are also thinking in ways creative and come to find new and innovative ways to display their commitment to sustainable development.
For example, InfraBuild’s most recent initiative to increase the transparency of its recycled steel production through the use of QR codes. An important factor in achieving sustainability is being able to trace the life of a product – it can claim to be made from recycled materials and therefore be a sustainable product, but how do you prove it?
For InfraBuild, the solution comes under QR code technology. While for the individual consumer QR codes have recently become more important thanks to their ability to be used for contactless scenarios in light of the coronavirus pandemic, in fact the technology has been around since the mid-1990s when was invented for use in the automated automotive industry.
With its ability to hold a greater amount of data than a traditional UPC or barcode, a QR code is the perfect place to store information about InfraBuild’s steel product history. Manufactured in electric arc furnaces that recycle scrap metal rather than using raw materials as in traditional steelmaking processes, by scanning the QR code buyers can track the material’s heritage from where it comes to the electric arc furnace in which it was forged.
“In doing this, we’re saying ‘we’re not just telling you, we’re showing. We’re proving it to you’, because ultimately climate change issues and environmental issues are such that a story doesn’t is just not good enough. A transparent system where people can see and sleep well at night saying “what I’ve used is generally durable” is where the world needs to go whether it’s steel or any other product,” says vik bansal.
Through initiatives like these, a ripple effect can occur throughout the value chain. By producing and ensuring their steel is sustainable, InfraBuild empowers others to implement sustainability in their own operations. A construction company can reduce its own carbon footprint by purchasing low carbon steel from InfraBuild, and a homeowner can meet regulations set by governments for its own carbon footprint by working with the construction company. “Our job is to create choice, and that choice is power,” says Bansal.
Just as some companies will not be able to achieve carbon neutrality without InfraBuild supplying them with sustainable steel, InfraBuild is also on its own path to carbon neutrality as a business. They have set themselves the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030, hoping to be ahead of the pack in their industry and much of the planet in achieving what must inevitably happen to all businesses. whether the worst of climate change is to be successfully mitigated.
For steel companies like InfraBuild, which uses cleaner electric arc furnaces to make steel, the majority of its emissions come from their energy use. The company currently uses electricity generated from fossil fuels from the Australian grid, but InfraBuild is working to convert its energy contracts to renewables.
In order to effectively address climate change, it must be a massive effort involving every person, organization and government agency. “We are in a very connected world”, says Bansal. “I can’t be carbon neutral alone if you’re not carbon neutral.” As InfraBuild takes important steps to make effective and rapid change in its own fight against climate change, others must follow its lead in order to build a better and more sustainable future for the planet.
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