Oliver Zipse

“We are taking sustainability to a whole new level”

International companies like the BMW Group play an important role when it comes to sustainability. Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, provides an insight into the new, ambitious goals of the company.

Mr Zipse, you have been at the helm of BMW AG for almost a year now, and you never tire of emphasising the importance of climate and environmental protection. However, the world economy is currently in deep crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How much scope for sustainability does that really leave?

The corona pandemic has completely upended the world economy within a very short period of time. This has also led to some significant cuts and changes for a number of projects at the BMW Group. However, I have always made it clear that there will be no compromises in terms of sustainability as well as climate and environmental protection. These matters are crucial for the future of our society. Therefore, we must send out the right signals, in particular during these challenging times – and we will invest even more energy into tackling these issues.

The BMW Group had set itself emission reduction targets for 2020.

That was about resource consumption and emissions that are caused by us as a company directly – for example by our production processes. And we were extremely successful. We reduced energy consumption per vehicle produced by over 40 per cent and waste and CO2 emissions by more than 70 per cent. Therefore, it is no coincidence that our figures are significantly below those of the rest of the German automotive industry, for example in terms of emissions per vehicle produced. In short: we had already achieved most targets last year. We were thus able to develop a completely revised sustainability strategy for the future.

And what does that look like?

We have used a radically holistic approach and are thus elevating the topic of sustainability to a whole new level. What has not changed is our claim to achieve verifiable effectiveness. So we will set clear and measurable targets for ourselves again – but this time they will extend far beyond our direct sphere of influence.

Please give us a practical example.

In order to make an effective contribution towards protecting the climate, we must improve the ecological footprint of our products – from the resource to the recycling stage and everything in between. The more electric mobility prevails, for example, the more the focus in terms of CO2 reduction will shift upstream along the value chain – in particular onto the energy-intensive production of high-voltage batteries. Up to 40 per cent of CO2 emissions associated with fully electric vehicles stem from battery cell production alone. And, depending on the production site and the electricity mix available there, around one third of this is caused directly at the cell manufacturer’s. Here, we have considerable scope for effectively reducing CO2 emissions and that is exactly what we are planning to do.

How will this work? The BMW Group does not produce battery cells.

As sustainability pioneers we have some clout with suppliers of battery cells – and we use our reputation to make improvements in this regard. We have now stipulated in our supplier agreements that the manufacturers may only use green electricity in the production processes for our fifth-generation battery cells.

Does this mean that we can only achieve further CO2 reductions at the supplier level?

It works through interaction and coordination between manufacturer and supplier. We can only expect our partners to take these steps if we continue to act as a role model. That is exactly what we will do with our new strategy. And our success to date shows just how important this topic is to us. In addition to a significant reduction in our consumption of resources and our emissions, we are on course to achieve our CO2 fleet targets in the EU. Also, all our BMW Group-operated production plants and sites as well as our BBA joint venture in China will be supplied exclusively with electricity from renewable sources this year. Our partners know that we do not just make announcements for a distant future. We follow through and deliver – and we will continue to do so.

How can the public check if you are keeping your promises?

That has always been possible through our Sustainable Value Report – and here we are taking the next step, too. From next year, we will merge our Sustainable Value Report and our Annual Report into one integrated report. This will not just send out the clear signal that our business model and sustainability are of equal importance to us and should not be looked at separately – with this, we will also make our sustainability activities even more transparent for external, independent audits.


Please note:
the Sustainable Value Report is available at:
https://www.bmwgroup.com/svr (German)
https://www.bmwgroup.com/en/responsibility/sustainable-value-report.html (English)