Tata Steel: Business Ethics and Sustainability in the Steel Industry

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Business ethics and sustainability in the steel industry - A Tata Steel case study


Steel is a unique and vital material. It touches almost every part of modern life. It is a key element of our infrastructure. From buses to buildings, from canned food to computers, almost everything we see around us is either made of steel or is made using steel. Steel is essential to modern society. Tata Steel is the second largest steel producer in Europe and has its main steelmaking plants in the UK and Holland. It supplies steel and related services to major industries, such as construction, vehicle production and packaging. The European operations are a subsidiary of Tata Steel Group, one of the world’s top ten steel producers. The combined Group has around 80,000 employees.

The challenges of sustainability

A commitment to environmentally-sound practices is part of many businesses’ commitment to act responsibly. Social responsibility refers to an organisation’s obligations to maximise its long-term positive impacts and minimise its negative impacts on society. For Tata Steel, it is a core part of its vision to be ‘the global steel industry benchmark for value creation and corporate citizenship.’ Tata Steel is committed to tackling the challenges of sustainability. This means that it takes its responsibility towards both the environment and its communities seriously, balancing these against the need to make a profit. It has put systems in place to meet international standards for environmental management such as ISO14001. Respecting and safe-guarding the environment is a central principle held by all Tata Group companies and can go hand-in-hand with profitable business.

What are business ethics and sustainability?

Business ethics

[pic]Business ethics means ‘taking the right course’. Acting ethically takes into account all the factors of doing business. These include production, business processes, and the company’s behaviour with its customers and the communities in which it operates. It is about doing the right thing in everything the company does. Tata Steel has five core values which define the ethics of the company: integrity, understanding, excellence, unity and responsibility. These values are evident in everything that it does and drive the ethical behaviour of the company. For Tata Steel, taking responsibility for tackling the challenges of sustainability follows naturally from this ethical stance.


The Tata Steel definition of sustainability is ‘an enduring and balanced approach to economic activity, environmental responsibility and societal benefit’. Sustainability is about meeting the challenges of ensuring that future generations can enjoy the same kind of lifestyles people enjoy today. This naturally involves taking a long-term perspective on balancing economic, environmental and social impacts of business. A commitment to ethical behaviour is often shown in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy of a business. Businesses are no longer judged solely on their ability to deliver goods and services but also on the manner of delivery and how they impact on society and the environment. The Tata Steel sustainability policy states that: ‘Our policy is to conduct our activities in relation to economic progress, social responsibility and environmental concerns in an integrated way in order to be more sustainable and to meet the expectations of our stakeholders.’

Legislation and ethical practice

There are current laws or regulations that encourage ethical and sustainable practices. For example, anti-pollution laws place strict limits on levels of CO2 emissions. Tata Steel, like any other company, must ensure it abides by these laws, but with its high ethical standards, it aims to go beyond the minimum required by law, making a positive contribution wherever possible. This approach to CSR ensures that Tata Steel can tackle the relevant...
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