Industry as a partner for sustainable development: iron and steel

United Nations Environment Programme (2002)

Steel is a material used to build the foundations of society. It is an iron-based material containing low amounts of carbon and alloying elements that can be made into thousands of compositions with exacting properties to meet a wide range of needs. Steel is truly a versatile material. Steel is produced in over 100 countries and its modern age goes back to the 19th century. Technological developments at that time allowed for mass production of steel and opened up new applications like railroads and automobiles. The origins of steel date from 3,000 year ago. An estimated value\"-' of steel produced worldwide in 2000 was in excess of USD200 billion. In figure I, the value of steel and other materials in common use is presented. Although exact values of the materials produced will change over time as production and prices fluctuate, the relative magnitude of the world's steel output with relation to other materials is apparent. Steel is an essential material for society and an essential material for sustainable development for people to satisfy their needs and aspirations. Steel is a part of people's everyday lives, in both the developed and developing world. Steel is used in providing transportation such as automobiles and railroads, building shelters from small housing to large multifamily dwellings, delivering energy such as electricity and natural gas, producing food with tools like tractors and hoes, supplying water with pumps and pipelines, and enabling healthcare with medical equipment.