Vestre becomes world’s first furniture company to use SSAB’s revolutionary fossil-free steel
Steel is one of our society’s most important materials, but steel production is also one of the biggest sources of carbon dioxide emissions. The Swedish steel company SSAB wants to change that with a technology that replaces coal and coke with hydrogen in the production process. The Norwegian urban furniture producer Vestre will be the first furniture company in the world to use this fossil-free steel in their production. For Vestre, it came naturally to once again be pioneers in a sustainability initiative that, in the long term, will significantly reduce the climate impact of all steel-using industries.
It is not a bold statement to say that carbon dioxide emissions must be drastically reduced worldwide if we are to have any chance of mitigating the effects of global warming and climate change. Certain sectors and industries may have a more difficult and slower path forward, but everyone can and must contribute, fully in accordance with Vestre’s guiding principle and the motto ”Everyone can save the world. A little.” Vestre aims to push the development and transition to more sustainable materials and production methods, to ultimately be able to offer a maximally sustainable product – something that more and more of today’s customers are demanding.
”Vestre’s furniture is built to last a lifetime and we only use the highest quality raw materials. Steel makes up around 69% of our total carbon footprint, making it one of our prime targets for decarbonization. We aim to be recognized as the world’s most sustainable furniture company, and to get there, we need to be ahead of the curve”, says Øyvind Bjørnstad, CSO (Sustainability Officer) at Vestre.
Today’s modern societies literally rest on a cradle of steel – and the metal’s uses are almost endless. At the same time, the steel production process, which for over a thousand years has been based on burning coal in blast furnaces, has a very large carbon footprint. Today, this makes the steel industry one of the industrial sectors that emits the most greenhouse gases – globally it accounts for seven percent of all CO2 emissions. Therefore, a transition to fossil- free steel production will have a very positive impact on the climate.
The Swedish steel company SSAB is already one of the world’s most carbon dioxide-efficient steel producers, but at the same time, they know that the industry as a whole still has a long way to go. Therefore, SSAB aims to make a real difference as soon as possible and lead the steel industry toward a carbon dioxide-free future. The technology for fossil-free steelmaking that SSAB has developed is based on the HYBRIT initiative (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology), which SSAB started in 2016 together with the mining company LKAB and the energy company Vattenfall. With the help of this technology, where coal and coke are replaced with fossil-free hydrogen, SSAB has the potential to reduce Sweden’s CO2 emissions by around 10 percent.
And development is on a fast track, in 2021 SSAB successfully produced the first steel reduced with 100 percent fossil-free hydrogen. The goal is to offer fossil-free steel on the market in 2026.
”When we learned about the HYBRIT process and SSAB’s fossil-free steel, we immediately saw this as a big part of our solution towards a net-zero future and contacted SSAB to place an order. Early estimates show that converting all our steel to fossil-free could reduce our overall footprint by around 60 percent. We intend to be a driving force for demand for the fossil-free alternative, and as the prices of the EU’s mandatory carbon dioxide quotas increase, there will be increased pressure on the steel industry to also reduce carbon dioxide emissions, says Øyvind Bjørnstad.
”It is fantastic to start this sustainability journey with Vestre since they share our goal of reducing the carbon footprint throughout the value chain. At the same time, the collaboration also shows the breadth of uses for our fossil-free steel”, says Thomas Hörnfeldt, Head of Sustainable Business at SSAB.
Vestre has always strived to be at the forefront of the green shift and has always been quick to test new technologies and solutions to constantly reduce their climate impact: from having tied all business strategies directly to 9 of the UN’s 17 global sustainability goals in the Agenda 2030, to exclusively use high-quality materials, such as Swedish steel and Nordic woods from sustainable forestry, in their production. In 2022, Vestre also opened the doors to The Plus – the world’s most environmentally friendly furniture factory, located in Magnor in Norway, near the Swedish border. Along the way, Vestre has worked with several groundbreaking sustainability projects, for example, creating furniture from plastic waste collected on beaches and in the ocean, creating fair stands where all materials have been reused, and developing Vestre Habitats – a project and a series of furniture for the smallest inhabitants of the planet – which aims to preserve and strengthen biological diversity in our cities.
”Fossil-free steel has great potential, and even if it will only be available in small quantities at first, it will have a big impact for us. SSAB is a pioneer in this area, and since we have had a long collaboration with them on our current steel – which has more than 20 percent lower emissions than the world average – it was only natural that we became a partner on the journey towards fossil-free steel, Bjørnstad concludes.
Later this spring, Vestre, together with one of Scandinavia’s most celebrated designers, will present an exciting project based on SSAB’s fossil-free steel.
Vestre is one of Scandinavia’s leading producers of urban furniture and has created social, sustainable meeting places for millions of people for over 70 years. Sustainability, locally produced materials, and the least possible environmental impact are pivotal to the company’s furniture production. Vestre is a Norwegian family business, the products are manufactured in Norway and Sweden, and are available in almost 200 different colours with a lifetime anti-rust warranty.
The factory in Torsby in Värmland, Sweden was designed by architectural firm Snøhetta, which is behind many high-profile international projects, including the library in Alexandria, the 9/11 Memorial Center in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Oslo Opera House. The firm also designed “The Peace Bench”, which Vestre and Hydro created in 2019 on behalf of the Nobel Peace Center. Vestre has been voted “Brand Builder of the Year” by the Federation of Norwegian Industries and cited as the “Best for outdoor furniture” by the prestigious design and lifestyle magazine Monocle, which has readers worldwide. In 2019, the company was voted “Entrepreneur of the Year” at the Norwegian EY gala. In January 2020, Vestre was awarded their 16th DOGA award by Design and Architecture Norway. The company was given the award for its partnership with Front in the creation of Folk. In February 2020, Vestre was awarded “Best Stand” at the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair in Stockholm for its sustainable stand, developed together with Note Design Studio.
The opening of Vestre ́s new factory The Plus Colour and Wood Factory in Magnor Norway took place in June 2022. The factory, which has been designed by the leading architect firm Bjarke Ingels Group, is the most environmentally friendly furniture factory in the world and is also the largest investment in the Norwegian furniture industry for decades.
Read more at vestre.com och theplus.no
About fossil-free steel
Fossil-free steel is produced through a process called direct reduction, which replaces the blast furnace process used today. Simply explained, the technology is based on replacing coal and coke with hydrogen (which is also produced with fossil-free electricity, mainly in the form of wind and hydropower). The residual product becomes water, which in turn can be recycled for the production of additional hydrogen. The result is clean and high-quality steel produced entirely without fossil sources and thus without carbon dioxide emissions. Calculations show that a full-scale implementation of fossil-free steel production can reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Sweden by as much as 10 percent.
Read more at ssab.com/sv-se/fossilfri