As a global player with a presence in over 80 countries, Thermoplan has been a family-owned and operated business for 50 years. Blending Swiss craftsmanship and environmental consciousness, Thermoplan has incorporated sustainability as a central part of the company’s commitment to quality in producing fully automatic coffee machines for professional use.
Thermoplan utilizes comprehensive life cycle assessments powered by the ecoinvent database to gauge the environmental impact of their coffee machines. In this interview, Matteo Trachsel, Head of Sustainability at Thermoplan, sheds light on the pivotal role of ecoinvent data in shaping sustainable practices within the company, exemplifying how life cycle assessments are critical tools for fostering a greener future across various sectors.
Can you tell us about Thermoplan, its core business activities, and what motivated the company to focus on environmental sustainability?
At Thermoplan, we develop and produce fully automatic coffee machines for the B2B business, whether for the catering industry or other companies. We stand for the highest Swiss quality. As a family business founded in 1974, we are globally active and supply customers in over 80 countries. We achieve this with more than 200 certified sales and service partners worldwide. At our headquarters in Weggis, in the canton of Lucerne, we employ over 500 people.
Enjoying premium coffee and producing the highest-quality fully-automatic coffee machines is a luxury. Thermoplan is doing its part to ensure that future generations can enjoy these same privileges. Building on the three pillars of people, product, and planet, we respect each other, optimize and reduce resources where appropriate, and improve our products to benefit our customers and the environment with the help of the latest technologies. We are committed to fair social and environmental conditions throughout the supply chain.
How did the partnership with ecoinvent come about, and how does Thermoplan utilize ecoinvent data to enhance its sustainability practices?
During the calculation of our first corporate carbon footprint for 2019, together with the support of Carbotech, we came into contact with ecoinvent for the first time. Soon after, we decided to bring the knowledge of calculating corporate carbon footprint and life cycle assessment in-house. We bought our own license and used your data with Brightway and activity browser.
Can you elaborate on how Thermoplan integrates Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodologies into its product development and operational processes?
Life cycle assessments are integral to our development process for new machines. Since the first screening LCA, where we found that the use phase of our machines is critical in terms of emissions, we have also used the results for our Technology and Innovation Center to set directions. We see that the life cycle assessment results are essential information for us, our customers, or when we participate in tenders. For this reason, we are very transparent about the results and emissions of our coffee machines. We want to share the results of our LCA with our customers and let them know where we have improved and where they can influence the emissions themselves.
How crucial is high-quality and transparent data, like that provided by ecoinvent, in making informed sustainability decisions at Thermoplan?
Without a database with high-quality and reliable data like ecoinvent, it would be almost impossible for us as a smaller company to calculate LCA. Most of the emissions data we use comes from secondary data like ecoinvent, as we see that most of our suppliers are not yet ready to provide us with primary data. Based on this average data from ecoinvent, which we consider to be very accurate because it represents an average of the market, we are quietly making big decisions about optimizing our coffee machines in the future.
Can you provide specific examples of how ecoinvent data has influenced Thermoplan’s business decisions?
Based on the ecoinvent data and the results of our LCAs, we allocate resources in our Technology and Innovation Center to work on new optimizations of our machines regarding the use phase. We have also launched major research projects with universities based on these results.
In what ways has the application of LCA contributed to reducing the environmental impact of Thermoplan’s products and operations?
We have already implemented some new software features in our machines that will allow us to save up to 20% of our energy consumption. We have also implemented many initiatives, called ImpactProjects, to optimize our corporate carbon footprint. We optimized our inbound logistics by switching to a single logistics partner. We achieved significant energy savings by installing LED lights on all factory floors. We installed 25 EV charging stations and car-sharing parking in the best location for our employees’ commuting emissions. Most of these impact projects are prioritized based on the results of our corporate carbon footprint calculations.
What are some of the challenges Thermoplan has faced in implementing sustainable practices, and how has the company’s approach evolved over the years?
Implementing sustainable practices is always a change process, like any new requirement in an organization. It is important to have support from the top down and to get early adopters up to speed. Our goal in sustainability is to have a deep implementation in the company. It takes a little more time, but it’s the only way to have a sustainable business.
What metrics or KPIs does Thermoplan use to measure its sustainability progress?
When we look at our corporate carbon footprint, we always calculate both the carbon footprint and the ecological scarcity (UBP). Both impact categories have the same key points, and we only use carbon emissions for internal and external communication for simplicity. We have an internal dashboard, which we update monthly, that shows our emissions for all Scope 1-3 topics. This dashboard also shows us if we are on track with our reduction plan and is presented to executive management every quarter. For our products, we also use carbon emissions as a key indicator. We transparently communicate these emissions to our customers, who include them in their carbon accounting.
What are Thermoplan’s short-term and long-term sustainability goals?
Our sustainability covers all areas of sustainability: people, product, and planet. We have directions and subdirections in all three and set targets for each. The most straightforward topic to set targets and measure is related to our products and the planet with carbon reduction targets. We will reduce our emissions by 50% until 2030 compared to the base year 2019, and we will be net zero by 2050.
How is the commitment to sustainability reflected in Thermoplan’s corporate culture?
Sustainability is firmly anchored in our corporate culture. We have made our packaging and transportation more environmentally friendly. At Thermoplan, employees are regularly informed about sustainability in the company and receive regular training. This way, employees from all areas are involved in sustainability and experience progress.
How does Thermoplan engage its stakeholders in its sustainability journey?
We see sustainability as adding value for all stakeholders, specifically for our customers. We have large corporations as customers that have ambitious carbon reduction targets. If you look at the emissions of large coffee chains, the primary emissions of their footprint go through our machines, where we have an opportunity to make it better or worse. By reducing the emissions of our products, we have a direct impact on their carbon footprint. This puts us in an important position. To show our improvements and the carbon emissions of our machines, we have published a Product Environmental Report for all our machines, which is publicly available on our website. In this report, we show emissions at the part level.
Looking forward, how do you see the role of LCA and the use of comprehensive data evolving in Thermoplan’s sustainability strategy?
We definitely see our data-driven approach to sustainability becoming more important in the future. With this approach, we can argue why we are developing certain features and machines based on reliable data like ecoinvent. Having correct and consistent data over time is also crucial for our carbon reduction path.
What advice would you give to other companies looking to integrate sustainability into their business model?
When integrating sustainability into your business model, the most important thing to consider is how you can deliver real value to your customers and the environment. This is often easier said than done. A detailed understanding of emissions and customer needs is key to provide real value. New business models can be implemented that, for example, help achieve an effective circular economy.
On a personal note, what does leading sustainability efforts at Thermoplan mean to you?
As in every job I do, passion is the most important thing. At Thermoplan, I can combine my passion with my daily work. My passion goes to building new things, like implementing new indicators and strategies in a company and motivating people to achieve something together. On the other hand, I often ski or climb in the mountains, and I see the direct impact of climate change. I also hear many people saying we should do something, and with my job, I can now make a real impact, even on a small scale.
Learn more about Thermoplan’s products and sustainability initiatives on their website.