ResponsibleSteel FAQs

History and Background

1. What is the history of ResponsibleSteel?

ResponsibleSteel is an emerging programme built on five years of work to define and promote steel that has been produced and sourced responsibly. The Australian Steel Stewardship Forum initially developed the concept and programme and worked with more than 70 stakeholders and 180 individuals in the initial development of the ResponsibleSteel Standard.

2. What is it?

ResponsibleSteel is the first global multi-stakeholder standard and certification initiative for steel. It is a not for profit organisation which will administer an independent third-party certification programme for the steel value chain. The standard will be finalised through an ISEAL Code-compliant process during 2018 / 2019. ResponsibleSteel is a membership led programme, and new members are welcome from anywhere in the world, from every part of the steel supply chain, and from businesses, civil society groups, associations, and other organisations. The steel industry today is the largest materials industry in the global economy. At 1 trillion US$ turnover, it is 7.5 times the size of the copper industry, 10 times the size of the aluminium industry and around 3 times the value of the cement industry. Steel is a key component for thousands of the products that make our lives possible, from building materials to automobiles.

3. How is it being developed?

At its heart ResponsibleSteel is a multi-stakeholder collaboration between business and civil society. Neither group can achieve ResponsibleSteel’smission on its own. Together we believe that we can change the world. Everyone should win from schemes like ResponsibleSteel.

4. Why have one?

Major manufacturers and users of steel in the transport, construction, packaging, infrastructure and energy sectors are voicing a growing expectation that the materials they use have been sourced and produced responsibly. Initiatives have already been established to provide such a guarantee for aluminium, concrete, stone and aggregates. There is no such initiative applicable to all sources of steel, and steel’s customers are looking for one. There is direct benefit to those steel producers that already achieve high standards and also a shared benefit for the whole sector in encouraging those that don’t, to raise their game.

Together, mining and the processing of mined material to make steel have substantial environmental, social and economic impact – both positive and negative. Compliance with local legal obligations alone is not sufficient to meet the expectations of customers, stakeholders and civil society and there is a need for responsible producers of steel, the most widely used material in the world, to respond to these developments. The ResponsibleSteel programme is designed to be a key element of this response.

Internationally-recognised sustainability standards are good for customers, good for business, and good for the people in supply chains and their environment. They are an effective way of supporting progress towards sustainable development goals, such as the availability of clean water, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating jobs and developing responsible patterns of production and consumption.

5. What are the benefits?

A key benefit is in terms of marketing steel to business customers and ultimately consumers. Independent research commissioned by ISEAL found that sustainability standards improve market access, profitability and production for certified businesses, and enhance reputation while reducing risk for manufacturers and retailers. Early business benefits related to sales and marketing were most frequently mentioned, followed by benefits on operations, procurement, stakeholder engagement and sector-wide change. Almost all sources (98%) referred to sales and marketing related benefits, 78% of the sources to operations related benefits and 70% to procurement related benefits.

Credible international sustainability standards:

  • Help organisations reach their social and environmental objectives through independent classification / accreditation, giving competitive and reputational advantage
  • Create higher impact on environmental and social issues
  • Encourage independent assurance of systems and performance
  • Facilitate multi-stakeholder consensus on what constitutes responsible performance and practice
  • Build effective global partnerships and relationships across the public, private and voluntary sectors – sharing best practice and
  • standards
  • Improve market access with networking through a global forum for ongoing constructive dialogue
  • Increase transparency and understanding to supply chains
  • Reduce duplication of effort and costs through standardisation
  • Improve business operations and securing a licence to operate, supporting compliance with relevant regulatory requirements
  • Reward social and environmental achievement

6. How is ResponsibleSteel funded?

ResponsibleSteel is currently funded through financial contributions by its founding members – BlueScope Steel and ArcelorMittal. It is actively seeking additional funding from new members, grants from philanthropic foundations and in-kind contributions from its civil society participants.

For more information on how to contribute, please contact us.

7. What do ResponsibleSteel do?

Our Members agree to support the ResponsibleSteel mission through the promotion, sourcing and/or production of ResponsibleSteel.

In addition, members must comply with the ResponsibleSteel Constitution and the Governance Handbook, covering:

  • Anti-Trust Compliance Policy
  • Complaints Mechanism, including any disciplinary proceedings or applicable sanctions that may apply as a result
  • ResponsibleSteel claims and the use of logos and other intellectual property
  • Payment of membership fees

8. How are membership fees structured?

A key principle is to be a multi-stakeholder not for profit organisation, encouraging membership of all types.  A range of membership fees are applicable depending on the type, size and/or purpose of an organisation. Membership fees are set by the Board and reviewed on an ongoing basis. For organisations that are commercially active in the steel supply chain, annual membership fees are determined by annual turnover/revenue.

