More with less: the sustainable mindset that will drive global transformation

Niklas Wass, President – business line, Stainless Europe at Outokumpu

How do we make more from less? Through innovation and partnerships, led by science-based targets.

Even those who challenge the necessity of economic growth and advocate for less overall production can agree that in order to sustain our civilization and create an equitable world, we must continue to build. For instance, securing increased access to clean and reliable energy demands the creation of new infrastructure, while curbing road emissions necessitates the expansion and enhancement of eco-friendly public transit systems.

While governments have the tools to set the regulations to keep 1.5°C climate target within reach, the corporate sector plays a key role in taking action and implementing the policies to the markets.

In the Nordics, we are used to making more from less. It’s a concept that has been embedded in our culture since the nations' earliest days. Nordic design has for centuries been marked by minimalism and functionality, including in architecture, where the practice of using our abundant forests to build durable and sustainable structures maximized utility while minimizing waste. Sweden and Denmark, for example, both make use of revolutionary waste-to-energy programs that convert household waste into heat, fuel, and electricity, reducing the need for landfills as well as new energy inputs.

Much of this mindset and the creativity it has led to were born of necessity, and today, the necessity of making more from less is greater than ever. In terms of culture, technology, and regulatory environment the Nordic countries are collectively poised to act on that necessity and drive the transformation to a society that gives back more than it takes.


Following the Nordic blueprint: Outokumpu leads by doing more with less

At Outokumpu, we are proud to be a part of this story. As the global leader in sustainable stainless steel, our product — and the spirit of innovation behind it — will play a crucial role in the green transition and in ongoing creation of a more sustainable society.

This is because stainless steel, though often unnoticed, is all around us. More importantly, it is a key component in sustainable development. Its resistance to corrosion and long life span make it indispensable for applications such as solar panels and wind turbines, contributing to the proliferation of renewable energy. In urban infrastructure, stainless steel is essential in water treatment facilities, helping to provide clean water with low maintenance costs. When it comes to transportation, stainless steel is a core element in the structure of electric vehicles and is widely used in constructing durable and low-maintenance public transport systems.

Crucially, stainless steel is a very circular material, able to be made with a high percentage of recycled raw materials. Outokumpu’s stainless steel, for example, has a recycled material content of over 90% on average. Additionally, the majority of our production is based on low-carbon electricity.

Still, we see that there is room for improvement, both in our own operations and supply chain and in our capacity as industry leaders. This helps inform our commitment to continuous innovation. Among other achievements, this led us to create Outokumpu Circle Green®, a breakthrough in sustainable stainless steel production that has a carbon footprint up to 93% smaller than the global average*. We are also the only company in the stainless steel industry with an approved Science-Based Target set on 1.5°C, and we want to bring our value chain along on a green transition journey. Success is driven by collaboration, and lies in our ability to achieve ambitious sustainability goals through partnerships with customers and suppliers.

While decreasing our customers’ carbon footprint, the low-carbon stainless steel increases our handprint — i.e., the measure of GHG reductions we can help to deliver and support within our broader value chain. Through reducing our emissions, we also support our customers to reduce their emissions by over 10 million tons compared to the global average, every year. This amount of emissions corresponds to over 24 million one-way flights of one passenger across the Atlantic Ocean from London to New York.


Steeling ourselves for the future

Sustainability isn't just an ideal—it's a concrete investment in future economies, fostering growth and opening new avenues for business. The drive towards a greener future is no longer just about meeting standards or keeping up with trends; it's about leading the way and setting the benchmarks that others will follow. This paradigm shift from rhetoric to action will differentiate leaders from followers in this era of eco-innovation.

Outokumpu is at the forefront of this shift, not just in our words but in action. By investing in technologies and processes that reduce our carbon footprint and make our entire value chain more sustainable, we're not only preparing ourselves for a future where sustainability is paramount, but we're also helping to shape that same future.

Our dedication to advancing the sustainability of stainless steel production is a testament to our belief that responsible production is not only possible but profitable and necessary. With each step we take, we aim to demonstrate that commitment to sustainability is the cornerstone of modern industry, setting a standard for how businesses can thrive while actively benefiting the planet. We want to not only do more with less – but to ensure that what we do today secures an equitable and sustainable tomorrow for all.