Volvo puts sustainability at its core

As we have written before, there’s something in the water in Scandinavia, which makes people more in-tune with nature, and keen to innovate in ways which are more sustainable for the planet.

Founded in 1927, Volvo is one of Sweden’s oldest and most successful forays into the automotive industry. Almost a century of creating cars and it’s still coming up with new ideas to accelerate their drive to greater sustainability.

Cars are a big deal for the Swedes, with automotive exports worth 13 per cent of the country’s GDP. Why is Volvo going green with the all-electric XC40 Recharge, and where will it take them?

Volvo knows we are part of the problem; none of us individually have the answer. It’s collectively discussing and working out what we can do, and then really challenging ourselves, and challenging what we’ve got today to make a difference. I think that’s how we’ll get to reach our goals.

-Nicole Melillo Shaw, Consumer Director of Volvo UK

Safety and sustainability

Volvo is at a crossroads, and has decided to take its customers down a greener path. It sees sustainability as being every bit as crucial as the safety standards of every car it produces. The car manufacturer aims to start as it means to go on, reducing its carbon footprint by 40 per cent by 2025, as compared with 2018 levels. This is just one step on the way to Volvo becoming an all-electric car company by 2030. It doesn’t end here, as Volvo intends to become fully carbon-neutral by 2040.

The Volvo Car HQ in Gothenburg, Sweden, has been at the forefront of this new agenda. Meals in the HQ canteen are served to employees with printed stickers, telling them which dishes have the larger carbon footprints. The canteen also makes use of recycled car parts, such as unused airbags being fashioned into lampshades, as well as chairs upcycled from existing car seat material which went unused.

To impress the importance of a more sustainable way of doing business, Volvo has eliminated the availability of single-use plastic in the various offices it has around the world.

Volvo’s efforts to become more sustainable haven’t gone unnoticed: EcoVadis, one of the leading providers of corporate sustainability assessments, concluded that Volvo Cars should receive one of the highest ratings it can offer. The Swedish car manufacturer was awarded an Advanced ranking and a Platinum Medal by EcoVadis for providing evidence of its green credentials.

The XC40 Recharge

One of Volvo’s latest announced models, the XC40 Recharge, is precisely one of the ways Volvo intends to become greener. With an interior moulded out of 97 per cent recycled material, a battery which can reach 80 per cent capacity in just 40 minutes and much more, the XC40 Recharge offers a sneak-peek at where the future of EVs is heading.

The XC40 Recharge is expected to be able to manage a long-range journey of 259 miles on a single charge and go from 0-60mph in just 4.7 seconds. If this model is anything to go by, Volvo is moving into creating increasingly sophisticated machines which offer hands-free use while driving by integrating dashboard screens with Google Assistant. Ask it nicely, for example, and the next charging point on your journey will reveal itself on Google Maps in next to no time at all.

It may be a cliché, but in the case of Volvo, in their own words, once you realise you are part of the problem, you can become the solution.

Rethinking sustainability

Volvo hosted a Rethinking Sustainability summit in late June 2021, which focused on how the need for sustainability would be reflected in the automotive sector, as well as in food and fashion.

At the summit, Nicole Melillo Shaw, Consumer Director of Volvo UK, was part of a panel of experts present and during a moderated discussion, she admitted: “Volvo knows we are part of the problem; none of us individually have the answer. It’s collectively discussing and working out what we can do, and then really challenging ourselves, and challenging what we’ve got today to make a difference. I think that’s how we’ll get to reach our goals.”

Volvo is using the coming years to make a loud and clear statement of intent: it has started at its own front door, and is not only keen to produce award-winning cars which go further and faster than before. It also intends to change the way it approaches car manufacturing, from what its employees eat to the circular economy loop it uses, all the way to ensuring its cars only use mostly recycled plastic material where possible.

Nicole added: “I’ve been reflecting on safety being about protection, and that link into sustainability is a nice one. Protecting people and protecting the environment, that is a really key driving force behind what we want to do as a business moving forward.”

By addressing its own impact on the planet, Volvo is offering an innovative solution of its own. As with some of the best things in the car world, there’s more impressive work going on under the hood at Volvo.

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