18-06-2024 09:00

Alfa Laval: Optimising today, innovating for the future

In this Nordea On Your Mind interview, author Viktor Sonebäck explores how sustainability is embedded in Alfa Laval’s culture and operations. Read more about how the company views being at the forefront of sustainability as a business opportunity, focusing on providing sustainable solutions to customers and integrating sustainability into its core values.
Engineer working with solar panel

Swedish capital goods company Alfa Laval is an example of a business that enables sustainability for its customers and at the same time seeks to embed it into its own DNA and footprint. In this Nordea On Your Mind “Nordic sustainability champions” interview, author Viktor Sonebäck speaks to Alfa Laval’s Head of Sustainability Anna Celsing about the importance of striking a balance between competing in a sustainability journey to become carbon-neutral in 2030 while upholding a strong financial performance and ensuring that the sustainability investments pay off both to create a better world and society, and superior value over time.

Viktor Sonebäck: Can you describe Alfa Laval’s business and in what way your products and solutions can contribute to a more sustainable future?

Anna Celsing: We are a global technology leader within the three core areas of heat transfer, fluid handling and separation, all of which are key enablers for tackling global sustainability challenges, such as the renewable energy transition, food and water shortages and marine transportation emissions. As an example of the potential impact, just from our heat exchangers alone we see potential for 100 gigawatts to be saved through increased efficiency, and a reduction in CO2 emissions of the magnitude of some 50 million tonnes. We also make scaling of renewable energy sources possible, as our heat exchangers often are at the heart of the processes.

In order to meet the Paris Agreement's goal of 1.5ºC, we need to triple renewable energy production. But we also need to double energy efficiency, because without efficiency improvements there simply won't be enough resources. This is all connected to what we do, and a key aspect of what makes our business grow. As we are developing products and solutions for scaling the use of renewables, we are partnering up with more and more companies in order to succeed. But we are also very much working “behind the scenes”, with our current solutions at the heart of many complex systems.

Looking at the marine segment, we are involved in developing and making available new fuels, together with our partners. And in doing so, we are helping make the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) 2050 strategy for reducing GHG emissions possible. In a similar vein, being in the middle of the food production value chain gives us a unique opportunity to optimise and develop new solutions for facing the challenge of feeding the planet.

Anna Celsing, Head of Sustainability, Alfa Laval

VS: Alfa Laval has a clear focus on sustainability and a high ambition level for its contribution. Where did this strong conviction come from, and what has led to the development of the values and ideals you have as a company today?

AC: It is embedded in our culture and throughout the organisation, which is as it should be. Sustainability is not a task a specific group within a company can perform, but needs to be considered throughout the organisation. It falls under finance, products, sales, etc. It is about the people working every day, but it is also about the specialist functions that can help guide the way and navigate the changing landscape that is sustainability, for example with regards to the constant emergence of new regulations which we need to take into account and integrate into our ways of working. It needs to be part of everything that we do, in how we work, in our business offerings, and how we innovate and develop new products. This way of thinking is essential if we are to achieve our sustainability targets, which are quite ambitious in that we strive to reach net zero by 2050 and, before that, be carbon-neutral by 2030. If it was only a specialist sustainability group of some eight people driving this in the company, we would never be able to make this happen.

VC: How would you say Alfa Laval compares to industry peers regarding sustainability?

AC: We are quite unique in the sense that all our products and offerings are a vital part of creating sustainable solutions and are very much connected to the environmental aspect of sustainability. You could almost describe us as being, and having always been, environmental engineers. Enabling the energy transition to renewable sources would be quite difficult without our products and process knowledge, both with regards to increasing energy efficiency and scaling new fuels such as biofuels or hydrogen. Similarly, food system scaling, plant-based protein development, wastewater treatment, recirculation of water and making marine transportation more sustainable all fall under this category. So we tend not to compare ourselves but rather look at and partner with like-minded companies that are on the same journey but from their own starting point and within their own context. One such example is a collaboration called MASSIV+, where together with other Swedish companies we look at how we can best measure, report and share emissions data between each other.

We are a global company and the maturity level of sustainability naturally differs depending on region and industry. In one region there might be different levels of understanding within marine compared to within food production, for example. So we have the whole spectrum of maturity levels in that regard. We work hard to drive improvements with partners all across the globe and work closely with suppliers and help educate and guide them into making sustainable choices. Companies are of varying sizes and many might not have the resources or insights that we have, so it is only natural for us to help them in their journey, which in turn helps us on ours. By doing so, we will succeed together. There will not be one winner within sustainability, where if one succeeds no one else will, but rather the opposite. If nobody else succeeds, then we won’t either. So we are working in close collaboration with a lot of other companies.

Similar to how we are pushing our suppliers, we also have customers pushing us to become better, for example with regards to reporting and data quality, driven by various regulations such as the CSRD. This is a key area of development for us and many others. If you don’t have the right data, how will you be able to make the right choices? How would it work in finance if there was no data, or the quality of it was lacking?


Sustainability is not a task a specific group within a company can perform, but needs to be considered throughout the organisation.

Anna Celsing, Head of Sustainability, Alfa Laval


VS: Do you look at sustainability in terms of a business case for it? Are you able to charge higher prices or see stronger growth from a more sustainable offering or footprint? Are you able to avoid penalties, fines, other charges or issues from having a strong sustainability profile? How do you see this evolving going forward?

AC: We see a huge business opportunity from being at the forefront of sustainability. Coming back to what I said earlier, it is at the heart of what we do and the solutions and products we offer. Society has to transform in order to adapt to and mitigate climate risks and many of these key enabling technologies are exactly what we offer. As just one example, we are increasing our capacity to support the growing need for energy efficiency across industries. On the regulatory side, we need to keep our ways of working up to date and we need to comply with what is new. But we generally see it as a positive thing that companies are now required and requested to be more transparent, show more data and report more on sustainability. Because from our point of view it needs to pay off to do the right thing, as we believe we are doing. With more transparency and better data, we will be better informed in order to make the right decisions, which should benefit us greatly in the long run. So in essence we want to do the right thing from a sustainability aspect, but it also has to be clearly in line with business growth and value creation.

VS: Describing your 2023 Sustainability Report on your corporate website, you have the words “Optimizing today, innovating for the future”. Can you expand upon what this means, practically, for Alfa Laval?

AC: We strive to help our customers become even more efficient in what they do today, while we explore and innovate future solutions that will enable sustainable developments going forward, such as within the renewable energy transition or tackling global food and water shortages. We cannot reach our sustainability targets by only optimising what we do today, and the same goes for only innovating for future solutions. These need to work in conjunction and lead to a full strategy for driving the transition. And by working together with customers and suppliers, we ensure that not only Alfa Laval, but the entire value chain, moves in the same direction.


About Nordea On Your Mind

Nordea On Your Mind is the flagship publication of Nordea Investment Banking’s Thematics team, which produces research for large corporate and institutional clients. The research does not contain investment advice and typically covers topics of a strategic and long-term nature, which can affect corporate financial performance.

Top decision makers at Nordea’s large clients across the Nordic region receive Nordea On Your Mind around eight times per year. The publication’s themes vary widely, and many are selected from suggestions by clients. Examples of covered topics include artificial intelligence, wage inflation, M&A, e-commerce, income inequality, ESG, cybersecurity and corporate leverage.

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