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VW on Track to Meet 2018 'Think Blue. Factory.' Sustainability Goals

Words by Andrew Burger
Investment & Markets
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From the boardroom and executive suite through the ranks of management, down to the factory floor and across its global network of dealers and suppliers, Volkswagen AG (VW) has been at the forefront of auto industry efforts to make ecological sustainability and social responsibility a strategic motivating force.

On Nov. 18, VW announced that its 'Think Blue. Factory.' environmental sustainability program is on track for success. Per Think Blue. Factory's targets, a total of some 5,000 individual measures are to be taken by 2018 as VW aims to reduce energy and water consumption, as well as waste, carbon dioxide (CO2) and solvent emissions, across all its factories 25 percent.

VW has already carried out more than 2,700 environmental sustainability projects at its factories, resulting in production processes that are 17 percent “more environmentally compatible over the past three years," according to a team of more than 250 environmental experts that conducted an interim evaluation of VW's ecological sustainability program.

A few days later, on Nov. 21, VW Group announced that it would invest €85.6 billion (~US$106.46 billion) to develop “new models, environmentally friendly technology and production facilities over the coming five years.” Around two-thirds of the total will be invested in developing “increasingly efficient vehicles.

"We will continue to invest in the future to become the leading automotive group in both ecological and economic terms – with the best and most sustainable products," Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, VW AG chairman of the Board of Management, stated during an address at VW headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Taking the long view


VW is taking a gamble -- and a long-term, 'triple bottom line' view -- of its business in raising environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility to the level of strategic priorities. Providing a forewarning, as well as a rallying call, to employees, investors and other stakeholders, Dr. Winterkorn said: “Development costs will remain high in the future as a result of high innovation pressure and increasing demands on the automotive industry from CO2 legislation.”

VW will maintain its capex ratio at “a competitive level of between six and seven percent” over the course of the 2015-2019 period. “For us efficiency means not least that capex in the Automotive Division will remain at the same level over the entire planning period – despite increasing demands and the additional growth we have planned,” he stated.

Celebrating “Think Blue. Factory. Day” at its Wolfsburg headquarters, Thomas Ulbrich, member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand responsible for production and logistics stated:

"'Think Blue. Factory.ʼ is and remains the approach we have adopted to achieve the sustainability targets we have set ourselves for production and logistics at the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand by 2018. I am very pleased to see how effectively the methods and processes we have developed together are now being put into practice at our locations.”

"Our employees have breathed life into the ‘Think Blue. Factory.' Program and implemented it with considerable commitment right from the outset,” added Prof. Werner Neubauer, member of the Board of Management of the VW Passenger Cars brand responsible for components. “This explains the successes that we have already achieved."

*Images credit: Volkswagen AG

Andrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

Read more stories by Andrew Burger