POSCO Under Fire: Dubious 'Eco Steel & Alleged Greenwashing

POSCO
POSCOImage Source: SFOC

Synopsis:

An environmental group accused POSCO of falsely branding their steel products as environmentally friendly while relying on coal-fired blast furnaces. The company defended its practices, claiming government approval and third-party validation. Allegations surfaced regarding exaggerated sustainability claims, urging clarity on carbon emissions and highlighting risks in labeling methods.

Article:

POSCO, a leading steelmaker in Korea, faced accusations of mislabeling its steel as "eco-friendly" while using coal-fired blast furnaces, according to a Korean environmental group, Solutions for Our Climate (SFOC). Despite claims of approval from Korea's government and global third-party recognition for carbon emissions reduction, SFOC filed a claim against POSCO’s "carbon-neutral" Greenate brand. They alleged it exaggerated product sustainability and diverted attention from continued coal use without clear phase-out plans.

While promoting Greenate to investors, POSCO invested $400 million in extending blast furnace lifespans at its Pohang and Gwangyang plants, contradicting sustainability claims. The group claimed these facilities emitted over 17 million tons of CO2-equivalent annually, contributing to health issues costing $2.95 billion in 2021.

Heather Lee of SFOC’s Steel Team compared POSCO to Japan’s Nippon Steel, emphasizing the misleading nature of launching a carbon-neutral brand while extending coal use. However, POSCO defended itself, citing Korea Environmental Industry and Technology Institute’s qualification of Greenate as carbon-neutral.

SFOC criticized POSCO’s Greenate Value Chain, highlighting the focus on avoided emissions and product durability without effectively reducing emissions. They pointed out unclear standards allowing POSCO to potentially overstate emission reductions and questioned the company’s certification methodology.

POSCO's use of mass-balance methodology to certify Greenate products drew controversy. The company certified reduced carbon dioxide while potentially overestimating actual reductions. Despite DNV's certification, SFOC raised concerns about the lack of precise standards, allowing for potential greenwashing.

Conclusion:

POSCO faces allegations of greenwashing through its Greenate brand. While claiming carbon neutrality, concerns arise regarding its reliance on coal-fired blast furnaces. The company's certification methods and standards have come under scrutiny, highlighting ambiguity in emission reduction claims. Clarity and transparency in environmental standards remain essential for companies aiming to align with sustainable practices.

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