Green Steel to build a more sustainable Chile together

Published on Friday, 2 June 2023

Acero AZA, created in 1953, is a leading company in the steel industry, recognized for its excellence in producing and commercializing a wide range of high-quality products such as bars, profiles, plates, pipes, and other structural elements. They have an installed capacity to produce 520,000 tons of steel annually from about 600,000 tons of ferrous scrap valorized in Chile.

Steel is widely used in various industries, and its production significantly impacts the environment linked to extracting and processing the mineral. Steel recycling is essential to reduce the demand for natural resources, reduce carbon emissions, save energy, reduce waste, and foster a more sustainable economy.

In an interview with Daniela Gonzalez, head of sustainability at Aceros Aza, she tells us about the company's strategy and how it integrates a circular economy to have a product called Green Steel, which is essential for the development of infrastructure works in the country. 

Could you tell us about AZA's business strategy and commitment to sustainability?

A circular economy and environmental care are at the heart of our business, which is why we have made significant efforts that today allow us to have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the sector, about nine times less than the average of the steel industry worldwide. In addition, Aceros AZA has a long history distinguished by good practices in sustainability, occupational safety, and circular economy, along with promoting one of the largest networks of grassroots recyclers in the country, who are a fundamental part of the business. Our Sustainable Strategy revolves around three core vectors: Business excellence; Circular, regenerative, and net zero economies; and Sustainable people and communities. In each vector, we have defined priority issues to manage, with their corresponding implementation plan and KPIs that allow us to monitor our progress.

What is AZA's plan to address future environmental and social challenges, and how is it preparing to meet its long-term sustainability goals?

We updated our sustainable strategy aligned with the environmental and social challenges of the future of the industry and the world to fulfill our purpose "Green Steel, to build together a more sustainable Chile. [...] To align ourselves with the international goal of limiting global warming by 1.5 ºC, we committed to reduce our Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50% by 2030 (a goal we met ten years earlier) and to reach Net Zero by 2050. To achieve this, we drew up a solid roadmap that aims, among other things, to reduce our energy consumption, improve the efficiency of our processes, introduce renewable energies, and promote electromobility. Interestingly, this roadmap was validated in April 2022 by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), making us the first steel company in Chile and the second in Latin America to assume this responsibility. Another of our challenges associated with the social sphere is to promote the purchase of scrap from basic recyclers. This commitment aims for 20% of the scrap purchased from this supplier profile by 2025.

What is AZA's strategy to promote a circular economy?

Our company prides itself on having a solid strategy based on a circular economy model. By producing steel from scrap recycling, we significantly reduce our dependence on natural resources, minimizing the impact related to the extraction of raw materials. Through an efficient and advanced recycling process, we recover and reuse valuable materials, closing the life cycle of steel products and preventing them from becoming waste. This enables us to reduce carbon, energy, and water emissions and reduce waste generation. Our circular economy strategy benefits the environment, positions us as a leader in sustainability, and gives us a competitive advantage by offering products with one of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry worldwide.

In addition, we are currently the country's largest recycler of ferrous scrap, a condition we have achieved thanks to our recycling network of more than 10,000 suppliers, including SMEs and companies in the construction, mining, and industrial sectors that generate scrap. This network is 90% composed of basic recyclers, a profile corresponding to entrepreneurial families whose economic livelihood depends exclusively on the sale of scrap metal.

In addition to the above, we have another of our public commitments related to making AZA a circular company and closing our cycle. To this end, we challenged ourselves to recover 100% of our waste by 2025. Thus, we created our subsidiary EcoAZA, established at the end of 2020, to process our main waste, steel slag, and thus generating two types of eco-aggregates® that can be used in different applications, replacing traditional aggregate, which reduces dependence on this natural resource, on the one hand, and on the other, valorizing waste from the steel process.

Recently, due to a visit coordinated by ProHumana, an NGO dedicated to Sustainable Human Development, professionals from various industries visited the Acero Aza plant. The participants were impressed by its pioneering approach towards a circular economy, which has made the company a reference in the valorization of materials in the country and the region.