How Audi is helping make the industry more sustainable
“The automotive industry will be a driving force behind the energy revolution. And the next decade is critical this regard.” When Georg Kell talks about climate change, electric cars, and social responsibility, he’s also always talking about a shrinking window of opportunity – we simply have no time to lose. Scientist Kell founded the “UN Global Compact,” the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. As a member of the Volkswagen Group’s Sustainability Advisory Board, he also regularly tackles one of the key questions at present: How will companies become sustainable?
Kell discussed this topic with Hildegard Wortmann, member of Audi’s Board of Management responsible for Sales and Marketing, and Dirk Große-Loheide, member of Audi’s Board of Management responsible for Procurement and IT, as part of a panel discussion with German and international journalists on the evening before this year’s annual press conference. Antje Maas, head of Corporate Communications, moderated the talk.
Audi radically reduces its carbon footprint
So how can Audi as a company help create a sustainable and livable future? Board member Hildegard Wortmann believes the industry has a duty to respond to these questions with action and clearly formulated goals – just as Audi and the Volkswagen Group are already doing. For example, the entire Volkswagen Group is the first automaker to commit to the ambitious goals set forth in the Paris Climate Agreement. As a first milestone, Audi is aiming to reduce the carbon footprint of its fleet by 30% by the year 2025; by 2050. The entire group wants to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Audi is helping reach this target through its Roadmap E. “We’re already the largest supplier of electric cars among premium German manufacturers,” Wortmann said. The number of all-electric vehicles in the company’s lineup will increase this year from the current three to seven models. By 2025, the company intends to have more than 20 fully electric models on the market. “We firmly believe that the future of transportation is electric,” Wortmann emphasized. “Audi is a role model when it comes to making progress in the field of electric vehicles,” said sustainability expert Kell.
Audi’s goal: achieving net-zero emissions at all sites by 2025
This shift toward electric cars goes far beyond just launching new models. “Our ability to have a positive impact is far greater than one would expect,” said Dirk Große-Loheide. But simply switching from an internal combustion engine to an electric drive system does not make a car sustainable. It’s just as important, he says, that electric cars are powered by green electricity – and that the production process is also climate-friendly. According to Große-Loheide: “We’ve come a long way in the past few years.”
In production and at the sites, Audi’s “Mission: Zero” is in full force – the goal is for all of the company’s locations to achieve net-zero emissions by 2025. The facility in Brussels reached this goal back in 2018, the site in Győr, Hungary in the fall of 2020. And the Audi e-tron GT has been manufactured with net-zero emissions at the Böllinger Höfe site in Neckarsulm, Germany, since December.
Digitization makes even more sustainability possible
Sustainability means more than reducing carbon emissions In addition to the environmental aspects, Audi also assumes social responsibility and is committed to sustainable and transparent corporate governance.
As such, Audi is keeping a close eye on its own supply chain, which currently includes more than 14,000 suppliers in around 60 countries. An intelligent algorithm developed by the Austrian start-up Prewave helps Audi monitor supplier-related messages in more than 50 languages and detect any violations at an early stage.
As such, the AI is acting as an early warning system for sustainability risks in the supply chain and complementing traditional reactive complaint channels such as mailboxes or ombudsmen. “Digitization is thus becoming an enabler of sustainability,” said Große-Loheide.
Audi reimagines the car
Sustainability is currently the hot topic in the automotive industry – and will remain so for decades to come. The days of “faster, higher, farther” are over. “We have a unique opportunity right now to completely reimagine the car, to conceptualize, to design, to interpret,” said Wortmann. “Audi is embracing this responsibility.”