In the “WEffect” sustainability series, the BMW Group highlights the sustainable contribution made by a wide range of people in the company – and the motivation that inspires them. Today: Jury Witschnig.
Sustainability has many facets at the BMW Group because we are using this term to harmonise business, the environment and society. If we are to successfully put these high standards into practice, we need our employees’ commitment. Everyone can play their part in making the BMW Group sustainable.
So, who are all these colleagues who make sustainability part of their everyday work? What drives them to roll up their sleeves throughout the company? In the new “WEffect” sustainability series, the BMW Group introduces employees who play their daily part in the broad and responsible further development of our company.
Dr Jury Witschnig, Head of Environmental Protection at the BMW Group, is kicking things off.
Happy to have played my part.
He has organised beehives on a Munich factory roof, strives every day for better environmental standards and motivates everyone around him to act conscientiously: Jury Witschnig is a true all-rounder when it comes to environmental issues. The doctor of industrial engineering is working together with his team on further developments towards CO2-neutral mobility. But it’s not just about the big environmental issues for Witschnig. He is convinced that every little action, every little commitment, every little project not only benefits the BMW Group and its employees, but also outsiders.
Mr Witschnig, what are we talking about today when we talk about protecting the environment in the BMW Group?
Jury Witschnig: Beehives on the workplace roof and their honey are proof positive: it works. We can bring nature into the urban jungle, keep sheep in a vehicle factory in an environment in which they can thrive, and create a nature reserve with enormous biodiversity on our test site. There is much more to it than meets the eye. Climate is currently our main focus. In the past few years, it was primarily on the product – e-mobility. At the same time, however, we have always been concerned with how we can protect the environment in production, and we are now bringing this back into the foreground. It goes without saying that we comply with all legal requirements. But it’s also typical of BMW to ask: What else can we do? What added value will we create for ourselves as a company and for the public at large if we do even more?
All environmental issues are profitable because they affect our perspective on life and work.
So environmental protection is a real positive for the company? Is it profitable to be one of the “good guys” in terms of sustainability?
Witschnig: Yes, it certainly is profitable. All environmental issues are profitable because they affect our perspective on life and work. Sustainability originally meant that you only take as much wood from a forest as you can reforest. It’s about resources, about preserving the basics. If we don’t look for alternative solutions now, it will be so much more costly later. The bees are a role model here: they give more back to nature than they take out. They pollinate the flowers while they are collecting nectar, and thus ensure that fruits that feed many living creatures can develop. The cycle of nature is always in sync. We should mimic this principle. That is the horizon we need to reach for.
My motivation is to adapt mobility to the challenges of the present and perhaps also of the future. CO2-neutral mobility is the big challenge today.
Is this horizon your goal?
Witschnig: My goals are much more tangible. I love driving cars and motorbikes. I’m a fan of technology and mobility. I want to adapt this mobility to our challenges. The car of the 1960s and '70s delivered what was needed at the time. It gave people the opportunity to be mobile. CO2 emissions and climate were not a consideration. That has all changed now. The car of yesteryear is no longer compatible with today because we have to get our heads around other issues – climate, waste, water ... My goal is to find translations.
What successes do you see? And what are you proud of?
Witschnig: There are, of course, the measurable key figures, such as reducing CO2 and other emissions, 100 per cent green electricity and resource efficiency. We – and the WE is important, because it is a joint achievement – have always met our goals in past years, and in some cases exceeded them. Every manager is measured by whether he or she acts in the interests of the environment, the climate, sustainability. Furthermore, last year the BMW Group massively tightened its sustainability targets to be achieved by 2030. This is a huge success!
It makes me particularly proud when someone who doesn’t know me speaks excitedly about how great BMW is in terms of sustainability. I just listen. I don’t say much – I’m just happy to have played my part.
Where are the stumbling blocks on the way to achieving your goal and also the BMW Group’s goals?
Witschnig: I could trot out the usual lament of lack of money and resources. But in the end, it’s always the people. It’s the people who still lack the conviction that this path is also right for them and do not embrace the journey for themselves. But at the same time, people are also the solution: if we inspire our employees and move them to join in, we can overcome any challenges.
Let’s imagine you meet the Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Oliver Zipse. You talk through your projects and goals and he asks you how he can support you. What’s your answer?
Witschnig: I would ask him what he sees as coming next. Which issues do we need to keep in focus to align our products and production? At the moment, it's the climate. At some point, we will be CO2-free on the road. We will get there. But then something new will come our way.
"Let’s take the time to talk about the future” – that’s what I would say to him."
And when you look into this future: When is it good? When are you satisfied, when has the goal been reached?
Witschnig: I will have achieved my goal in my current role when others take over the mantle of motivator for sustainability. And also when I run out of ideas for solutions myself. That’s when it’s time for a new guiding theme. There is probably no finite point for the time being in terms of climate change and environmental protection.
In the upcoming portraits from our “WEffect” sustainability series, committed colleagues will also describe their motivation and explain the contribution they are making to sustainability within the BMW Group.