Petra Peterhänsel
Sustainability 20.10.2022 4 Min.
“Commitment brings success.”

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: Petra Peterhänsel.

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 edition of our series, Petra Peterhänsel, Head of the BMW Group Plant in Leipzig, talks about the enormous motivation there is in the BMW Group and sustainability as a holistic approach.

Petra Peterhänsel


Petra Peterhänsel, in your former position as Head of Painted Body at the BMW Group plant in Dingolfing, you were also a mentor for sustainability. What did you focus on?

Petra Peterhänsel: On both aspects. As far as I was concerned, my professional function and sustainability always belonged side by side. The Painted Body unit with its three technologies – press shop, body shop, and paint shop – has the highest energy consumption in the entire vehicle manufacturing process, so there is plenty of potential to save on CO2. This was one of the reasons for me taking on the mentorship for sustainability as a strategic area for action at the Dingolfing site. Energy issues are not the only aspect though. Sustainability has many facets – economic, ecological and social. I want to create an awareness that every piece of the puzzle helps, that ideas contribute to sustainability as a whole, even if individually they just have a small impact. It might be recycling, transport and traffic, water or biodiversity. I want to make my contribution towards us being fit for the future. For our company, but also the future generations. That is my personal drive.

What obstacles do you come across in your everyday life? And what brings success?

Peterhänsel: The biggest obstacle is that sustainability does not come for free and, above all, that it does not happen on its own. We need to set the right course and invest in sustainability. Not just in financial terms, but also in terms of time and ideas. This involves adapting systems and processes as well as investing in innovative machines and processes. These are the sorts of ideas that ultimately bring success. For example, we use biodegradable material as packaging. We brought this about in only six months from idea to implementation. Other simple examples are changing over from compressed air to electric grinders in the body shop, or reducing the amount of oil on the sheets in the press shop. Small steps that add up to a lot. To this end, we are also tackling bigger issues together with our central colleagues, for instance when it comes to long-term strategies for CO2 reduction. A lot of feasibility studies are currently in progress.

Does your increasing involvement with sustainability have an effect on how you go about things in other areas too?

Peterhänsel: Yes, of course, the sustainability aspect is always there in my daily leadership role. When we plan measures, I almost instinctively ask: have we considered the sustainability angle as well? I also notice how important this topic is to young people in particular. After all, I was not only a sustainability mentor in Dingolfing, but I am also a mentor for some young leaders from all over the world. Sustainability is always on the agenda when I talk to my mentees – I then take these suggestions back to the workplace.

Petra Peterhänsel


Are there any particular lessons you have learned?

Peterhänsel: I have learned an awful lot of detail about wood chip heating, green roofs and water treatment! (laughs) No, seriously: my understanding of sustainability has broadened. And the more I have grown into the subject, the more its fundamental importance has become clear to me – for the future success of our economic activities as the BMW Group, but also for us as a “global society”. This in turn has sparked an enormous amount of self-motivation and passion for the subject.

Let’s say you find yourself in a lift with Oliver Zipse, the Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. During this short ride, you have the opportunity to discuss with him what your view of the future is. What do you say?

Peterhänsel: I would tell him that I really like our approach to sustainability: hardly anyone is approaching the topic as holistically as BMW. And hardly anyone thinks about the topic so consistently from the outset, from the supplier through production to the customer's use of the vehicles. And that I'm happy to be able to make a contribution to our sustainability goals as plant manager.

Petra Peterhänsel

We have talked a lot about your tasks, the challenges, and successes. What motivates you every day to be so committed?

Peterhänsel: What motivates me most of all is the creativity of our employees. It makes me so proud to see the momentum we are developing together as BMW when it comes to sustainability. I merely give our employees the platform. They are the ones that come up with all their commitment, their great ideas, and suggestions. I am happy to support them where I can with my experience and offer advice and support.

So when is it enough?

Peterhänsel: It will never be enough and we all need to internalise the fact that sustainability is not a project with a start and finish date. Sustainability is not a buzzword, but a central guiding principle of our trade – now and in the future. It is the responsibility and task of each and every one of us to work on this together. Our world and the future of coming generations must be worth it to us.

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.

"WEffect – we make the BMW Group sustainable.“
#mycontribution #mymotivation

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