What is BMW doing to become more sustainable along the entire value chain? Climate optimist Anne Therese Gennari poses this question in introducing the new BMW podcast series. “Chasing the greenest car” is an eight-part audio documentary in English started on 21 October. The Swedish-born New Yorker visits a number of people who influence the manufacturing process of a BMW. From the assembly line, the four-cylinder headquarters building to the recycling plant, she takes the audience into the thinking and development processes that drive sustainability. It is becoming more and more clear that the focus is not on a single vehicle or a single electric motor, but on turning the entire industry on its head and creating a completely new way of thinking.
As part of the official BMW “Changing Lanes” podcasts, we are launching a newly produced series in the footsteps of “This is Forwardism” and the sci-fi thriller “Hypnopolis”. We are addressing fans of creative radio features as well as people who want to get a look behind the scenes of BMW. Anne Therese Gennari approaches the subject in a clever and humorous way. For instance, when she and interviewee Claudia Becker need to get out of the BMW i4 parked in the August sun in a hurry, because it is hardly the ideal place for a radio interview with the air conditioning off.
Global warming and climate change are realities. The transition to electrically powered engines successfully saves CO2 emissions, but sustainability is about so much more than just the car itself. It starts with the extraction of raw materials, running through the entire supply and value chain. It encompasses energy consumption and only ends with the recyclability of all vehicle components. The BMW Group invited author, activist and climate optimist Gennari to do her research right at the heart of the company to find out how feasible our goal really is.
Climate optimist. What does that actually mean? Anne Therese Gennari sees it as being able to choose change. It is a matter of becoming aware of the situation and taking the path of resistance, activity and hope instead of taking a back seat, she says. “We will be forever grateful for those who had the courage to question everything.” This is how she begins her search for the “greenest car” at BMW and puts the ambition of “most sustainable car manufacturer in the world” to the test: “Although it seems that BMW has taken a lot of action, I have a million questions and I’m not going to just take their claim unchallenged.”
Over eight episodes, she looks at different aspects of sustainability. For example: What is the best way to recycle? What role does design play here? What influence does social responsibility have? BMW Group employees from the various departments answer the podcaster’s questions. The first episode deals with a sustainable supply chain. She talks with Claudia Becker, senior expert for sustainability and supply chain management at the BMW Group, about procuring cobalt: “Do you think the world can meet the increasing demand for raw materials for electric vehicles? From an ethical point of view as well?” Not an easy question. But an important one that the BMW Group is posing to itself as it seeks to credibly pursue sustainable goals.
The podcast thrives on expert, credible interviewees. Each episode not only presents BMW Group approaches, but also the people behind them, sharing what drives them. Ferdinand Geckeler, for example. He is responsible at the BMW Group for environmental and social standards in the supplier network and works to ensure that the overall relationships and interdependencies are understood. In a next step, he then explores how large companies can improve conditions for small farmers, suppliers and buyers, and ultimately their efficiency, by introducing standards. Transparency and traceability of the supply chains are crucial here, he explains. But even becoming the only company without human rights violations in its supply chain is not enough. Beacon projects alone do not bring about lasting change: “We have to work with others. Supply chains need to be stable and long-lasting so that we can also refine them in terms of environmental and social issues.” His efforts to standardise processes worldwide with other companies and local regulators have earned him his nickname of “Mr Standardisation”.
This also forms one of the core messages that Anne Therese Gennari takes away for herself from the first episode: “Industry needs to implement consistent standards if it wants to achieve global change.” In the coming weeks, the podcaster will meet a range of people who will expound on the importance of this, but also the difficulties of committing to measurable sustainable standards as a company. Anne Therese Gennari has made it her mission to discover the sustainable vehicle of the future: “There are many hurdles and I have no idea what the car of the future is supposed to look like. Or whether it should be a car at all. That’s what I hope to discover on this journey.” Join us on this journey!