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The LESS System

The LESS system is made up of several elements. You will find further information here.

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The LESS system contains of several elements: Specifically, a classification scale in the label system illustrates whether the steel is “Near Zero” – or “Low Emissions (A-D)” steel. The threshold values to classify the steel are based on the greenhouse gas intensity per tonne of produced hot-rolled steel as well as on the specified scrap input. As part of a so-called “sliding scale”, the globally limited availability of steel scrap is taken into account – analogous to the approach of the International Energy Agency. Furthermore, transformative efforts of the primary and secondary steel route can be mapped through this standardised scale. Adjustment rules in the rulebook make it possible to classify all hot-rolled steel products according to their alloying composition (with the exception of stainless steel). In the future, the rulebook will be extended to include additional manufacturing processes (ingot and continuous casting as well as forged products).

In order to provide a full picture of the climate impact of the certified product, LESS takes into account other emissions in addition to those generated during its own production up to the manufacture of hot-rolled steel. These include the emissions resulting from the procurement and use of energy (Scope 2) and the emissions from the manufacture of preliminary products (Scope 3 Up-stream (3U)).

It is important to mention that LESS is a standard based on actual processes and reductions. The standard is based on the physical balancing approach within a site’s production facilities. Thus, the production of the steel is physically linked to the specified greenhouse gas emissions. The possibility of mass balancing is only permitted within narrow and clearly defined limits. This includes the case of a partial transformation within a production site. The LESS approach thus differs from other approaches that allow the bundling of emission reductions across locations. The strict balancing rules are intended to ensure that in particular transformative efforts are supported.

In addition, the LESS label also requires information on the product carbon footprint (PCF) and the global warming potential (GWP) in accordance with the environmental Product Declaration (EPD) of the delivered finished steel product, respectively. As no uniform standard for calculating the product carbon footprint currently exists, the PCF is verified according to the standard required by the customer (for example: Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG), ISO 14064/14067, PAS 2050 or EPD according to ISO 14025 and EN 15804). In addition to the PCF value, the standard (e.g. GHG protocol) according to which the PCF or GWP was certified, and the certificate number are indicated.

The Label

The classification system

Steel that fulfils the LESS criteria for certification at the highest level is considered as “Near zero” steel which is in accordance with the IEA definition. In contrast to the IEA proposal, however, additional emissions from the use of alloying agents are reported here, which have a major influence on Scope 3U emissions and thus on the assessment of the overall greenhouse gas intensity of the product. Classification levels A-D are derived as multiples of the “Near zero” threshold – analogous to the approach of the International Energy Agency – in order to ensure technological openness.

Calculations by the German Steel Association demonstrate a high level of ambition: Level C can only be achieved by switching to “Near Zero” production technologies (e.g. Direct reduction (DR) technology or Electric Arc Furnace EAF) and the partial use of climate-neutral energy (hydrogen and electricity). Over time, advances in steel production technology as well as the supply of low-greenhouse gas energy sources will reduce the relevant emissions. As a result, more steel that fulfils the demanding values of the higher classification levels A to C will be available.  

Introduction of a label and certification system

In 2024, LESS will be established, and will be supported and managed by a non-profit organisation. The association will be based in Brussels, a clear indicator of its international compatibility. The label will reflect the gradual progress towards climate neutrality of products, locations and companies transparently and will make an important contribution to the development of markets for low-emission basic materials and products. LESS thus supports the transformation of the entire industrial sector and creates comparability between companies that are certified according to the standard with respect to their transformation efforts.

The founding members of the association are steel producing companies, among others the members of the German Steel Association. The association is open to all steel producers. Any company from the steel value chain and steel traders as well as their organisation can become associated members. An advisory body ensures the targeted and continuous further development of the standard.

Certification in accordance with LESS is carried out by an external certification body.

Rulebook for the classification system of LESS