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Sustainability Expedition

Sustainability Expedition: where steel meets sustainability

We know our steel. SSAB has been in the steel business for more than 140 years, providing this essential material for building our world. Yet, the steel industry has work to do – it still remains a significant source of CO2 emissions. That is why SSAB is taking the next steps, continuing our hard work in resource efficiency and reducing environmental impact.

Through the Sustainability Expedition, SSAB responds to the urgent need to combat climate change and ensure a more sustainable future. This means more than just talk, it means leadership, innovation, and concrete actions. Being a sustainable company includes everything from our own operations, to helping our clients achieve their sustainability goals and always seeking new opportunities for development. 

Climate change on our minds – the sustainability survey

We gathered responses from over 3,000 people in Sweden and Finland from 4–18 December 2018, to gauge the public’s view of sustainability and what is important for protecting our planet. The results were weighted to be representative of national demographics of both working and studying Finnish and Swedish people.

Some important findings included the fact that more than 80% of people felt that climate change discussion has been more intensive lately. The majority in both countries also felt that climate change is one of the biggest threats to humankind, along with resource scarcity, pollution, and population growth. 

But whose responsibility is it? Only around 20% of people said that they were aware of their local companies’ actions and targets regarding sustainability. Companies were seen as equally responsible for addressing climate change, on par with international agreements and NGOs. More clarity was called for and most respondents were interested in more sustainability discussions, especially related to specific actions that companies are taking. As a company, we must provide these facts.

Sustainable operations to battle climate change

Sustainable operations are essential for protecting the environment, and also for good business. Today, we already have very CO2 efficient blast furnaces and come in around 7% under the EU average. In the United States, we use electric arc furnace technology to make our steel, utilizing more than 95% recovered scrap metal in the production process.

Our blast furnace technology will be replaced by electric arc furnaces, starting from 2025 in Oxelösund, Sweden and continuing from 2030–2040 in Raahe, Finland, and Luleå, Sweden. Coupled with improvements in our process technology, we will be able to reduce our current emissions by 25% by 2025 and eliminate them entirely by 2045.

Fossil-free steel production by 2045

HYBRIT, or Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology, is a joint project with Europe’s largest iron ore producer, LKAB, and one of Europe’s largest electricity producers, Vattenfall. The technology replaces coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steel production, with hydrogen. By using hydrogen gas as a reducing agent, the by-product of the process is water rather than carbon dioxide – cutting CO2 emissions from steel production. In effect, revolutionizing steel with the world’s first fossil-free steel making technology.

This ambitious project is already underway with the building of the pilot plant in Luleå, Northern Sweden, which will be up and running in 2020. The goal is to have a solution for fossil-free steel by 2035 and become totally fossil-free by 2045.

With this new process taken into use, SSAB will be able to eliminate 10% of the CO2 emissions in Sweden and 7% in Finland. We hope to set the precedent for more sustainable steel production all over the world in order to combat climate change.

Product innovation, for sustainability and performance

Customers demand the highest quality, but they also require sustainable and efficient solutions. In short, SSAB’s high quality high-strength steel provides a sustainable answer to many of our customers’ requirements. 

A good example of how these benefits can be calculated is through the SSAB EcoUpgraded concept. We are able to identify applications that show promise for reducing CO2 emissions during use. Comparing the potential CO2 savings during the use phase to the CO2 emitted during production shows the environmental benefits in upgrading to high-strength steel.

Working together in the Sustainability Expedition

The Sustainability Expedition is a journey that requires cooperation and partnership. We work closely with local actors, including governments and universities, to make sustainability plans into realities. Within SSAB, we encourage a team effort that includes all employees throughout the company.

We continue to develop our brand and our position as an influential actor within the global steel industry. This journey also requires new visions for sustainability, as well as new thinkers. Fresh talent is invited to join in the Sustainability Expedition – the next generation of top experts will only strengthen our sustainable leadership for a fossil-free future.

Sustainability Expedition blogs: