Marketing and Comms
Volkswagen Wants Brands, Plants to 'Think Blue' for Sustainability Leadership

Volkswagen finished last of the global automakers that occupied five of the top seven spots in Interbrand's recently released Best Global Green Brands 2013 report. That was a pretty good showing, but the German giant seems determined to hoist itself even higher in terms of the effectiveness of its sustainability efforts — and regard for them — around the globe.

In fact, according to Automotive News, Volkswagen is determined to "become the world's greenest automaker" as well as, by 2018, its highest-selling. "VW has set ambitious targets for CO2 reduction and more efficient energy use."

The impetus for this strategic priority, of course, is coming from the top, from Germany, where sustainability initiatives have been grouped into an initiative called Think Blue ("Blue" instead of "green" because, VW executives explain, mostly what you see of Earth from space is blue). And corporate executives are pushing goals and means for Think Blue across all VW-owned brands.

"All of the aspects of the integrated program, including objectives, responsiblities, individual operating figures, time frames and communication measures, are basically suited to the other VW Group brands [besides Volkswagen] to the same degree," Michael Macht, the company's production chief, told Automotive News Europe. "Responsibilty for the implementation lies with brands."

And when it comes to Volkswagen-owned brands, Think Blue is vastly more than an initiative to make vehicles more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly overall. It includes a thorough commitment to make Volkswagen's production facilities as green as possible as well.

To that end, for instance, Macht noted that "the highest possible ecological requirements were met" in construction of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., that produces the Passat sedan. In fact, the facility has become the first and only LEED Platinum certified auto plant worldwide. Steps integrated at the Chattanooga plant include a 33-acre solar-panel park adjacent to the plant, which provides about 12 percent of the facility's electric-energy requirements; a storm-water management plan that makes extensive use of collected water for cooling robots and even flushing toilets; a system for focusing heating and air conditioning in the plant at floor level where workers are concentrated instead of wasting it in the plant's upper reaches; six-inch insulation of the plant, which exceeds typical US factory standards; and many others.

"There's not a lot of potential to influence global warming in the manufaturing process" compared with vehicle emissions, Guenther Scherelis, general manager of communications at the plant, told journalists there recently. "But we can influence the carbon-dioxide [output] with our processes, equipment and [by] saving energy and raw materials."

This post first appeared on Brandchannel on July 4, 2013.

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