Vestre to be the first furniture manufacturer to use SSAB’s fossil-free steel

Steel is one of society’s most important materials, but unfortunately is also one of the biggest sources of carbon dioxide emissions. The Swedish steel manufacturer SSAB wants to change this by using technology that replaces coal and coke with hydrogen in the production process. Vestre will be the first furniture manufacturer in the world to use this fossil-free steel in its production.

It is no exaggeration to say that carbon dioxide emissions need to be drastically reduced globally if we are to succeed in mitigating the effects of global warming and climate change. This process will perhaps be a little slower in certain sectors and industries, but everyone can and must contribute—in line with Vestre's governing principle and motto “Everyone can save the world. A little.” At Vestre, we have a desire to spur the development of and the transition to more sustainable materials and production methods to enable us to offer a product that is as sustainable as possible—something that more and more customers are demanding.

“Vestre's furniture is built to last a lifetime, and we only use raw materials of the highest quality. Steel is a strong and very robust material and therefore the primary material that we use in our production process. It is also our largest source of emissions, which makes it one of our main targets for decarbonization. We want to be recognized as the world's most sustainable furniture manufacturer, and to achieve this we need to constantly be at the forefront, says Øyvind Bjørnstad, Sustainability Officer at Vestre.

Present day society literally rests on steel—a metal that has an infinite number of uses. However, the production process, which for over a thousand years has been based on burning coal in blast furnaces, also has a very large carbon footprint. This now makes the steel industry one of the industrial sectors that emits the most greenhouse gases—globally it is responsible for 7 per cent of all CO2 emissions. This means that a transition to fossil-free steel production will have a very positive impact on the climate.

The Swedish company SSAB is already one of the world's most carbon dioxide-efficient steel manufacturers, however they are also aware that the industry as such has a long way to go. SSAB is therefore working to make a real difference as quickly as possible and wants to lead the steel industry towards a carbon dioxide-free future. The technology for fossil-free steel production that SSAB has developed is based on the HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology) initiative, which SSAB started in 2016 together with the mining company LKAB and the energy company Vattenfall. By using this technology, which involves coal and coke being replaced with fossil-free hydrogen, SSAB has the potential to reduce Sweden's CO2 emissions by around 10 per cent.

Developments are also shifting into high gear. In 2021, SSAB successfully manufactured the first steel with 100 per cent fossil-free hydrogen. The objective is to be able to offer fossil-free steel on the market in 2026.

“When we heard about the HYBRIT process and SSAB's fossil-free steel, we immediately realized that this would be a major part of the solution for a net zero society, and contacted SSAB directly to place an order. Early estimates show that converting all of our steel to fossil-free steel could reduce our total carbon footprint by around 60 per cent. It is our goal to be a driving force behind the demand for the fossil-free alternative, and when the prices of the EU's mandatory carbon dioxide quotas increase, there will be greater pressure on the steel industry to also reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” Bjørnstad says.

“It is wonderful to start this sustainability journey with Vestre, because they share our goal of reducing the carbon footprint along the entire value chain. At the same time, this partnership also shows the extensive potential use of fossil-free steel,” says Thomas Hörnfeldt, Vice President of Sustainable Business at SSAB.

“Fossil-free steel has enormous potential, and even if it will initially only be available in small quantities, it will mean a lot to us. SSAB is a pioneer in this field, and since we have collaborated with them for a long time on the steel that we use now—which has emissions that are more than 20 per cent lower than the global average - it was natural for us to become a partner on their journey towards fossil-free steel,” Bjørnstad concludes.

Later this spring, Vestre will present an exciting project based on SSAB's fossil-free steel together with one of Scandinavia's most acclaimed designers.