By Jochen Stallkamp*:
Climate change, scarcity of resources and environmental protection are some of the greatest challenges facing the society today. The BMW Group has been among the top-rated companies in major sustainability rankings for many years and rules the roost in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the Carbon Disclosure Project. In order to live up to the claim of being the most sustainable premium manufacturer, the BMW Group is continuously reducing CO2 emissions and resources used per vehicle.
For us, the term ‘sustainable production’ means investing in our future. We are integrating this commitment through clear actions in our business model and production. Since 2006, the BMW Group has reduced its global consumption of energy and water in vehicle production, waste and waste water volume as well as solvents and CO2 emissions per vehicle produced by an average of 53.2 percent. In the same period, due to efficient use of resources, cost savings worth €161 million were made.
BMW Group lays equal importance on both the products and the manufacturing process when it comes to green manufacturing. To achieve this, we optimise processes and invest in more efficient, state-of-the-art technologies. In line with our ‘Design for Recycling’ approach, we create our vehicles in such a way that their components can largely be reused or recycled efficiently throughout their whole life cycle. Some decisive influencing factors are the choice of materials, production technologies, supplier selection, the choice of drivetrain types and the recyclability of the vehicle’s components.
All BMW Group vehicles brought into the market since 2008 meet the requirements for the recycling of end-of-life vehicles, components and materials (95 percent total recycling, 85 percent reuse and material recycling). The environment-friendly use of raw materials is taken into account at the vehicle development phase via ‘Life Cycle Engineering.’ Up to 20 percent of the thermoplastic materials in our vehicles are now made from recyclates. These materials account for an average of 12 percent of vehicle weight.
We use up to 50 percent secondary aluminium in high-strength cast aluminium parts. Wherever it makes technical, business and environmental sense and is socially viable, we replace artificial materials with renewable materials. For example, we replaced supports of door trim panels with natural fibres. These are used in the BMW 7 Series and BMW 5 Series models, among others. Renewable raw materials such as textile fibres, wool, eucalyptus wood, recycled granulate and plant fibres are carefully chosen to create a sustainable interior for the cars.
The BMW i range is a classic example of the company’s philosophy of cradle-to-grave sustainability. Innovative manufacturing technologies and the application of new materials characterise the production process for the new generation i cars. Compared to the conventional car production, making a BMW i model requires 50 percent less energy and 70 percent less water. Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) roof panel of these cars is made partially with recycled CFRP from the manufacturing processes of other components.
The CFRP components are sustainably produced in Moses Lake, WA, where the factory uses hydroelectric power. In Leipzig, Germany, assembly plant uses wind-generated electricity. Moreover, 25 percent of plastic used in the interior is comprised of recycled materials. The instrument panel and door trims are made from Kenaf plant fibres. Dashboard wood trim is crafted from responsibly-forested eucalyptus and olive-leaf extract is used to tan interior leather surfaces.
Furthermore, the BMW Group is increasingly using renewable energy at its locations worldwide. In 2017, we further increased our use of renewable energy for our electricity supply to 81 percent.
Here in India, at BMW Group Plant Chennai, we have implemented the Environmental Policy under the Integrated Management System which is aligned with IS0 14001: 2015 requirements. At this plant, the 1350 kW Solar Photovoltaic system caters to 61 percent of the plant energy consumption. We save 50 percent of the lighting usage by utilising LED lighting. Besides this, fresh air fans have been replaced by energy-efficient high-volume low-speed (HVLS) fans, saving 30 percent of energy in the ventilation system. 99.4 percent of waste generated at BMW Group Plant Chennai is recycled. Waste water from the plant is recycled. The plant has rain water harvesting ponds at two locations with a total capacity of 1,425,000 litres. At the same time, many of our green efforts take place on a smaller, but no less important, scale – such as installed sensor-based taps across the plant that save eight percent water.
The Chennai plant has a green area of 7.7 acres, which is around 25 percent of the total area. We have also set up a green belt area with 1,756 trees of 31 different species as part of a biodiversity pilot project. On World Environment Day, the entire team comes together to plant trees both, inside as well as outside the facility.
A strong culture at BMW Plant Chennai further promotes sustainability. A dedicated team has been appointed to ensure continued sustainability at the plant. The facility management team is also responsible for environment management and best sustainability practices. We encourage our associates to follow and promote basic measures such as reduction of printing, switching off lights, air-conditioners, laptops when not required and to appropriately separate waste. We have not only banned paper cups in the canteen area but also encourage employees to not waste food. Every day, we display the amount of food wasted on the display screen in the canteen to discourage wastage.
For the BMW Group, sustainability means future viability – for the BMW Group and for society. We know the challenges and are rising to meet them. We will continuously develop innovative mobility solutions that create additional value for customers, the company and society.
(*Jochen Stallkamp is the Managing Director of BMW Group Plant Chennai)