Erste Asset Management

Sustainability and biodiversity: the strategy of voestalpine

Sustainability and biodiversity: the strategy of voestalpine
Copy right: voestalpine AG, Source:

Op-ed by Stefan Schuster, Group Environmental Management voestalpine AG

Climate and environmental protection are central elements of voestalpine’s sustainability strategy. The conservation-minded use of resources such as raw materials and energy along the entire production chain has been firmly anchored within the group for years. Minimising the environmental impact of processes and products also plays a central role. For example, CO2 emissions per tonne of steel have been reduced by about 20% since 1990.

In doing so, voestalpine is guided by the following principles:

  • Minimising emissions to air, soil, and water on the basis of the best available technologies
  • Circular economy and life cycle assessment
  • Commitment to net-zero production

In the past ten years, the group’s total environmental spending has amounted to EUR 2.4bn. These funds are allocated to a wide variety of priority areas. Last year, for example, 69% went to air pollution control including EU emissions trading certificates, 17% to waste recycling, recovery and disposal, 13% to water protection, and 1% to noise protection and other environmental expenses.

We use the best available technologies in our production facilities and thus continuously drive the increase in efficiency, reduction of emissions, and improvement of energy efficiency in our existing steel production processes.

Biodiversity at voestalpine

In the past fiscal year, voestalpine evaluated the technical assessment criteria for the various environmental goals in the course of the taxonomy conformity survey. In the context of the DNSH criteria (Do No Significant Harm) that are to be considered in addition, we also examined the effects on biodiversity, among other things.

Currently, the topic is still focussed on the direct impact at the respective sites. However, the horizon of consideration is to be increasingly expanded. In the future, we will also include supply chain aspects. Recording the status quo and the main effects on biodiversity can make it possible in the future to establish measurable and time-bound targets on this planet.

With regard to the entire steel industry, there are currently no joint initiatives on the topic of biodiversity. However, the various working groups and committees of national and international associations and interest groups are dealing with the different (partial) aspects of this topic.

Sustainable water management

In the production of pig iron and steel, as well as in their further processing, water is an important operating supply for cooling and steam generation. Therefore, the careful use of water resources, especially considering local conditions, is an essential principle for voestalpine.

For this reason, more than 95% of the cooling and waste water of the voestalpine companies are subjected to quantitative and qualitative parameter monitoring. This periodic and continuous monitoring ensures compliance with nationally and regionally prescribed standards.

In addition, as part of a study to calculate our water footprint, the group looked at the effects of production activities on local water systems across the entire value chain. In doing so, we examined blue water consumption, i.e. the net consumption of fresh water, and the water scarcity footprint, i.e. the scarcity of water, in the respective region and took local hydrogeological characteristics into account. The study concludes that voestalpine’s water use in production and processing has only a minor impact on local water systems and does not lead to an aggravation of the situation in regions with existing water scarcity.

Protection of the Danube as habitat

At the Linz site, we continuously monitor and control cooling and waste water. Concrete action plans facilitate a rapid response in the event of incidents, thus avoiding the discharge of pollutants into the Danube. External experts regularly analyse the condition of the water body. These analyses include detailed checks of the fish and species population and examinations of the water body condition. Such measures ensure that the Danube is protected as a habitat.

In 2021, a total of 507 million m3 of Danube water was withdrawn at the Linz site. Taking into account the specified temperature limits, the cooling water used is discharged back into the Danube. Wastewater is returned to the Danube in a purified state, depending on the substances it contains, or, after pre-treatment, discharged to the municipal sewage treatment plant in Asten for biological treatment.

Sustainable water and wastewater management, continuous monitoring and control of discharge flows, and comprehensive emergency management at the Linz production site are central aspects of voestalpine’s water protection. At the Linz site, we first pre-treat Danube water and then treat it further physically, depending on the intended use. The indirect cooling systems can be operated without additional purification steps and without the use of chemicals. Cooling water is returned to the Danube at undiminished quality.


The careful use of resources and the minimisation of any environmental impact are central aspects of voestalpine’s sustainability strategy. We have already achieved a number of successes in this area in recent years. In this context, the issue of biodiversity is also becoming increasingly important.

Water plays an important role in steel production. It is therefore all the more important to use this resource in a sustainable and responsible way. To this end, voestalpine has implemented a number of measures for sustainable water and wastewater management. As a result, we can return cooling water in undiminished quality and, with regard to the Linz site, protect the Danube as a habitat.

For more information on the goals and the implementation of the sustainability strategy of voestalpine, please visit


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