Sustainability in every car BMW builds

6 min reading time
BMW strives to be a fully sustainable company by focusing first and foremost on conserving resources. Below is an overview of the holistic approach that guides the corporate strategy of BMW – from cutting CO2 emissions to recycling, to expanding hydrogen technologies, and even to planting peanuts.

14 May 2021

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We‘re taking sustainability to a whole new level.
Oliver Zipse

Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG

This statement made by the company’s CEO is the benchmark against which BMW can be measured – and the firm foundation on which it can build. For decades now the company has been setting itself consistently sustainable standards. Nowadays it focuses on cutting CO2 emissions and raising its resource efficiency.

BMW is active in numerous fields. Zipse emphasizes that BMW is pursuing holistic sustainability in the way it thinks and acts. “This focus is anchored in all our departments – from administration and purchasing to development and production through to distribution,” says Zipse. Continual improvement is the principle that guides us.

Using clear targets to shape the mobility of the future

The Group insists on transparency for its targets, which have all been clearly communicated for the period from now until 2030. They include:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced based on sound scientific CO2 savings plans.
  • Seven million electrified vehicles are slated to be brought to market.
  • Building sustainable cars means that the CO2 emissions for each vehicle need to be reduced by at least one third over the entire lifecycle of the car.
  • CO2 emissions at production of BMW facilities are to be lowered by 80 percent globally.
  • The circular economy serves as the gold standard on how to deal with resources.
  • BMW also intends to have the most sustainable supply chain in the entire sector.

One of BMW corporate objectives is to create an integrated report in which it transparently describes both how sustainable the BMW company is as well as the implementation of its ambitious goals. “We are making the independent testing of our sustainable activities even more stringent than before. Because credibility comes with transparency,” explains Zipse. And Dr. Nicolas Peter, member of the BMW Board of Management, adds that “the figures for our sustainable actions are given the same importance as our financial figures.”

E-mobility is the foundation

A key part of the BMW sustainability strategy is the expansion of the range of EVs on offer (➜ Read more: 10 years of BMW i). As the number of electric vehicles increases, CO2 emissions will decrease. Starting in 2023, the BMW Group will have about a dozen fully electric models on the road (➜ Read more: Electric cars explained). “We are looking to aggressively expand our fully electric range so they do not remain a niche segment,” Zipse clarifies. This group also includes cars that operate using hydrogen technology and fuel cells (➜ Read more: How hydrogen fuel cell cars work). Soon we will be coming out with a small-scale production of the BMW i Hydrogen NEXT.

Not only are the cars manufactured by BMW electric, but the cars used in the production of EVs also run on electricity. At the BMW factory in Landshut, over 500 logistics and production vehicles as well as the transport system operate using electricity: everything from the tow trucks and sweepers to forklifts and electrified trucks.

The greenest electric vehicle in the world will be a BMW – and the boldest company will be the BMW Group.
Oliver Zipse

Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG

Sustainable materials: for nature and humans

BMW defines sustainability as doing what is right for both nature and humans. The company places great value on ensuring that raw materials for manufacturing are not only environmentally sourced, but also socially and ethically responsible (➜ Read more: Sustainable materials at BMW). The priorities when purchasing eco-friendly materials can be summed up as follows: compliance with environmental and social standards as well as human rights, protecting natural resources, and reducing CO2 emissions in the supply chain.

The chain does not begin with production at the BMW Group factory, but rather with the sourcing of raw materials. The carmaker insists that the highest environmental, social and governance standards are used in responsible sourcing. Cobalt is one such example since it is an extremely important component used in the production of batteries. BMW has set up an industry-wide initiative called “Cobalt for Development” which is engaged in establishing responsible mining practices in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This includes the management of mining locations and compliance with laws, human rights, health and safety, as well as environmental management. With its involvement in ResponsibleSteel, BMW also respects sustainability rules which form part of the environmental and social standards along the entire value chain, starting with the mines.

Green electricity and other renewable energies: the sustainable supply chain

From cobalt to electricity – BMW intends to use only materials that are produced using regenerative sources of electricity, i.e. a sustainable supply chain. Since manufacturing aluminum is very energy-intensive, using green electricity has enormous potential when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions. Aluminum that is made using solar energy covers nearly one half of the annual requirement of the light metal foundry at the factory in Landshut.

In its production of the electric BMW iX and BMW i4 (➜ Read more: How to charge an EV), BMW uses water power, the local green energy, in its factories in Dingolfing and Munich. At its Leipzig factory, wind power helps cover the need for electricity, and at the San Luis Potosí factory in Mexico, solar panels help power production. “In the future, all of our factories and locations will be completely climate neutral,” states Zipse.

Recycling so nothing goes to waste

The keyword here is closed loop materials, but recycling obviously forms part of the plan to conserve resources. BMW aims to create a closed and sustainable loop for the recyclable materials used in battery cells (➜ Read more: Material cycle of a battery cell). This means, for example, that in the future lithium-ion battery cells should form part of a value chain that is as closed as possible: from the selection of sustainable materials to the components of the battery cells through to production and recycling.

Other materials will use the same approach as well. BMW also recycles the steel it uses. All steel waste, such as the leftovers from the press shop where doors are cut from metal blanks, is either used again in the direct material loop or is sent back via the steel trade to the steel producers, where it can be made into new steel. BMW is also working with its partners on a CO2-free steel production process. This process should make it possible for the BMW Group to cut its CO2 emissions in the steel supply chain by some two million tons lower than today’s level by 2030.

Sustainable development: BMW in the peanut business

Big things begin with small things. A perfect example of this is the peanuts being grown by the battery center at BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA) in China. But what do peanuts have to do with the sustainability of a carmaker? BMW employees plant the peanuts in the unused spaces around the factory because the climate there is perfect for them. The income earned from the crops is used to fund social infrastructure projects. Sustainability also begins with small steps (➜ Read more: The best upcycling ideas).

BMW has firmly embedded into its strategy ecological and social sustainability along the entire value chain. The company is doing its best to consistently offer its clients environmentally conscious products, and is dedicated to becoming carbon neutral through sustainable production. From its clear requirements for suppliers, to producing its own electricity, from upholding the highest social standards to promoting infrastructure projects, and from manufacturing green cars to growing peanuts: BMW is committed to an approach based on consistent sustainability.

Photos: BMW; Author: Nils Arnold; Illustrations: Carolin Wabra

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