With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: LRQA Takes Us Inside the ResponsibleSteel Audit Process

As the world’s largest materials industry, steel holds the power to impact the planet like few others. Aware of the responsibility this entails, stakeholders of the steel industry around the world joined forces to create the global non-profit organization ResponsibleSteel.

To maximize steel’s contribution to a sustainable future, ResponsibleSteel developed the industry’s first global multi-stakeholder standard and certification initiative. Far more than a mere badge of honor, a ResponsibleSteel certification can provide steel manufacturers and others in the industry with a clear competitive advantage. Thus, major organizations start to expressly reward their contractors for sourcing from ResponsibleSteel-certified suppliers.

For LRQA, the decision to become accredited as a ResponsibleSteel certification body was a no-brainer. After all, LRQA’s ties to the steel industry date back to the early days of steel shipbuilding, for which LRQA-precursor Lloyd’s Register provided the first standards in 1888. This background and our corporate strategy with its strong focus on sustainability make LRQA ideally suited for the new standard – and the accreditation the logical next step for the company. In 2021, LRQA completed the first ResponsibleSteel audit for a client who is now one of the very first steel manufacturers worldwide to receive a ResponsibleSteel certification for their site.

The auditing process for the ResponsibleSteel certification reflects the organization’s multi-perspective approach. Audits are conducted in two steps, the first being a thorough self-assessment conducted by the applying company for their respective site, the second, the actual audit carried out by the auditing company.

Unlike other standards, ResponsibleSteel audits also involve external stakeholders. Auditors interview not only employees but also representatives from communities, NGOs, environmental agencies, and others. To create the atmosphere of trust and openness needed for these discussions, auditors need considerable social skills. Communication is key, not only during the interviews but also as a basic ResponsibleSteel requirement. Steel companies have to be able to demonstrate that they are willing to cooperate with stakeholders, including NGOs and the general public – and that also means that they need to communicate openly and proactively.

Another distinguishing characteristic of the ResponsibleSteel Standard is its sheer scope. Auditors need to be fluent in a broad bandwidth of topics, from ethical governance, health and safety, human rights, and the collaboration with interest groups to greenhouse gas and noise emissions, water management, biodiversity, and decommissioning procedures. Here, too, LRQA benefits from our auditors’ extensive sustainability and certification expertise.

First introduced in late 2019, the ResponsibleSteel Standard comprises 12 principles covering governance, social and environmental factors, a total of 49 criteria, and 200 requirements. “ResponsibleSteel Certified Site”, the first official certification issued by ResponsibleSteel, is awarded to steel company sites that comply with all 12 ResponsibleSteel principles. As an international standard developed by multiple organizations and stakeholders, ResponsibleSteel is recognized globally. Reaching beyond standards like ISO 9001, 14001, and 45001, ResponsibleSteel demands that applicants commit fully and actively to human rights and climate protection and support this commitment through dedicated initiatives and throughout their entire supply chain.

By Sabine Bradac, a ResponsibleSteel auditor, LRQA

Sabine Bradac is an auditor for LRQA, a ResponsibleSteel approved certification body. A trained technical chemist and process engineer, she joined LRQA in 2016, bringing 17 years of experience in the metal casting industry. In addition to ResponsibleSteel, she conducts audits for ISO 9001/14001/45001 and 50001.

About LRQA

LRQA is a leading global assurance provider, bringing together decades of expertise in brand assurance, certification, cybersecurity, inspection and training, to help its clients negotiate a rapidly changing risk landscape.  

Operating in more than 160 countries and recognized by over 30 accreditation bodies worldwide, LRQA covers almost every sector, and helps clients to manage risk across the entire supply chain, drive operational improvements and build credibility with stakeholders.

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