Sustainability concept and messaging. It’s no secret that the steel industry is a large contributor to CO2 emissions. And while innovations with hydrogen-based production look promising, they will take many years. Ovako, a Nordic manufacturer of recycled engineering steel with the world’s lowest carbon footprint, realized it could go carbon-neutral in its production now. Open was asked to help define, package and communicate this carbon-neutral story.

Our client. Ovako is a leading producer of engineering steel for demanding industrial applications. The company is owned by Nippon Steel, the world’s largest steel conglomerate. Ovako is headquartered in Stockholm and has two major steel mills in Sweden and one in Finland. Their steel is used for applications within power transmissions, windmills, bearings, hydraulics and more.
Our assignment. How do you communicate a successful steelmaking journey towards zero carbon emissions without sounding boastful of using cliches? Also, the truth is that sustainable steelmaking is not new to Ovako. It has long been an integral part of operations, which already have 95% lower carbon emissions from production compared to the global average. They use 97% recycled steel and 100% fossil-free electricity sources. So the starting point was good, even if there is still much to do.

The good news was Ovako’s realization that by heating its steel with fossil-free hydrogen, it could achieve a carbon-neutral steel production process. With a proof of concept behind it, the company will now implement this new technology at full scale in all mills, counterbalancing any remaining (and relatively low) carbon emissions in production through carbon offsets. Based on this “dual approach,” it will become fully carbon neutral in its production in 2022. In parallel to this, it will continue to invest in updating all mills with the new hydrogen technology by 2025. Our assignment was to conceptualize this and support them with the communication.
Our solution. The key visual we developed was a graphic, circular symbol about to be closed. Whether used in stills or animated, it proved to be the ideal representation of the company’s focus on circular thinking and carbon reduction. During the project, our main efforts were focused on adapting the circle to fit various contexts and settings in an economical way and making sure it could dovetail naturally with other sustainability efforts within Ovako. The Carbon Neutral Now concept was first launched as part of a keynote speech at Volvo Group and then later towards a broader audience at the Elmia Trade Show in Sweden.