Wärtsilä and Paulig CEOs Håkan Agnevall and Rolf Ladau discuss how an unlikely collaboration led to one of Expo Dubai’s most impressive sustainability showcases.
Visions of a 100 percent renewable future might be hard for some to process, but what could be more down to Earth than a good cup of coffee? As two of Finland’s leading companies, Wärtsilä – a technology company decarbonising the marine and energy sectors – and Paulig – a family-owned international food and beverage company known for its strong portfolio of coffee brands – recently collaborated to demonstrate how modern technology can promote sustainability – even in the brewing of a hot beverage.
In the Finnish pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai, the collaborative partnership between the two companies showed how a cup of coffee can be brewed using Power-to-X technology. Wärtsilä and Paulig CEOs Håkan Agnevall and Rolf Ladau took some time out to enjoy a cup of coffee together and discuss the fruits of this innovative collaboration.
Watch in video format or read the discussion below.
Paulig and Wärtsilä aren’t perhaps companies one would associate with each other. How did the collaboration come about, and what sparked the idea for this project?
Håkan Agnevall: Wärtsilä was one the companies showcasing innovative technology at the Dubai World Expo. As a technology and service company we have a strong focus on R&D in power technologies, sustainable fuels and digital technologies.
In Dubai, we wanted to showcase a technology that turns electricity from renewable sources into a sustainable fuel. This process is called Power-to-X. Our goal was to demonstrate this technology in a concrete way, that the Expo visitors could experience themselves. Brewing coffee out of thin air was a great way to explain this technology – and who better to partner up with than Paulig, with whom we share the same ambition for decarbonisation.
“Brewing coffee out of thin air was a great way to explain this technology – and who better to partner up with than Paulig”
At Wärtsilä we aim to shape the decarbonisation of the Marine and Energy sectors…
Rolf Ladau: …and Paulig’s ambition is to become a sustainability frontrunner in the food and beverage industry. We both also believe we can achieve better results by working together in rather out-of-the-box partnerships. So joining forces for the Dubai World Expo was an excellent new way to collaborate.
I would say that unlikely partnerships can increase cross-pollination - leading to learning experiences that could otherwise be missed. And through multi-sector cooperation we can achieve sustainable development goals.
We do come from completely different industries but that doesn’t stop us from learning from each other about how our stakeholders think, what our customers expect and how value is generated. It was fascinating to expose Wärtsilä’s technology expertise and Paulig’s brand competencies to each other and see the results unfold.
“We do come from completely different industries but that doesn’t stop us from learning from each other”
What was the idea behind the collaboration?
Håkan Agnevall: The Power-to-X demonstration machine takes carbon dioxide from indoor air, and converts it into synthetic methane, which then powers the coffee machine. The unit demonstrates one way that future fuels can be part of a 100 percent renewable energy future.
Brewing coffee in a carbon-neutral way, as we did at the Dubai Expo, is just one way of increasing awareness that we already have technologies in place to create the sustainable fuels we need today and in the future.
Rolf Ladau: Enjoying a tasty coffee is a familiar habit for most of us, and having it “decarbonised” makes the technology experience tangible, while showcasing the endless possibilities of this technology.
What is it about Finland and coffee? It seems to be quite popular over there.
Rolf Ladau: It’s true – coffee culture is a very important part of everyday life here and it brings people together.
Our coffee culture is one-of-a-kind - we just love coffee! Finnish people consume more coffee than any other nation in the world. And the average annual consumption is around 10kg per person.
There is clearly a profound connection to sustainability in both businesses. Broadly speaking, what does this topic mean to each of your companies?
Håkan Agnevall: At Wärtsilä our purpose is to enable sustainable societies through innovations in technology and services. Our aim is to decarbonise the marine and energy sectors, and we continuously invest in sustainable innovation and product development to deliver digital solutions and innovative technologies.
For us at Wärtsilä, sustainability is embedded in everything we do. With our “Set for 30” sustainability targets, we are committed to achieving ambitious climate goals, that include providing a product portfolio which will be ready for zero carbon fuels, and becoming carbon neutral in our own operations by 2030.
We have also taken a leading position in the study of carbon-neutral and zero carbon fuels.
Rolf Ladau: Paulig also has ambitious sustainability targets. Our climate targets are science-based and are approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.
We believe that growth and sustainability can go hand in hand. Sustainability is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We can already see the impacts of climate change in our supply chain today. So, for us mitigating climate change is very much about ensuring the long-term availability of our raw materials. We have for example done a lot of work with the coffee supply chain and all of coffee beans already come from sustainable verified sources.
At the same time, there are more and more expectations coming from conscious consumers, investors and employees. People expect companies to take a stand and play a role in solving the climate crisis. Sustainability is vital to any modern business – regardless of whether it requires new investments or ways of working.
“Sustainability is vital to any modern business – regardless of whether it requires new investments or ways of working.”
Where can you see this going? What could these collaborations lead to in the future? How can collaborations drive sustainability?
Rolf Ladau: Collaboration is the key to sustainability and personally I believe that we need to collaborate with all stakeholders.
One interesting group of stakeholders we work with is start-ups which are quick and agile in their way of working, and benefit from the knowledge of bigger corporations to scale the business. Our venture arm PINC invests in early-stage start-ups around the future of food with a high degree of innovation.
The current priorities include next generation plant-based, healthier foods and snacks, alternative proteins and fats, waste and upcycling, personalized nutrition, new sales platforms and sustainable marine.
Håkan Agnevall: We are continuously transforming our ways of collaborating and interacting within our industry ecosystem in new and exciting ways.
One concrete example is our new Smart Technology Hub and Partner Campus in Vaasa where we invite the whole ecosystem to work and create together with us. The Hub brings together collaboration partners in R&D, engineering and production all under the same roof! Piloting new products and solutions is becoming more agile, which means that society can benefit from them faster.
“Piloting new products and solutions is becoming more agile, which means that society can benefit from them faster.”
In Vaasa we are also collaborating with the city and other parties in building a Power-to-X-to-Power system, where we will use renewable energy to produce hydrogen for storing and reprocessing.
Another great example on the Marine is the Zeeds initiative. Zeeds stands for “Zero Emission Energy Distribution at Sea” and here we have partnered with five other forward-thinking companies to lead the way towards a cleaner and more sustainable future for the shipping industry.
Collaborations are absolutely key to driving sustainability as we move forward. By working together, we can decarbonise the world faster.
Read more about the collaboration here.