After checking out the 2012 Global 100 interactive site, I briefly scanned the companies from every region to see if any stood out. There were the typical large well-known companies such as IBM and Proctor & Gamble in the North American Region. However, it was a large, less-known company from the Asian Region that caught my attention. That company was POSCO, the world’s fifth-largest steel producer which is based in South Korea.
POSCO is ranked 30 on the 2012 Global 100 list. The reason that POSCO caught my eye was because it is a company that I have visited while traveling with my parents on a business trip. To investigate how POSCO has been environmentally-friendly, I will start by visiting their official website. That site will most likely be biased so other sources will be needed to supplement.
POSCO’s official site: When I first visited POSCO’s site, one of the first things I noticed was the SUSTAINABILITY link at the top of the home page. Further digging led to many points highlighting POSCO’s plans and achievements in relation to the environment.
- Environmental Management System
- Environmental investment totaling 3,958.6 billion KRW (US $3.56 million )
- Improving air quality by using an automatic sprinkler system to control the spread of pollutant dust.
- Recycling and reusing the water used in the steel production process
- Emission reduction–
In December of 2004, POSCO entered into a ‘Voluntary Agreement to Reduce Chemicals Emissions’ with government and civic groups. This agreement is a ‘Chemical Discharge Reduction 30/50 Program’ with 164 places of local companies participating with the goal of reducing emission by 30% within 3 years of entering the agreement (2007), and by 50% within 5 years (2009). The Leak Detection and Repair(LDAR) system was introduced to reduce BTX and ammonia substances from coke plants, while covers are being used in WWTPs to collect and treat chemicals. Also, worn out tanks and pumps are periodically replaced, collection pipes installed collect and process volatile organic compounds leaked from coke factory tanks, and a collector line is being installed in roll-out of light oil products. Odor-neutralizers in furnaces and non-steam granulated slag production systems are being introduced increasingly to remove odors from the blast furnace region.
Other Sources: After researching with Google Scholar, there was one topic that kept coming up – POSCO’s plans to invest in Orissa, India. POSCO planned to invest $12 billion US in an integrated steel project and captive port. However, there were protests from many different groups that suspended the project indefinitely. One study done by the Mining Zone People’s Solidarity Group titled, “IRON AND STEAL: THE POSCO‐INDIA STORY” explores many of the negative claims.
Directly from the executive summary:
- Subversion of State’s authority and sovereignty for POSCO’s benefits
- Project affected villages face widespread impoverishment and loss of livelihoods
- Environmental Clearances based on flawed processes and incomplete data
- Based on the above findings we are forced to conclude that the POSCO project, as it currently stands, is poorly conceptualized and economically unviable. If allowed to proceed, the project will result in widespread impoverishment of a large number of people and irreversible degradation of the environment, besides setting a dangerous precedent of complete state capitulation for a private company’s profit.
After reading the study, my view of POSCO has changed completely. Although I do not want to discredit any of the plans and contributions they have made to the environment (or claims to have made), the Orissa issue does give off the image that POSCO seems to portray on their website. In the end, I still can’t answer the question: Is this an issue of exaggeration from activist groups or exploitation as a result of corporate greed?