In the manufacturing industry, material choices are one part of the big sustainability puzzle – but an important one. Customer expectations are increasing, with more and more attention paid to the environmental impacts of each product and project. At the same time, high quality must be maintained and costs kept at an appropriate level. ABB sees Fortum Circo, which is made of post-consumer plastic waste, as a sustainable solution with significant potential.
“We are always looking for ways to reduce waste and minimise our environmental footprint throughout the complete value chain and over the entire lifecycle of our products. Our customers are urging us to take this path, but it is our own ambition to take it as frontrunners, leading the industry. This is something that differentiates ABB from the competition, but hopefully also inspires others to follow,” says Dusko Davidovic, Global Product Manager, Installation Materials and Solutions, at ABB.
Looking into the sustainability of raw materials and sourcing was a strategic step forward, and exploring the possibilities of Fortum Circo contributed to this. The success with the first application inspired ABB to expand the use of the recycled plastic material to other products.
The journey began with cross-checking the material requirements, deciding the products and testing and developing the right material. Together with the Fortum Circo team, ABB found initial solutions with suitable technical requirements and minimised risks and ramped up from there.
A journey of constant learning
When ABB manufactures electrical wiring and installation products, there are strict standards for safety that must be followed. In addition, the products must be suitable for the environmental conditions of the region where they are installed – for example, cold Nordic winters. Finding the right material that fulfils all criteria is no easy task, but having the right partner can make it easier.
“In our Porvoo factory where we manufacture electrical installation products, we are constantly learning. Finding the best material for any purpose is a journey during which we gain experience on what we can expect, which helps us plan for the future,” Marko Utriainen, Head of ABB Oy, Wiring Accessories, says.
“When we find a material recipe that fulfils all the required standards and works in Nordic conditions, we have something very special. If we succeed in this, I see huge potential in Fortum Circo, covering all the products we manufacture from plastics. We have already received very positive feedback on Fortum Circo from customers. We believe in this.”
Shared commitment is essential
Taking strides towards a more sustainable future is not a task that any one company can manage alone. Cooperation between ABB and Fortum in the development and adoption of the new material has been active and fruitful. The companies have found a joint interest in building up an ecosystem that supports further development and novel applications for Fortum Circo. According to Davidovic, the shared commitment and cooperative spirit have made the journey a positive experience.
“ABB’s values are Courage, Care, Curiosity and Collaboration. It is important to us that they are not just words but manifested in what we do. There has obviously been collaboration in this project, but I think care also plays into it, as we are caring for the planet by choosing recycled materials. We have the courage to try and do something different, even if it is not always easy. And curiosity is definitely part of this work on both sides, and embedded in our DNA,” Davidovic says.
One piece in a larger strategy
Using a material made of recycled plastic is part of ABB’s comprehensive sustainability strategy 2030, which is linked to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The ambitious plan includes, among other things, a target of zero landfill waste, and “Mission to Zero™” – a programme to make factories carbon neutral.
The Porvoo factory, where Fortum Circo is used and tested, is one of the pilot factories in this programme. It has already achieved 100% carbon neutrality in own operations and generated significant energy savings with a geothermal heat system, solar panels and by recycling heat from the factory.
“From the top-level strategy, we have derived what it could mean on the local level. For example, the Porvoo factory has examined how we can contribute to the overall targets. One pillar in the strategy states that we preserve resources, and we want to cover a vast majority of our portfolio with products based on circularity. In Porvoo, we are doing our best to reach this portfolio target, and using Fortum Circo contributes to this effort,” Marko Utriainen says.
Comprehensive sustainability approach covers entire life cycle
Sustainability and circularity are an overarching approach at ABB. The company looks at the complete life cycle of its products and services, from design, sourcing, and material inputs to manufactured products, operations, marketing and selling, life cycle performance, and end of life alternatives. According to Dusko Davidovic, this is a new approach in the industry.
“It is very important to talk about sourcing and raw materials in this context, not only our own operations. We have a supplier sustainability programme in place. In cooperation with Fortum and through using Fortum Circo, we work to do our part, striving to lead the industry here in the Nordics. This is our shared goal in factories as well as in portfolio management,” he says.
In the end, shared goals are key when it comes to developing more sustainable materials, reducing waste generation and making circular economy a part of everyday life. While customer expectations are increasing, so is the eagerness of companies like ABB to surpass them.
“ABB and Fortum both strive for more and more sustainable solutions in the future. We are both links in a chain – with Fortum supporting our sustainability targets by supplying recycled raw material like Fortum Circo, so that we in turn can support those of our customers,” Marko Utriainen concludes.