On this side of the pond, the Volvo Group's vehicles have long had appealed to suburbanites for their safety and durability cars. But the company also is a formidable manufacturer of trucks, buses and construction equipment. Volvo hit a rough patch in recent years, but is on the rebound, with sales approximately US$33 billion last year. And on the sustainability front, the company had a year of growth as well, especially when it came to efficiency—Volvo’s mantra for how it performed in 2014.
The company has long been forward thinking on alternative fuels, especially when it comes to methane and dimethyl ether (DME), the latter of which is a common pulp and paper byproduct in its home country of Sweden. But along with advancements in more efficient vehicles, the company itself has also become leaner and greener while launching new programs in its quest to become more of an engaged corporate citizen. To that end, the company just released its most recent sustainability report covering its performance for 2014.
First, let’s start with the company’s products, which have become more fuel efficient and innovative. Volvo launched a hybrid bus last fall, which has the potential to transform bus fleets in the long run. While hybrid and electric cars are sexier and score more press, more efficient buses could really make a difference environmentally and for municipalities, fiscally. The Volvo 7900 Electric Hybrid bus packs a punch and was a standout within the transportation sector: with 75 percent fuel savings, 75 percent less carbon emissions, running in electric mode 70 percent of the time and boasting a recharge that only takes six minutes, this bus could be a game changer. Well, if these buses enter more fleets beyond Stockholm, Edinburgh and Hamburg, Germany.
The company has also made improvements in its overall environmental performance. A member of the WWF’s Climate Savers Program since 2009, Volvo claims participation in the program was behind reducing its total carbon emissions by 40 million tons—or by 20 percent since 2009. A reporting company to CDP, the company also boosted its carbon disclosure score—up from 73 to 100. There is still room for improvement, but it nonetheless represents an ambitious year.
Capping off that year, what stakeholders should keenly observe this year is Volvo’s plan for more social engagement. The company’s professionals spent 2014 developing its “Moving Society Forward” program, which will focus on where its business interacts with society. The company will run a global traffic and workplace safety program, increase efforts on environmental sustainability and also develop an education and skills development agenda. The automaker’s work has taken Volvo employees everywhere from teaching traffic etiquette at schools in South Korea, India, Singapore and China—to launching vocational education programs in Africa and even in Sweden to combat local unemployment. The company continues to clean up its supply chain as well, with 94 percent of its suppliers ISO 14001 compliant and vendors assessed by their social performance, compliance with labor and human rights laws and workplace safety.
From the perspective of an automaker, being socially, environmentally and ethically responsible combine for a massive challenge, especially considering the climate impact cars, trucks and buses have on the planet. Volvo, however, is on the right path, and hopefully can surprise us more with even better and cleaner vehicles in the next several years.
Image credit: Volvo
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media. His previous work can be found at The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. Kaye is based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.