Questions and answers

Re:thinking sustainability for a better future

Sustainability is on everyone’s mind. And rightly so. The challenges we face, as carmakers perhaps in particular, are great, and solutions are needed. At the BMW Group, we acknowledge the task ahead of us, and invite you to read on to learn more about what we are doing and where we will be heading.

Is sustainability enough?

Climate change is one of the most serious challenges we have ever faced. Sustainability has rightly become a fundamental focus for all of us.

We want the most sustainable electric car to come from the BMW Group. But we also want to be bold. Our aim isn’t just to be sustainable, it’s to be the world’s most sustainable producer of premium individual mobility solutions

To achieve this, we need to do more than just ‘do’ sustainability at BMW; we are making the BMW Group sustainable.

We therefore no longer need a stand-alone sustainability strategy because sustainability will be the fundamental pattern that shapes our entire company approach; from the supply chain to production through the use- and end-of-life phases, we aim at being fully CO2 neutral no later than by 2050.

We believe we must innovate and grow in a way that enables us to contribute to both ecological and societal improvement. The BMW Group is a global business, which means we have a responsibility to contribute to the societies in which we operate. Sustainable growth allows us to do this.

This form of growth prioritises longevity and circularity without overlooking economic success. When we look to the future, we therefore don’t see sacrifice but innovation and positive change alongside quality, safety and, of course, a respect for our planet and its inhabitants.

It is only by considering all these aspects that we can ensure the continued viability of the BMW Group. Without profitability and independence, we cannot shape a new era of sustainable mobility. And make no mistake, developing a new generation of sustainable, desirable technology will require huge investment. Between now and 2025 alone, we plan to invest more than €30 billion in research and development. 

In doing this, it goes without saying that the BMW Group complies with the most responsible and ambitious environmental and social standards. For example, we are the first German automotive manufacturer to join the ‘Business Ambition for 1.5°C’ from the Science Based Targets Initiative, a global partnership between private industry and leading NGOs.

The magnitude of climate change demands action from each and every one of us. For the BMW Group, though, sustainability alone is not enough. We are developing a range of innovative products and services that redefine individual mobility for a climate-neutral world.

What keeps us going?

Our goal to achieve climate neutrality seen across the entire value chain by no later than 2050 is ambitious, but what keeps us going is experience. We know that with the right tools, fundamental changes for the better are realistic and achievable.

Manufacturing at the BMW Group is a case in point. Already, all our plants worldwide purchase 100 per cent green electricity. Our Leipzig factory is partially powered by four wind turbines supplying one fifth of its energy needs. Any excess power is stored in an energy storage farm consisting of up to 700 former BMW i3 batteries, feeding power back into the grid.

We’re also using other forms of energy. Our plant in Spartanburg has been powered by methane gas from a nearby landfill since 2003 to the tune of 30 per cent of its energy needs. Solar energy is also big at the BMW Group. China’s Shenyan plant has a rooftop photovoltaic system the size of 20 football fields. Oxford (England), Chennai (India), and San Luis Potosí (Mexico) also have massive areas used for solar collection. 

We’re also serious about saving precious water. In fact, we’re an industry leader in this discipline. At our Dingolfing plant in Germany, we’ve reduced water consumption by 22 per cent since 2009. In India’s Chennai, our plant uses its naturally given location to its advantage. Roughly 6.473.000 liters of rainwater collected during the monsoon season add up to 50 per cent of its water needs.

Sustainability, however, doesn’t stop at the environment. It includes people and communities, too. We take pride in providing high quality jobs at our plants worldwide. We also work with our ecosystem of suppliers and partners to ensure that regulations and obligations are followed. That, too, comes with being a premium carmaker.

Our customers behind the wheel may not always be aware of all the work that goes on in the background to make our manufacturing ever more sustainable. It’s essential to what we do, though: no less important than our cars’ design or their performance. For us, delivering sheer driving pleasure isn’t the only thing that keeps us going. It’s also about an awareness that we are our vehicles are built in sync with concrete measures to make them as green as we possibly can.

What makes us stronger?

No chain is stronger than its weakest link, and this goes for our business, our organization and our vision, too.

We have an ambitious sustainability strategy built around circular economy and technological innovation, with the dedicated goal of building the most sustainable electric car possible. But for us to reach our goals and hit our targets on our way, we need take a close look at how this strategy is lived every day.

It isn’t enough to just build greener cars and motorbikes. We need to understand what it takes to do so. Here, we take a holistic approach, and pay careful attention to our supply chain. We look upon our responsibility with great seriousness. Control mechanisms and regular checks on suppliers make sure they live up to our sustainability standards and operate in sync with our environmental and societal commitment.

Critical raw materials used for battery production, like cobalt or lithium, for example, are exclusively sourced from outside conflict regions. Cobalt is sourced in either Morocco or Australia, and lithium is sourced from Australia, where it is extracted by means of the so-called hard rock mining process. The amount extracted is kept at a minimum – the BMW Group has successfully reduced the amount of cobalt required per kWh by two-thirds through research and development for the next generation of battery cells. And with the arrival of our fifth generation eDrive electric motor and battery, found for example in the BMW iX3, rare earth elements are no longer required at all. Our aluminum production, too, is kept as green as possible, using green energy from solar parks, and allowing us to reduce CO2 emissions per built vehicle by 2.5 tons by 2030.

These are crucial steps if we want to grow sustainably and stay in a leading position. Increased use of secondary materials – like the 50 per cent secondary nickel used in the high-voltage battery of the Generation 5 eDrive in for example the BMW iX– responsible sourcing of raw materials, coupling of battery production with electric vehicle production for maximizing efficiency and minimizing CO2 footprints are all pieces of a larger puzzle, built to keep us going and keeping us in a strong position, ahead of the curve.

To make sure we stay there, we are investing in diversification and innovation to sharpen our competitiveness; we have spent more than €279 million on employee training and development, and this helped us become the world’s most attractive automotive employer in 2020 – an achievement we are of course immensely proud of.

We see that our strategy is working and find ourselves in a strong position. But we also know this won’t stay like this unless we pay attention to every aspect of our business. Because this is what will allow us to become even stronger: a concerted effort with a unifying goal, every step of the way.

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