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February 25, 2021

How we’re bringing our sustainability strategy to life

We introduced our new Attribute Centres earlier this year. Today, we’re doing our first deep dive into what we want the centres to achieve, starting with Sustainability.

The three hubs – Safety, Sustainability and Personal – have been created to take responsibility for our company's strategic direction. And in close collaboration with the design and release areas, they'll translate it into technical solutions to ensure that we deliver products that truly give our customers freedom to move.


Gisela Blomkvist, who leads the Sustainability Attribute Centre, is excited to get things started in her area; one which she believes is critical for our success as a company – and for the greater good.


"If we look at the world we live in, we see climate changes and a threat of a global warming hanging over us, therefore the time to act is now," says Gisela. "Volvo is not only aiming to take part in the changes needed, we have set out to take leadership."


It's this industry-leading mindset that led us to communicate our ambition to be climate-neutral by 2040 – our sustainability teams have already defined the next steps:


"In 2021, all product streams will have a plan for their development towards increased sustainability with a view to the 2025 targets: 50 per cent reduced tail-pipe emissions, a 25 per cent reduction of CO2 in supply chain, and having 25 per cent of our cars made of recycled material."


Like with our approach to safety, our sustainability tactics always start with data. "Our desire is that we should take the lead with pride, in the certainty that our decisions are based on science and research with regard and care for both the environment and humanity," says Gisela.


There's a lot to accomplish, so the structure of the Sustainability Attribute Centre injects sustainability into every area of our products' lifecycles, and every part of our working environment.


"It could be difficult for all developers to cover all perspectives of leadership in sustainability, so this is where we help," says Gisela. "We take ownership to understand what steps need to be taken and when. Together with the design engineers, this is translated to technical solutions in the developing functions. We inspire, guide and advise – always in collaboration with those who design the different parts of the car."


Gisela stresses that collaboration is critical to the success of our sustainability goals. The Sustainability Attribute Team has a close dialogue with many teams, including the entire Global Sustainability team led by Anders Kärrberg; with Design, to discuss alternative materials and more energy-efficient car designs; and with Procurement, to secure suppliers who use climate neutral energy.


They also work alongside the teams in the Open Innovation Arena to delve into innovative, rapid technology developments. The Gothenburg Green City Zone project is one example of this – where Volvo Cars has an active role in the planning process of an area in Gothenburg that will be completely emission-free, with connected infrastructure and myriad climate-neutral transportation modes.


This new structure is working towards future company goals and the team already has some pretty impressive achievements under its belt.


"We have taken a large step in our flow of material evaluation, like biobased and recycled material," says Gisela. "We gather new material from all possible sources, including China and North America, and mount it in existing cars and expose them in the sun simulation test rig in Arendal. We have now linked the method to our virtual test methods so that we can increase the looping speed and work in earlier phases."


"We are proud of the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) we conducted of the XC40," says Gisela. "We have gone through the whole car, calculating the CO2 footprint for fully electric and hybrid versions. This analysis guides us in the work to make sure we allocate resources where they have the greatest impact on sustainability."


"It's challenging to be a company that is at the forefront. Some ideas may feel hard to stand behind when first heard of, like when we announced that we were to downsize our engines and limit to four cylinders. But since then we have seen many car manufacturers follow suit. Now we are saying that electric drive is the way forward – let's see how we lead the way there."