Dr Jury Witschnig is head of Sustainability Strategy Product and Production at the BMW Group. He talks about why CO2-reduced production is essential for the BMW Group to take full responsibility in the field of sustainability.
Mr Witschnig, people like to talk about “all or nothing” – suggesting that if you set yourself a goal, you should make sure you achieve it fully …
I’m not a fan of that approach. When it comes to sustainability, every partial goal we reach is a positive. If you say from the start: We’re only going to set ourselves goals we can meet 100 percent, you could well end up not achieving anything at all. Then, we would probably never have tried using dung from nearly 40,000 cattle to meet just some of our energy needs at our plant in South Africa – yet, in the meantime, almost 40 percent of power is supplied this way! Nor would we have begun switching all our locations worldwide to renewable energies; today, we are at 79 percent, and rising. We wouldn’t have gathered experience here in Munich recycling waste from production: Now, 99.8 percent is recycled! That doesn’t mean we aren’t setting ourselves further goals – goals that are, in fact, extremely ambitious compared to those of many other companies. Of course, we want to reach 100 percent – and are quite likely to be able to obtain all our energy from sustainable sources within just a few years. But we are not just sitting back and waiting – we are taking partial steps along the way wherever necessary.
Many sustainability reports claim that climate protection can only achieve its objectives with a holistic approach.
There, once again, I would also say that misses the point: Climate protection, in itself, is always beneficial. Every step counts. But it would be short-sighted to focus only on the driving aspect – which is just the middle phase in a BMW or MINI’s lifecycle. Energy-efficient production is part of our responsibility and our sustainability calculations should take into account that a vehicle is also recycled efficiently at the end of its days. Both of these things need to happen not just for environmental-protection reasons, but also because it makes economic sense to use as few resources as possible and recover valuable commodities.
When it comes to vehicle sustainability, most people only look at the emissions and barely pay any attention to how resources are used in production.
That a premium manufacturer like the BMW Group optimises its vehicles to maximise fuel economy and leads the way in this area, as well as guaranteeing safety, comfort and driving fun, is a given. That customers are not necessarily focused on this aspect is understandable. But, at the BMW Group, identifying all relevant levers in production and exploiting our experience and know-how to improve resource efficiency is part of who we are.
With what result?
Let me give you a current example: Last year, we were able to reduce relative CO2 emissions per vehicle produced by an average of 2.4 percent from the previous year – that gives us a figure of only 0.4 tons per vehicle. That’s a record. When you look at this over an extended period, it soon adds up: In the past five years alone, we have reduced CO2 emissions by almost 40 percent. We accomplished something unique on the energy consumption side, too, where we now only need 2.1 megawatt hours per vehicle. That’s 2.3 percent less than in 2017 and 38 percent less than in 2006, which is the reference year for our sustainability goals for production.
The BMW Group is committed to using as many secondary raw materials as possible.
Another example for you: Wherever it is technically, economically and ecologically feasible and socially acceptable to do so, we are replacing plastics with renewable resources: for example, in the BMW i3, BMW 7 Series and BMW 5 Series, we have switched to natural fibres for the door trim panel carriers. We are also using a sophisticated lifecycle management system. For almost ten years, all BMW Group vehicles have met the strictest legal requirements worldwide for recycling end-of-life vehicles, components and materials. In this way, we achieve an overall recycling quota of 95 percent.
Is resource consumption also a reason why you set especially high standards for development and production of BMW electric vehicles?
Electric cars already have the edge over petrol or diesel vehicles, because of their much smaller carbon footprint. But we can only achieve this by looking very closely at how we design these drive trains. The BMW Group has set the bar very high. This ensures that its electric cars impact the climate less than a comparable vehicle with a conventional drive train – during the operational phase and in production. In this way, we are able to ensure that any electric vehicle we build protects the climate in a credible and verifiable manner.