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: Verena van Erps.
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, Verena van Erps, a trainee as digitalization management clerk at the BMW Group, describes why sustainable action has nothing to do with sacrificing things.
Verena van Erps, you are on a dual study programme studying business informatics while training as a specialist in digital management systems at the BMW Group. At first sight, this does not seem much of a "green" subject. Where do environmental and climate protection come in to your everyday work?
Verena van Erps: Environmental awareness crops up everywhere in my job – often in the form of signs. There are the signs reminding us to turn off the lights. Or turn the heating off first and then ventilate. Use water sparingly, or go for the regional vegetable dish in the canteen. I think these reminders are great because they support us in our personal commitment to sustainability, and they are things we can all easily do. These small steps also include avoiding plastic waste, shopping conscientiously and as packaging-free as possible, and using a bicycle to get around when we can. I actually put many of these steps into practice on a regular basis. Now I live in the city, in Munich, it’s a bit more difficult to do this. I have to really read the small print in the supermarket to find out where each product comes from. But that is worth just as much as good basic knowledge: local blackcurrants, for example, can easily match the Brazilian acai berry in terms of taste and nutrition, and haven't travelled many thousands of kilometres here by plane or diesel tanker.
So you gather information on sustainable living and take on many actions. What drives you?
van Erps: Nature is my source of energy. I get a lot of strength from being in the mountains. It’s like the elixir of life. Protecting nature and standing up for it is my way of showing my gratitude and appreciation for it. Of course, I start with myself first, but I also discuss with others. I try to influence so that my friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances also understand what it is really about. Then they can carry this understanding forward themselves. Future generations should be able to find the world as beautiful as we have been allowed to experience it. They should also be able to find strength in nature. That’s actually what I want to achieve. I want to do much more for that. I don’t have to force myself to do it at all. I would do it anyway.
Are you already seeing successes?
van Erps: My friends are all doing it now as well. We exchange ideas, give each other tips and share information on social media about start-ups that have particularly sustainable ideas. That’s doing the rounds. I even manage to get older people, like my grandparents, to think in new ways. All that is needed is the right starting points – and they are often quite simple. Using fruit and vegetable nets instead of plastic for shopping and being economical with water and electricity is totally in tune with the older generation anyway.
Imagine you meet the Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Oliver Zipse, in the lift. He asks you how he can support you in implementing more sustainability in your everyday life. What would you say?
van Erps: I think the BMW Group could offer even more food from the region in its canteens. This would not only mean we are eating healthier and protecting the environment, but it would also be a real benefit for farmers in the region, who often struggle to make ends meet.
Where do you see the stumbling blocks when it comes to living sustainably in everyday life?
van Erps: It’s uncomfortable! The nearest “unpacked” shop is a few kilometres away, even in the city – in the countryside, they are even fewer and farther between. When I go on my bike, the bags are heavy on the way home, and if I’m unlucky, it’s also raining. I grew up in the countryside. People tend to get in the car there for every little errand or to meet up with friends. The distances are longer and there is not much public transport. Day trippers block the roads at weekends and there are always traffic jams. A genuinely sustainable form of mobility that can be individually designed would take us a giant leap forward. But I think we can already be proud of every little step we take – and especially when it causes some discomfort. But sustainable living should not always be equated with total austerity – because then nobody will do it.
So when is it good enough?
van Erps: I don’t think that point can ever be reached. There is always room for improvement. So it is best to remain realistic and change what is feasible now.
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.