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ISSF: Message from Secretary-General, Tim Collins

The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to present some practical challenges during 2021, even as we are starting to see some elements of our society returning to a more normal life. Furthermore, and whilst our industry has adapted to the new way of undertaking much of our business online, there is clearly a strong desire to get back to meeting colleagues and holding some events face-to-face. We hope to be able to fully realize this networking shift during 2022.

The stainless steels industry has continued to show a strong level of both determination and drive to support the recovering material demand during 2021. The forecast stainless steel consumption for 2021 is indicating an expected increase of around 14% compared to 2020, noting that 2020 itself showed a fall of only 2% compared to 2019. The medium term continues to look positive for stainless steel consumption with production output forecasted to exceed 80 million tonnes by 2030 ….. up from 52 million tonnes in 2020.

The International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF) is now handling a large number of external enquiries requesting CO2 emissions and sustainability data associated with the production of stainless steels. These enquiries represent >25% of all incoming enquiries today. Whilst there is no doubt that stainless steels are one of the most sustainable of materials available today, the understanding of this feature across the wider community of material specifiers, design engineers, architects and procurement specialists remains rather variable. This group of people still appeared to primarily be locked onto the upfront cost of stainless steels compared to other competing materials, rather than routinely considering life cycle costs. Hence, the ISSF is now developing, through its Sustainability Committee, life cycle costing models and a life cycle emissions model suitable for different applications and usage sectors.

We must also not forget that stainless steels, when correctly specified, will provide service lives of greater than 100 years with minimal or zero maintenance. It is important that within our industry community, we are all able to remind people of this in a compelling manner. We should always see ourselves as part-time ‘stainless steel marketeers’.

The International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF) has maintained a strong focus during 2021 on market development work through both its market development committee and its long products committee. Furthermore, the ongoing well-attended educational webinars have been primarily aligned to market development opportunities. The recent conclusion of three market development projects has resulted in member publications focused on the use of stainless steel cups for festivals and large events, stainless steel for providing lightweight, corrosion resistant sustainable electric bus frames and additive manufacturing opportunities for stainless steels. There are many more opportunities to use stainless steels as an appropriate sustainable alternative to traditional material choices and the ISSF will continue to research these opportunities and issue guidance documents to our members.

Stainless steels can also help us in our fight against the effects of climate change. Whether it is in the creation of long-lasting sea defences, as active components within much-needed Carbon capture systems or to help preserve scarce natural resources, stainless steels offer the ‘fit and forget’ solution. Our people, our planet and our future all deserve that type of material choice.

Stainless steels feature in all aspects of our life today, whether it be in healthcare, in domestic settings, in building and construction, in mobility, in communications and in aerospace. Stainless steels can be used, recycled and reused over and over again with no loss of material integrity. They are one of the material families that truly contributes heavily to the circular economy, so let us sustain our world with stainless.