Our current fee structure is available for download here.
ResponsibleSteel 2018 Membership Fees

9. Will it make a difference?

The mission of ResponsibleSteel is to maximise the contribution of steel to a sustainable society, and the ResponsibleSteel standard will be designed to achieve this in consultation with leading businesses, civil society organisations and technical specialists.

ResponsibleSteel is committed to becoming a full ISEAL Member as soon as its programme becomes operational (the earliest possible opportunity).  In order to become an ISEAL Member ResponsibleSteel will implement the ISEAL Impacts Code.

Recognising companies that meet or exceed agreed international standards encourages improvements across the sector and around the world, in whatever regulatory environment a business is operating.

10. What is your mission?

The mission is to provide businesses and consumers worldwide with confidence that the steel they use has been sourced and produced responsibly at all levels of the steel supply chain, from suppliers of raw materials, through to end users. ResponsibleSteel is the forum for this discussion, to the mutual benefit of all participants.

Governance and Membership

1. What is the governance structure?

The Board’s current proposal for the future governance is that: –

  • The ResponsibleSteel Board will consist of 9 Directors
  • Three (3) Directors will be from the ‘Business’ category of membership, three (3) from the ‘Civil Society’ category of membership, plus three (3) will be independents not from either category
  • The ‘Business’ and ‘Civil Society’ Directors will in future be elected by the full ResponsibleSteel membership, on the basis of weighted voting such that each category of members has an equal voting power
  • The independent Directors will be appointed by the Board, rather than elected by the membership, and one of the independents will be the Chairperson
  • All Members in good standing will be eligible to stand for election to the Board, including mine company, downstream company and steel-maker members, as well as civil society members representing social and environmental interests.

2. How are decisions made?

Board decisions will require a 2/3 quorum, and will be taken by a 2/3 super-majority of members present, to include a +ve vote from at least one member from both ‘Business’ and ‘Civil Society’ membership categories.

In addition, there will be a Council. The Board’s current proposal for the future ResponsibleSteel Council is that: The Council will be the main stakeholder-balanced decision-making body. Core documents requiring multi-stakeholder approval (such as the Standard) will be reviewed and approved by the Council before being submitted to the Board for formal institutional approval.
The Council’s membership will cover all Key Stakeholder Issues and their sub-divisions. The Council will also be geographically diverse, and include representatives from both developed and developing countries. Council Members will be elected by the Business or Civil Society categories of the ResponsibleSteel membership respectively, depending on the stakeholder interest they represent.
Council decisions will require a double majority of both Business and Civil Society representatives. Non-Council Members and Associates will be able to attend and participate in Council meetings, but will not have a vote.

3. Why split membership between Business and Civil Society, rather than other sub-groupings (e.g. like ASI)?

Because we propose that the fundamental social contract of Membership is that Business agrees to implement if Civil Society agrees to support, and we want to create a collegiate approach to discussions within each of these groups. It also helps keep things simple.

4. Why have 50:50 voting weight for Business and Civil Society?

Membership votes to elect the Board, and may vote on motions put to an annual meeting. We need to ensure that Business and Civil Society categories of membership have equal weight in these decisions.

5. Why have all members vote for Board, but members vote for representation of their own category reps on Council?

The intent is that Board members should be acceptable to everyone, but that Council Members may be chosen to represent particular interests and issues.

6. What is the role of Associates, and why can’t they vote?

The ‘Associates’ category allows any stakeholder that wants to express support for RS to be included in consultations and kept informed of progress. However, voting rights are reserved to non-governmental entities representing businesses and civil society organisations whose interests are directly affected by RS, and who pay membership dues if applicable.

7. What are ‘Key Stakeholder Interests’?

Key Stakeholder Interests are the interests that RS has identified as being essential to take into account if RS is to achieve its objectives. Some are high-level categories (e.g. Supply of Raw Materials & Energy; Iron and Steelmaking; Downstream use of steel; Social and Environmental Impacts). Others are sub-divisions of these high level categories (e.g. coke manufacturer; metals for alloys and coatings; Greenhouse Gas emissions).

8. Why do we need to list them for Members?

We want to ensure that all key stakeholder interests are covered within the Council membership, and in our processes for Standards Development. We will be proactive in identifying and consulting with stakeholders on any issues that are not fully covered.

9. Does the identification of Key Stakeholder Interests have implications for voting power?

No. Voting power will be determined by whether a Member is in the Business or the Civil Society membership category of (each of these categories has equal overall weight of voting, irrespective to the number of organisations in each category), but will not affected by the interests of each organisation within a given category.

