How practicing sustainability can guide an organization’s corrosion management system

    October 22, 2020 Corrosion CONTROLLED, Corrosion Management 

    A 2016 NACE International study underlined the importance of a properly designed Corrosion Management System (CMS) for organizations. The IMPACT study also estimated that the annual global cost of corrosion was around $2.5 trillion USD, but more importantly showed that between 15 and 35% of this cost could be saved through properly applying current corrosion mitigation and technology.

    Furthermore, the study urged that a well-designed and implemented CMS is and should be a key part of an organization’s sustainable business practices as significant overlap between corrosion management, material sustainability, and material stewardship exist.

    What is a Corrosion Management System?

    A CMS is a means of improving the implementation of corrosion control knowledge and tools within an organization. Furthermore, effective corrosion management has been shown to contribute to:

    • Extension of asset operating life

    • Reduction of risks to society and the environment

    • Improved efficiency and effectiveness of corrosion control efforts

    What is Material Sustainability?

    Sustainability has a broad definition and can mean different things to different people. In 1987, a United Nations report defined it as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The United Nations developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

    Material sustainability can be defined as the way materials are sourced, processed, manufactured into products, and maintained through the product lifecycle and redirected at their end of life. Current production and consumption models globally are unsustainable, according to US Geological Survey data. Total demand for limited resource stocks could reach 400% of the Earth’s total capacity by 2050.

    Meanwhile, the safe boundaries for four of the nine key ecological processes and systems that regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth ecosystem have already been exceeded. The corresponding economic impacts of these current trends are predicted to be severe, with global price volatilities and supply chain interruptions leading to as much as US$4.5 trillion in lost global economic growth by 2030, or US$25 trillion by 2050.

    Predictions of materials’ supply constraints using reserve-to-demand ratios suggest that, within decades, we will be running up against planetary boundaries for several materials of industrial importance, such as nickel, copper, and precious metals. Material stewardship strategies in the 21st century should focus on decreasing this pace of consumption through the 4D strategies outlined in the next section.

    What Is Material Stewardship?

    Material stewardship is concerned with managing the flow of materials into society to improve its sustainability by mitigating environmental, economic, and societal impacts and maximizing its efficiency and durability. It investigates the maintenance and preservation of a material during its lifespan, including design, product ownership, and second life use (remanufacture, reuse, and recycle).

    In a CORROSION 2018 conference paper, four key strategies are defined to pursue material stewardship in what is known as the 4 D’s approach:

    1. Dematerialization   

    2.  Durability 

    3. Design for multiple lifecycles 

    4. Diversion of waste streams through industrial symbiosis

    Material stewardship provides corporations, government organizations, and their stakeholders a model for preserving and extending the lifetime of materials, thus reducing the rate of materials throughput, cutting waste, and preventing the social, environmental, and economic costs due to materials failure.

    The Linear Economy vs. The Circular Economy

    A new economic system and business strategy is outlined in the Circular Economy Handbook, which moves industry from the traditional model that follows a “take, make, use, and waste” process into a circular model where products and materials are kept within productive use for as long as possible and, when they reach the end of their use, they are effectively cycled back into the system.

    By using the same principles that exist within nature, where biological materials are used over and over, better systems for the use of technical materials can be designed. Moving to a circular economy not only supports a more sustainable future but will help businesses identify new opportunities with innovative products and services while optimizing their operations and supply chains.

    Furthermore, there are significant energy savings to be realized when products can be reused rather than produced from raw material sources. Altogether, adoption of more circular thinking will lead to more profitable and long-term businesses.

    Four areas requiring investigation for moving ahead with a circular approach are identified in the handbook. They are:

    1. Operations: Addressing the value lost through operations and byproducts of business processes with respect to energy, emissions, water, and waste.

    2. Products and Services: Rethinking the design, lifecycle, and end of use of a product or service to optimize its usage, eliminate waste, and close product loops.

    3. Culture and Organization: Embedding circular principles into the fabric of an organization through redefined working practices, policies, and procedures.

    4. Ecosystem: Collaborating and partnering with public and private sector actors to create and enable an environment for collective transformation. This includes examining the essential role of investment and policy.

    The Circular Economy Handbook builds on a previous publication, Waste to Wealth, where a $4.5 trillion opportunity was identified by simply redefining the concept of “waste” as a valuable resource. The following four categories of waste were identified:

    1. Wasted resources: Use of materials and energy that cannot be effectively regenerated over time, such as fossil energy and nonrecyclable material.

    2. Wasted capacity: Products and assets that are not fully utilized throughout their useful life.

    3. Wasted lifecycles: Products reaching end of use prematurely due to poor design or lack of second-use options.

    4. Wasted embedded value: Components, material, and energy not recovered from waste streams

    Five business models -- Circular Inputs, Sharing Platforms, Product as a Service, Product Use Extension, and Resource Recovery -- were introduced by the authors in order to capture the value of redefining waste. A number of organizations have used these business models over recent years to adopt a more circular approach with better product recovery in reducing waste illustrated by designing for end of use disassembly, refurbishment, and remanufacture.


    NACE International can help guide industries into a new era of more sustainable policies and practices.

    -The NACE IMPACT Study has played a role in showing the global importance of corrosion management across many industries.

    -IMPACT PLUS by the NACE Institute is a robust suite of technical and business tools in a single online portal and used by a number of organizations to assess, improve  CMS.

    -A NACE Technical Exchange Group exists to address material sustainability and material stewardship as related to corrosion management.

    -NACE’s Board of Directors has incorporated these concepts into its current three-year strategic plan for the association.

    Source:  Article, authored by A.I., Sandy Williamson, P.Eng., President Williamson Integrity Services, Ltd., Calgary, Alberta, Canada, originally appeared in Materials Performance, September 2020. Complete list of article references can be found at



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