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: Tanja Hornbachner.
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 its “WEffect” sustainability series, the BMW Group introduces employees who play their daily part in the broad and responsible further development of our company.
In this part of our series, Tanja Hornbachner, sustainability strategist at the BMW Group plant in Steyr, reveals what she does when taking part in e-car rallies and how she makes a sustainable contribution as an “energy maniac” at the BMW Group.
Tanja Hornbachner, when did you first become impassioned about renewable energies?
Tanja Hornbachner: I was four years old, standing in front of a wind turbine and wanted to know how it worked. This wind turbine and its technology completely absorbed my attention. In fact, I have always been very close to nature. In effect, I have been allowed to turn my hobby into my profession. I combine my environmental awareness with my fascination for technology.
That explains why you also chose to study eco-energy technology. Now you oversee the sustainability strategy at the Steyr plant and take care of energy management. What do we need to know about that?
Hornbachner: My role is about working on the three pillars of sustainability at the Steyr plant. Ecology, economy and social issues. My focus is on energy supply. We currently obtain 80 per cent CO2-neutral energy, and we want this figure to reach 100 per cent by 2025. We have already signed a memorandum of understanding with a nearby biomass cogeneration plant, so our supply is secure.
What is your personal goal in this?
Hornbachner: I want to demonstrate the contribution each and every one of us can make to sustainability. I enjoy using numbers to quantify the specific amount of energy we can save. The main goal behind this is that my children and grandchildren should have a world worth living in when their time comes. Fossil energies have to be used for some vital products, so we must use them carefully so there is still enough left for future generations.
Where are the obstacles on this path and what helps you to overcome them and achieve your goals?
Hornbachner: Technology is one limiting factor. Sometimes the solution we need to fully achieve the goal does not yet exist. Development is ongoing. But it still takes time. I often ask myself whether we have enough time for this. That is why it is so important that we do not just wait and see, but actively seek solutions. When I get frustrated, I turn to colleagues, family and friends for support. I often talk with other “energy maniacs”, we gather new ideas – that gives me a boost. In general, I also spend a lot of my free time looking at renewable energies and ways to use energy more efficiently. It simply fascinates me. My friends and I even go so far as to drive e-car rallies. The winner is the one who has used their range most efficiently.
Is there any one thing you are particularly proud of?
Hornbachner: When the actions we take are successful and I see impressive results. For example, we have saved 52 per cent of the electrical power consumption for the basic workload of mechanical production at weekends. Often, it just takes simple organisational measures to have a big effect. It also makes me proud that our employees are contributing their own ideas. I was already dealing with the energy supply of large-scale plants during my studies; my master’s thesis was about the efficient and sustainable energy supply of large-scale washing plants. This piece of work won me the Young Researchers Award in 2019. A test phase is currently underway here at the plant to see whether we can also implement the results. It would of course be a great success if that worked out. What I have learned, though, is that saving energy is not always easy or quick. The transformation process is slow and laborious. You have to keep at it, not get bogged down. So if the feasibility study says: no, you can’t do that – I have to start again and look for another way. A way that works. We need to start looking for these new ways now. We have to think in terms of solutions.
If you had the opportunity to talk about sustainability with the Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Oliver Zipse, what support would you ask for?
Hornbachner: I care so much about the issue that I would probably just say thank you for paying so much attention to sustainability. That’s the solid basis we need.
So, when is it good enough?
Hornbachner: There is no such thing as 100 per cent sustainable; there will always be room for improvement. But I get a satisfied buzz every time another milestone is reached.
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.