Transformation yields unprecedented growth

Cleveland-Cliffs emerged as a leader in the steel industry amid major company changes.

While businesses across nearly every industry spent the last two years navigating unpredictable challenges and volatile markets, Cleveland-Cliffs, the largest flat-rolled steel producer in North America, created extraordinary growth. The company went from $2 billion in total revenue in 2019 to more than $20 billion in 2021, growing tenfold in just two years. Cliffs completed three acquisitions, achieved vertical integration, and moved through this transformation with a focus on expansion, optimization, and sustainability.

The company’s evolution began in 2020 with the acquisitions of steelmaking companies AK Steel and ArcelorMittal USA. “These acquisitions allowed Cleveland-Cliffs to combine many of the best assets, capabilities, and technologies across the domestic steel industry,” says CEO Lourenco Goncalves. In 2021, Cliffs acquired Ferrous Processing and Trading Company (FPT), a U.S. scrap processor, and now offers a closed-loop recycling proposition to its customers, selling steel made with recycled scrap.

Vertical integration was a key growth factor for Cliffs. “We are self-sufficient,” Goncalves says. “We have access to our own raw materials, so we do not rely upon a global supply chain.” As a result, the company avoided the supply chain disruptions other companies faced, which aided in its rapid expansion.

This momentous growth positioned Cliffs as an industry leader. As the largest steel supplier to the North American automotive industry, no other company in the region offers the same wide range of high-quality steel products. “Our products include advanced specialty steels which help automotive customers design lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles,” Goncalves says. “We focus on innovation and collaboration to meet our customers’ demanding requirements.”

As Cliffs grows, its commitment to environmental, social, and governance goals has not waivered. “We have implemented an integrated, sustainable business model across the company,” Goncalves says. “A key component of that strategy is our focus on low-carbon emissions. Environmentally friendly practices and materials help move us toward a sustainable future.”

The company has implemented new processes to reduce carbon emissions, including natural gas–based HBI (hot-briquetted iron) and adding recycled scrap into its traditional integrated steelmaking, as well as providing steel for electric vehicles, windmills, and solar panels.

Goncalves is confident there is more progress to come. “The successes of our acquisitions are undeniable considering our stellar financial results, shareholder return, and employee buy-in,” he says. “As we continue to build upon our impressive track record of accomplishments, we are confident in long-term success.”