Steelcase Eliminates Most VOCs from Michigan Operations

Steelcase Eliminates Most VOCs from Michigan Operations

Office-furniture maker Steelcase Inc. has achieved an environmental milestone in its manufacturing processes by eliminating the emissions of almost all volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from its metal-finishing operations in Michigan. VOC emissions can produce ground-level ozone, which contributes to the creation of smog.

"Protecting the environment is part of our founding principles and is integral to Steelcase's core values," said James P. Hackett, CEO and president of Steelcase. "I am pleased with the progress we have made in improving our manufacturing processes, and we will continue to find innovative solutions to increase our environmental sensitivity."

Steelcase accomplished this goal by developing new technologies to convert solvent-based painting operations to powder-coat finishing. Over the last 25 years, Steelcase has managed to reduce VOC emissions in its Michigan metal-finishing operations by 97%. Further, Steelcase was able to accomplish this milestone for approximately $25 million less than originally predicted. Steelcase is also converting to powder-coat finishing in other manufacturing facilities located in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. When the conversions are complete, the company's VOC emissions will be reduced even further.

"We originally discussed eliminating VOC emissions in the early 1990s. While it seemed an impossible task at first, we knew it would be a positive undertaking for the environment, our business, and the industry," said David Rinard, director of corporate environmental performance at Steelcase. "After a careful analysis, we determined that the long-term benefits would far outweigh the estimated costs and we embarked on our goal to be VOC-free by 2003 in our metal-finishing operations."

For the past decade, Steelcase has been working with the latest technologies to reduce the emissions of VOCs from its finishing operations. As a result, Steelcase will reap environmental and economic benefits that will produce greater efficiency while reducing waste and regulatory risk.

Reaching the VOC-free goal is the latest in a line of environmental innovations accomplished by Steelcase. In October of 2001, the U.S. Green Buildings Council awarded Steelcase with a silver certificate in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program for setting a new standard in environmental excellence with its facility for wood-furniture manufacturing. The building was the first manufacturing facility in the world to achieve certification under the LEED program.

Earlier this year, Steelcase and The Designtex Group introduced the Environmental Impact Collection, an abundant array of environmentally responsible seating and panel fabrics. Steelcase implemented sustainable manufacturing processes in the production of these textiles that allowed for reductions in energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, waste sent to landfills, process-water consumption, and consumption of petroleum.