Complex Made Simple

This is how BMW Group uses CSR to turn into a technology company

During BMW Group Annual Dinner in March, everyone seems to be expecting the annual press conference, where the German car manufacturing company will be announcing their performance for last year.

Milena Pighi, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, hides a handbook in her bag. “I should not be showing this to you as it will only be released tomorrow. Tomorrow everyone will be busy talking about the performance, profit and revenue. But this is the real news”.

She turns the pages of her handbook titled Sustainability Fact Book 2016, and points to fact number 30, reading it out loud, “Since 2006, the BMW Group has reduced its energy consumption per vehicle produced by 35 per cent”.

She flips the page over and points to another fact, “Since 2015, all end-of-life vehicles in the EU and South Korea must be 95 per cent recyclable. The BMW already fulfils these legal requirements for all vehicle registered since 2008”.

Commenting on these results she says, “We have set a target for 2020 to reduce CO2 emission by 50 per cent compared to the year 1995. We aim to do this through different technologies, we will still have internal combustion engine, we will still have diesel and we will continue to improve efficiency and reduce CO2 emission, and a very important role is played by electro mobility and plug in. On a long term, we still consider ourselves a technology company”.

Realizing the changes in the market, BMW Group announced during their annual press conference that they are turning into a technology company, which Milena views as the back bone for the motto they have as the company “BMW Group Responsibility Next Generation”, “We want to shape the next generation of leaders and that’s why we focus on educational programs, technical sustainability and sustainable mobility because we want to cultivate the next generation of young people and young IT engineers. We want to reach out to the youth and make them interested in topics like urban mobility. We work with students on projects leading to sustainable cities and urban mobility with a social impact”.

As part of urban BMW Group-introduced Drive Now, a car sharing service in Europe and US or as Milena calls it “mobility on demand”, “In 2016 we registered 30 million users and our goal is to increase the number of users by 2025 to 100 million users.

“We want to be a premium provider of urban mobility, with this kind of approach we were able to reach a different group of customers, and most of Drive Now users are students. This service gives the users an opportunity to drive the car when they need it using a new technology through the app to identify where the car is parked, and use it for the period that they need. This is becoming more popular and something that you need when it comes to mobility in big cities where there is a lot of traffic”.

Urban mobility is a part of BMW Group three sustainable areas, “we have a holistic approach when it comes to sustainability, in products and services we focus on increasing electro-mobility, reducing CO2 emissions, bringing more urban mobility patterns, another area is production and supply chain and the last area is society and employees.

“When it comes to production it is about clean production and using renewable energy in the production, we also require those sustainable standards from our supply chain which includes around 2000 suppliers”.

This inspires a longer conversation about sustainability and happiness of societies, an area where BMW Group has been working on to enhance people’s life. BMW South Africa financed backpacks for pupils who walk for hours in the morning to get to schools. The bags are made of recycled materials and double as lamps with solar batteries that charge during their walk and they can use at night to do their homework during power outages that are quite common in these areas.

“CSR is not about charity, it is about Impact. Something that my colleagues in South Africa teach me and I really like, is that when they speak about corporate social responsibility they use the terminology “corporate social investment” and that is why, CSR shifted from donations and charity in the past to aligning a CSR strategy with clear goals that allows us to get involved and promote activities that are related to our competence, and we see ourselves not only as sponsors but as co-initiators for projects, programs and activities. And before investing in any activity we define our goals, and a measurement. This is why we talk about a measurable social impact that can really bring some added value in the society. That is why I also like to consider ourselves as agents of social change. We want to create an added value in the society. That is important”.

“When we enter into a market, we first do a social mapping to highlight the social challenges that we face in the areas where we are active, and we look at our competence to define what we can give to this community, and then we look for partners and we develop together long term projects with a clear focus on measurable impact”.

“We use our competence which allows us to be involved in a different way, not only with money but also with skills. Our employees help in mentoring as bonus activities, we also use our networks and involve our dealers and our customers, and this is how CSR becomes a shared value project and not only a one person responsibility”.

Happy to see these initiatives paying off, Milena says. “We started to talk seriously about sustainability in 2001, when we had the first Sustainable Summit in Johannesburg in South Africa, and at this time we said sustainability can be done. It was also our motto. Today after 15 years, I would say not only sustainability can be done, but also sustainability pays off on reputation and brand image and on costs. Since we introduced some measures to reduce water consumption in production, and use of electricity and CO2 emission we were able to cut our costs. Since 2006 and till the end of 2016, we saved EUR155 million through these resource efficiency measures”.

As part of the company’s sustainability efforts they focus on their employees, “from an HR perspective, we are very focused on activities to re-skill our employees by investing on training, while at the same time we help them to achieve work life balance which pays off  in loyalty and high employee retention levels”.