Measuring local steel’s benefits to wellbeing

When it comes to construction and infrastructure procurement processes, the common focus is on least-cost rather than value-added, on capital costs rather than the costs over the life of the building, and on reducing embodied carbon without considering other environmental and social consequences.

In the context of steel building products in New Zealand, this is particularly relevant when comparing local versus overseas supply chains. Heavy fabricated steel is the predominant building system choice for commercial and industrial structures.

Steel produced and manufactured in New Zealand comes from companies that are required to meet high environmental, health and safety and quality standards. In contrast, we know little about the stewardship of imported fabricated steel, which can be sourced from companies and nations that do not have the same level of regulations, policies and commitment to improvement as we do in New Zealand.

It is widely known that supply chains are coming under scrutiny due to poor environmental stewardship and issues such as modern slavery, and a way of avoiding these practices entirely is to make use of the local industry here in New Zealand.

Yet outside of the industry itself, these and other positive attributes are not well known, neither is there any robust data to support the business case for using local steel for the contributions it makes to wellbeing generally.

A framework for telling the story

To demonstrate exactly how the local steel industry contributes to New Zealand, we have worked with sustainability consultants thinkstep to develop the Steel Industry Framework for Case Studies  using New Zealand’s Living Standards Framework (LSF) and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Additionally, as New Zealand has set targets under these frameworks, we can communicate directly how it contributes to these. By expressing the sector’s contribution to wellbeing in the context of these frameworks we have a common and consistent story to tell that can be understood by all.

This is framework is a first draft and we have already learnt some lessons along the way and will continue to evolve and enhance it.

Sharing the framework

We also want to make this work freely available to other organisations, to use and develop as a valuable tool for understanding our business’ contribution better, and seeing where we can improve.

As part of developing this framework we worked on an example project – the Air New Zealand Logistics Centre, a 100% locally made and constructed success story. Read an overview here.