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

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Page 2: What are business ethics and sustainability?

Business ethics

tata-steel-rb223_scunthorpeBusiness 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 sustainability challenges and in particular satisfy all its relevant stakeholders. This is good for the environment, for the people that work with and for Tata Steel, for the communities in which Tata Steel operates and also good for customers and therefore for business and profits. Through saving energy and waste, Tata Steel can work more efficiently and reduce costs.

Benefiting business reputation

Acting responsibly also benefits its reputation. This enhances the image of Tata Steel as an environmentally-committed and responsible business, giving good PR in a competitive world market. Tata Steel also develops and sells products which enhance long-term sustainability and which at the same time provide additional margins.

Steel is one of the best materials to use to ensure sustainability. Steel is a unique material because it is truly recyclable – when steel is recycled it becomes new steel and not an inferior product. Since steel does not downgrade when recycled, it can be re-used over and over again. Steel is the most recycled material on Earth. The impact of making steel can be viewed as an investment in a material which will be used again and again, rather than a one-off, making steel a very ‘green’ material.

Tata Steel | Business ethics and sustainability in the steel industry