A few weeks ago, Donald Trump announced that the USA would be withdrawing from the Paris Accord — the international agreement to take action on climate change that’s been signed by 195 countries. The move met with widespread condemnation, particularly in Europe. But many experts are now suggesting that The Donald’s decision might not be as devastating as was first imagined. They point to the fact that major companies are aggressively limiting their own environmental impact.
Take SEAT, for example.
On 5th June, SEAT announced its intention of halving its environmental footprint by 2025. For an automotive manufacturer, that might sound impossible in such a short time scale. But given SEAT’s previous record, we wouldn’t bet against it. The company has already exceeded its previous environmental target, two years ahead of schedule: by the end of 2016, SEAT had reduced its footprint by 33.6%, compared to its target of 25% by 2018.
How have SEAT’s management achieved such huge improvements? Well, a 23 million Euro investment in improving environmental performance has certainly helped. But it’s also down to clever and innovative thinking, which has impacted on every aspect of how the company is run.
There’s the big stuff, like their SEAT al Sol solar power plant. It’s the largest in the car industry, comprising 53,ooo solar panels over an area the size of 40 football pitches. That alone has saved a massive 8,300 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. Then there’s the manufacturing process, where the company has lowered the temperature of certain stages, tightened up their rain-testing procedures and substituted some of their waxes and solvents. Measures like these have contributed to water and energy consumption dropping by a fifth, and substantially reduced use of volatile organic compounds. But SEAT’s commitment even extends to the lighting on their access bridges. Solar tiles on the bridges at the Martorell factory generate enough electricity to be self-sustaining.
What this all adds up to is a company that’s serious about sustainability. SEAT reckons that compared to other European car manufacturers, producing one of their vehicles:
- consumes half as much energy
- uses 23% less water
- emits 65% less CO2
That’s not only good for the planet, its good for business. Modern consumers are savvy about a company’s environmental credentials, and these increasingly influence their buying decisions.
So it turns out that in the fight to save the planet, governments may play second fiddle to good old market forces. Many car buyers are making pro-environmental choices with their wallets — and SEAT may reap the benefits.