New Report: American Automakers Make Progress, But Lag Behind EU Counterparts In Green Steel Supply Chains

Analysis Reveals Progress and Challenges in Incorporating Sustainable Steel Into Auto Supply Chains

Ariana Criste, Senior Communications Strategist

For immediate release

New Report: American Automakers Make Progress, But Lag Behind EU Counterparts In Green Steel Supply Chains

Analysis Reveals Progress and Challenges in Incorporating Sustainable Steel Into Auto Supply Chains

February 27, 2024 – Lead the Charge–a global coalition of leading climate, environment, and human rights organizations–released their second annual Auto Supply Chain Leaderboard today. The report evaluates the sustainability and human rights efforts of 18 leading global automotive manufacturers, highlighting progress and areas for improvement around supply chain emissions, environmental harm, and human rights abuses.

"Automakers have a prime opportunity to align with the surging consumer demand for sustainability while slashing a major source of embodied emissions in their vehicles," explained Maricela Gutierrez, Senior Campaign Strategist at Industrious Labs. "Their influence and purchasing power are essential for advancing the transition to green steel, delivering vital climate, health, and economic benefits."

The Leaderboard's analysis of publicly available reporting from major automotive companies reveals strides by U.S. automakers Tesla, Ford, and General Motors in enhancing their steel sustainability scores since the inaugural Leaderboard in 2023. Tesla, Ford, and GM have seen their scores rise from 0% to 22%, 17%, and 17%, respectively. However, Stellantis has not shown improvement, remaining at zero.

Tesla set a benchmark by disclosing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its steel supply chain, showcasing a commitment to transparency. GM and Ford have also made strides by joining the First Movers Coalition. This initiative aims to aggregate private sector demand for clean technologies to spur investment and decarbonize emissions-intensive industrial sectors such as steelmaking. Members of the First Movers Coalition have committed to purchase at least 10% near-zero steel by volume by 2030.

In 2022, the automotive sector played a substantial role in primary steel purchases from leading U.S. manufacturers, constituting approximately a third of Cleveland Cliffs' and U.S. Steel's domestic sales. This demand underscores the automotive industry's crucial role and power in spurring its steel suppliers to transition to cleaner practices.

The shift towards sustainable steel production is already gaining momentum in the European Union, largely driven by the automotive sector's evolving demands. Swedish automaker Volvo led the second Leaderboard with a 47% sustainability score for steel, partly driven by its participation in multi-stakeholder procurement initiatives.

Despite U.S. automakers engaging in agreements for lower-emission steel, the lack of transparency in these contracts leaves uncertainties about the actual emissions reduction achieved, highlighting the pressing need for a true fossil-free steel contract. To bridge this gap and propel the adoption of green steel within North America, RMI has introduced the Sustainable Steel Buyers Platform (SSBP). This initiative is designed to build North America's first commercial-scale, low-emissions steel facility by aggregating buyer demand and connecting committed buyers with steel producers.

"American automakers are making progress, but we need to see more decisive action," said Carly Oboth, senior supply chain campaigner with Public Citizen’s climate program. "Sustainability is about more than the engine; it's about the entire supply chain. We need a shift towards clean, American-made primary steel."

Steelmaking today comprises roughly 7% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and is a major source of air and water pollution due to its reliance on coal-burning blast furnaces. Automakers can slash 30–50% of the embodied emissions in their vehicles and deliver cleaner air for local communities like Dearborn, Michigan, by encouraging their steel suppliers, including U.S. primary steelmakers Cleveland-Cliffs and U.S. Steel, to invest in the latest clean steelmaking technologies.

“Dearborn has felt the weight of air pollution from the automotive and steel industries for too long,” said Samra’a Luqman, Dearborn, Michigan resident and activist. “Electric vehicles are just the beginning. True leadership will be shown when automakers overhaul their supply chains, choosing sustainable steel and taking a stand against pollution in communities like mine.”

The Leaderboard is a cornerstone of the "Lead The Charge" global campaign, focused on illuminating the human rights, climate, and environmental impacts within auto supply chains. The campaign targets the steel, aluminum, and battery sectors, urging automakers to revolutionize their supply chains towards equity, sustainability, and complete fossil-free practices in the transition to electric vehicles.

For further details on the "Lead The Charge" campaign and to view the full Leaderboard report, visit


About Lead the Charge

Lead the Charge is a diverse network of local, national, and global advocacy partners working for an equitable, sustainable, and fossil-free auto supply chain. Organizations that have contributed to its development include Cultural Survival, Earthworks, First Peoples Worldwide, Industrious Labs, Investor Advocates for Social Justice, Mighty Earth, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Solutions for our Climate (SFOC), Transport and Environment (T&E), The Sunrise Project and others.