Ladies and Gentlemen:
Corporate Responsibility is integral to our corporate culture and pivotal to our corporate strategy. We want to actively shape a more sustainable world—through our processes, through our products, through our highly qualified workforce.
Climate action is one of the keys to the future. voestalpine’s greentec steel program entails an ambitious, step-by-step plan for green steel production. In a first significant step, we will be able to cut our CO2 emissions by some three to four million tons per year from 2027 by replacing the current blast furnace route in part with a hybrid electric arc route. This amount corresponds to just about 5% of Austria’s annual CO2 emissions. In 2027, voestalpine will start up one electric arc furnace each in Linz and Donawitz (both Austria). The company’s Supervisory Board has already given the green light to the preparatory work required at both facilities. In the long term, voestalpine will rely on carbon-neutral steel production based on green hydrogen. We are already conducting intensive research on highly promising breakthrough technologies. Our most important research projects include, for one, the H2FUTURE hydrogen pilot plant at the Linz facility for the production and utilization of green hydrogen on an industrial scale, and, for another, the testing facilities at the Donawitz plant for carbon-neutral steel production via direct ore reduction using hydrogen.
In December 2021, the voestalpine Group was listed on the renowned Dow Jones Sustainability Index Europe (DJSI Europe) for the very first time. It is the only European steel company to be included in this index. The Dow Jones Sustainability Indices are considered the best worldwide. They only list companies that are industry leaders when it comes to long-term economic, environmental, and social criteria. Being included in the DJSI Europe is an endorsement by an independent, international player of voestalpine’s clear commitment to sustainability and climate action.
For many years now, voestalpine has followed a proactive approach to its economic, social, and environmental responsibility. The company not only supports the UN Global Compact (UNGC), it has also participated for several years in industry policy initiatives that focus on sustainable production, such as ResponsibleSteel. Last year the Linz-based Steel Division was one of the very first steel companies worldwide to have been officially certified by ResponsibleSteel as a sustainable production facility. This certification was contingent on fulfillment of some 200 criteria for example, the responsible procurement of raw materials, reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, and the approach to both labor and human rights.
Respecting and upholding human rights is of great importance to voestalpine. The company does not tolerate child and forced labor; discrimination in any way, shape, or form; or even the withholding of wages—neither within the Group nor among its business partners. Respect for the human rights of all people fundamentally guides the actions of all voestalpine Group companies. This commitment to the safeguarding of human rights also is integral to the voestalpine Code of Conduct. Since the spring of 2022, all of the Group’s employees worldwide must complete an e-learning course on human rights.
It is important for a listed company such as voestalpine to maintain its focus on its long-term alignment. This led us in 2021 to adopt a Sustainability Strategy comprising both quantitative and qualitative targets for our contribution to a better future. Of course, voestalpine is affected as well by developments that it cannot control and that frequently require immediate responses.
We are experiencing crises at this time that would have been unimaginable for most of us just a few years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic challenged us yet again during the past business year. To overcome this global health crisis, voestalpine has been and is still relying on intensified safety and hygiene measures throughout the Group; in Austria, internal testing and vaccination options are available as well. Looking to the future, I am convinced that both compliance with such hygiene measures and vaccination are the most effective tools for combating future waves of COVID-19 infections. In any case: The health of our employees always has the highest priority.
Since February 2022, the whole world has been looking at Ukraine. We are deeply shocked by the war that is taking place just a few hundred kilometers from voestalpine’s headquarters. This war has fatal consequences, not just politically and economically. It is also causing immense human suffering. voestalpine has been providing comprehensive humanitarian assistance since the war broke out and has donated EUR 1 million for specific assistance projects that are run by Caritas, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, and the Red Cross. In addition, the Steel Division of voestalpine AG, which has maintained a collaborative business relationship with a Ukrainian community, Horishni Plavni, for decades, has supported the affected region through an additional donation of EUR 250,000.
At this time, a big thank you is due to all of voestalpine’s employees. They show true dedication and flexibility over and over again—however economically uncertain and emotionally fraught the environment might be. voestalpine’s success is rooted in their performance. Our work to push the professional and personal development of our employees and to train young, skilled workers ourselves thus matters greatly to us. This business year, about 500 new apprentices will be accepted Group-wide.
voestalpine takes its corporate responsibility seriously. I am convinced that sustainable action, especially against the backdrop of the global challenges we face, will become ever more important. This does not concern isolated steps that happen to be trendy. Instead, this involves a sound—and sustainable—strategy that all of us are embracing and putting into practice out of conviction.
voestalpine’s Corporate Responsibility Report 2021/22 offers broad insights into how we bring our Sustainability Strategy to life. I hope that you will enjoy reading it.
Chairman of the Management Board of voestalpine AG