BMW is again the most sustainable automotive company in the world, according to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. The annual survey, now in its 14th year, has seen BMW placed in the top three automotive brands every year since it began: the firm has also led the automotive sector for eight years running.
Sustainable in what way, though? Well, there’s obviously an environmental aspect, but Dow Jones also considers suitability in terms of economic and social impact too. One of the key achievements of the now well-established Index is to make clear the link between pure environmental issues and their associated effects on society and the economy. Be green, so the evidence goes, and you are automatically that bit more concerned with both the finances of your business and the well-being of humanity.
Sounds bold? Well, look at another firm that featured in the top three firms placed in the sustainability index: Fiat. The struggling-in-Europe firm was the only other automotive brand apart from BMW to feature in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for Europe, while only Volkswagen Group was added for the worldwide DJSI.
Fiat’s naturally proud of its sustainability achievements too. So, what’s behind this success? Plenty, explained the brand. Indeed, it’s a ‘culture of sustainability’, said CEO Sergio Marchionne, rooted in environmental awareness, respect for people, fair and transparent conduct in commercial relationships and positive contribution to local communities.
Environmentalism is, in short, one element of it – but not all of it. It seems that going green is part of an holistic approach to betterment that does us all good. Sounds a bit woolly, sure, but Fiat offers plenty of detail as to why it’s not.
For example, the brand’s CO2 emissions are among the lowest of all major manufacturers in Europe, and have been so for five consecutive years. Near-maximum scores were also achieved in the Dow Jones assessment of its climate change and emission reduction strategy, its environmental policies and management, and its product stewardship. Green for the greater good, then.
It’s also helping socially, with strong development initiatives for its workers, an excellent occupational health and safety record, good communications with stakeholders and a strong record of corporate citizenship and philanthropy. It’s a company that’s good for the environment, good to its workers and does an ample share of good for others.
All this comes despite the cosh Fiat’s under. As the firm says, “these results demonstrate that even in the presence of unfavourable economic conditions globally, and approach to sustainability based on continuous improvement has remained central to the Group’s activities”.
Note the use of Group: Fiat, of course, also includes Chrysler and the US brand has been doing its fair share too. For example, Fiat’s green TwinAir engine has been praised as last year’s International Engine of the Year, but Chrysler's V6 Pentastar is also a Ward’s Automotive top 10 engine of the year for 2010 and 2011. Fulsome praise for an engine that was designed with high efficiency in mind, and showing that the group doesn’t just pay lip service when it comes to building green engines.
BMW has long been similarly cohesive when it comes to environmentability and sustainability. The firm tells us it was the first automotive brand to appoint an environmental officer – way back in 1973 – and committed to the UN Environment Programme, UN Global Compact and Cleaner Production Declaration in 2001. Today, it even has a dedicated Sustainability Board: every Board of Management member sits on it.
It’s done even better in the Global 500 Leadership Index’s ‘Carbon Disclosure Project’, too. This encourages companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and helps them work on improving their score. Not that BMW needs much help: it has scored 99/100 this year, its best-ever score and one that places it in the top three of all companies worldwide. A car company among the greenest firms in the world? You bet.
We should be proud of our industry. Many would like to paint it as the antithesis of green and sustainable, but that’s simply not true. Firms such as BMW and Fiat are proving this, by topping the sustainability rankings and also showing up some parallel companies for doing relatively little in comparison. The automotive industry loves a challenge and it’s risen to the one of environmentalism with aplomb.
The latest sustainability results also show that going green is not simply about cutting emissions. It’s about a more far-reaching good, one that makes the world a nicer place to live in, not just one containing fewer greenhouse gas emissions. All for the greater good: how good is that?
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