Case study: The footprints of giants

A look at how the automotive industry took steps to reduce its carbon footprint.

When thinking of sustainable business, it's likely the automotive industry is not in the forefront of your mind. In fact, many see this industry as the main cause of climate change and the increase in emissions. While this isn't far from the truth (after all, transport accounts for 24.3 per cent of total CO2 emissions, 92 per cent of which can be attributed to road transport1), car makers are putting their polluted pasts behind them. As car makers begin to lower their environmental impact, other business can't help but wonder – how are they doing it?

Out-of-the-box thinking

CO2 is estimated to account for about two-thirds of man-made global warming1, and just happens to be one of the most prevalent car emissions. To counter the effect of CO2 emissions on the climate, the automotive industry has had to think outside of the box, designing and manufacturing methods of powering vehicles other than petrol and diesel. And so, electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles were created.

Over the past decade, the demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles has increased 40.7 per cent2. This shows how the industry's advancement has grown in popularity as the public becomes more eco-conscious.

Ultimately, thinking outside of the box forces companies to rethink the way their products are designed, manufactured and operated.

As the automotive industry has demonstrated, businesses must look at alternative methods to provide customers with products that have a lower impact on the environment.

While the journey towards greener products and production differs from business to business, the result is the same – a reduction of pollutants, and a more sustainable future.

Focus on waste reduction

In the wider automotive sector, waste reduction is key. Tyres are recycled for use in children's playgrounds; various metals and other materials are recovered from the shredding process to be reused. Through these methods, the automotive industry has managed to recycle over 95 per cent (by weight) of disposed vehicles, which makes cars one of the most recycled items in existence3.

Taking the first steps towards reducing environmental impact through waste reduction is daunting, but it is worth it in the long run. Reducing production waste and recycling allows a business to save money by cutting waste disposal costs; reducing the number of environmental legislation fees; and improving the business's reputation amongst customers, suppliers and potential employees.

One of the best ways to reduce waste in your business is by creating a closed-loop system. This ecofriendly manufacturing method means that no materials are brought to a landfill or are incinerated. Instead the materials re-enter the production process and are reused in some way.

Make use of government incentives

To battle the rise in car emissions, the UK government has joined with the automotive industry to offer incentives on eco-friendly vehicles. Car owners can receive up to £4,500 off a vehicle's retail price, depending on the car's zero-emissions range.

Like the car industry, the government offers green incentives for small businesses in several industries. For instance, businesses of any size can apply for the Renewable Heat Incentive, which is a government programme that encourages businesses to use renewable heat technologies, providing financial support for this technology over 20 years4.

How Toyota do it...

  • Large factory integrated solar array installed at Burnaston plant, which generates enough energy to build 7,000 cars per year
  • First UK automaker to be awarded ISO 14001 standard for environmental management in 1996
  • Restoring over 200,000m2 to its natural habitat, working in partnership with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  • Zero-waste-to-landfill manufacturing practices since 2002

Thought leadership from HSBC

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