10. What is the Council for?

The Council will be the main stakeholder-balanced decision-making body for ResponsibleSteel. Core documents that require multi-stakeholder approval (such as the ResponsibleSteel Standard) will be reviewed and approved by the Council before being submitted to the Board for formal institutional approval.

11. Why +/-40 members?

The Council’s membership will cover all Key Stakeholder Issues and their sub-divisions. The Council will also be geographically diverse, and include representatives from both developed and developing countries. One member may cover several issues, and we estimate that +/- 40 members should be sufficient to cover all issues, without becoming unnecessarily large and cumbersome to operate in the long term.

12. Why are Council Members elected by the Membership Groups?

The intent is that Council Members will be recognised by their own interest group as being appropriate representatives, we believe this will be better achieved if Business Members appoint the representatives of Business interests, and Civil Society Members appoint the representatives of social and environmental interests

13. Why are Council decisions taken by a double majority (a majority of each membership category), rather than 50:50 voting weight?

A double majority is much simpler and more transparent to implement than 50:50 voting weight. It also ensures that the smaller category’s interests must be taken into account, without allowing either category to dominate the other.

14. Why have an elected Board?

ResponsibleSteel is a membership organisation. An elected Board is clearly accountable to the membership.

15. Why have 3 Business and 3 Civil Society category members on the Board?

Both Business and Civil Society category members must have full confidence in ResponsibleSteel’s governance. Having equal representation from both categories helps to ensure this is the case. Having three representatives of each category allows the board to include people with a variety of backgrounds, and provides for occasional absences.

16. Why have 50:50 weighted voting for the Board, but double majorities on the Council?

A weighted approach ensures that Business and Civil Society membership categories have equal weight even if there are different numbers of Members in each category. A double-majority system doesn’t work for votes for 2 or more candidates for a position.

17. Why have 3 independent Board members, including an independent Chair?

An independent Chairperson can chair and facilitate meetings, and if necessary mediate across stakeholder categories in order to build consensus. Including additional independents will help the Board to focus on efficient business and institutional decision-making as well as taking account of stakeholder interests.

18. Why are the independent Board members appointed by the elected Board members?

This gives the elected Board members freedom to consider potential candidates and jointly select the people they believe best meet the organisation’s needs.

19. Why have 3+3+3 Board members?

3+3+3 Board members should be large enough to allow for occasional absences and broad enough representation of stakeholder interests, whilst remaining efficient.

20. What are the rules for Board decision-making?

The proposal is that Board decisions should require a 2/3 quorum and a 2/3 supermajority, including at least one +ve vote from both Business and Civil Society categories of board member.

21. Why require a 2/3 quorum and a 2/3 supermajority?

A relatively high quorum and super-majority requirement is designed to ensure that the interests all Board Members are always be taken into account, whilst also supporting efficient decision-making.

22. Why do you need at least one +ve vote from both Business and Civil Society categories of elected Board Members?

Without this provision, with the proposed 3+3+3 arrangement it would be theoretically possible for a decision to be taken despite the negative votes of all three representatives of either the Business or Civil Society categories of Member. Requiring at least one positive vote from both categories avoids this possibility.

Mining

1. What is your relationship with IRMA?

IRMA and ResponsibleSteel have a strategic and co-operative partnership, to best serve the interests of purchasers seeking consistency in the responsible sourcing of iron and steel throughout their supply chains.

2. How will this relationship work?

Both systems bring fresh perspective to the standards / certification field and fill gaps not covered by other systems. IRMA provides a multi-stakeholder developed and independently verified Standard for Responsible Mining, but does not define nor assure responsibility downstream of the mine site, and seeks channels to add value for participating mines. ResponsibleSteel describes expectations for responsible practices in the sourcing and processing of raw materials for steel production, but sets out to avoid duplicating standards for raw materials where they already exist and meet its needs. Both systems seek to support traceability that facilitates assurances of responsible practices, throughout the supply chain.

3. Will you consider partnerships with other similar organisations?

We are committed to multi-stakeholder leadership and shared value and will look at developing partnerships whenever this adds value and furthers the achievement of our mission. As we develop the ResponsibleSteel standard, whilst consulting with our multi-stakeholder membership, key themes that come through are ‘don’t reinvent the wheel’ and ‘form effective partnerships’. We fulfil both with our partnership with IRMA. Our mission is to provide businesses and consumers worldwide with confidence that the steel they use has been sourced and produced responsibly, from suppliers of raw materials, through to end users. This can only be achieved through discussion, cooperation and mutual commitment involving companies at all levels of the steel supply chain, their customers and representatives of civil society. ResponsibleSteel is committed to open dialogue and to working with stakeholders to find and collaborate with the best of the equivalent schemes for mining. There is not an obvious way for companies to certify steel and they are looking for one.