How Audi Hungary is uniting climate protection and profitability
When you picture the most beautiful form of sustainable mobility, what do you think of?
Close your eyes and don’t think too hard! We might not have asked hundreds of people, but the answer is still obvious. If you’re thinking* of the new Audi e-tron Sportback, you’re on the right track. But you’re almost getting ahead of things! After all, uncompromisingly sustainable mobility starts long before the vehicle itself. That’s why Audi wants to make its plants worldwide climate-neutral by 2025 — so that the CO₂ levels in our atmosphere stay the same despite daily production for the Four Rings.
Learn more about the immense task of making an entire plant with a surface area of over five million square meters and more than 13,000 employees sustainable:
Herr Dintner, you’ve only been Chairman of the Board of Management of Audi Hungaria since October 1, 2019, and you’ve already set some very ambitious goals. By 2020, Audi Győr should already be a completely climate-neutral factory. Why is that important for Audi and what has been accomplished so far?
Alfons Dintner: First of all, companies need to get very clear on one thing: in the future, profitability and climate protection should not — no, they cannot — be mutually exclusive. But just understanding that connection isn’t enough. Audi Győr and I want to take a clear stand on this new way of thinking. So our goal might be ambitious, but it is also a logical result of our guiding principle.
For years, the Audi plant in Hungary has already been setting an example of how sustainable solutions can be implemented along the entire value chain. For example, heat is supplied at Audi Hungaria using around 70 percent carbon-neutral geothermal energy. In 2018, this saved around 27 gigawatt-hours, which is equivalent to the energy usage of around 13,000 households or 12,900 tons of CO₂. In addition, we work with our partners to create a green supply chain and to take resources that have been used, reintroduce them into the closed-loop production system, and completely reuse them — as much as possible. And we are very close to success, as we currently reuse 99 percent of the volume of our waste. We are also installing innovative technologies in all Audi plants that reduce our water consumption, avoid air pollution, and improve our recycling.
Which milestones still need to be met on the path to a carbon-neutral plant in Hungary?
To reach our goal of a carbon-neutral Audi Hungaria, we need to take a close look at all of our processes, keep asking questions, and put everything to the test.
Now that we’ve made our heat supply practically climate-neutral, we want to do the same for our power supply. Smart energy management with carbon-neutral energy is our solution to that issue. The roofs of both of our logistics centers have been completely covered with a photovoltaic system since this summer. With a surface of around 160,000 square meters, that’s over 22 soccer fields full of solar panels that are constantly working for us. I am particularly proud of the fact that Audi Hungaria has Europe’s largest photovoltaic system.
When the system goes online next year, it will produce more than 9.5 gigawatt-hours of clean energy, which is equivalent to the energy needs of 5,000 households. With the renewable energy from solar power, we will be able to save a total of 6,000 tons of CO₂. Those are exactly the types of smart solutions that will drive businesses forward in the future. I love the idea that our solar energy park will help us to drastically reduce the impact that our production processes have on the environment.
“I often hear people say that individuals are too insignificant to make any real difference. I believe the exact opposite: We are too numerous to do nothing.”
What do you do in your personal life to live more sustainably?
I try to push back against the single-use mindset and advocate for reusing things more often. For example, one of my greatest passions is caffeine. I drink several cups of coffee a day, and I keep a collection of coffee mugs on my desk and in my kitchen that are ready to use at any time. I take them with me when I go to lunch or to appointments. And aside from that, I love visiting cafes where I can really enjoy my coffee in beautiful surroundings. In the hectic of daily life, 2.8 billion coffee cups are just thrown away every day. For me, coffee to-go is an absolute no-go.
Besides that, we try to buy our groceries more consciously and only buy what we actually need, so that we can avoid throwing away food. In the EU, around 88 tons of food go straight from the refrigerator to the trash — that’s 173 kilos per person. I see that as not only a catastrophe for our environment, but also for mankind. That amount of food could feed thousands of people