Sustainability is enshrined in Audi’s commitment to Living Progress alongside Design, Digital and Performance. When it comes to sustainability, Audi considers the entire product life cycle – from sustainable sourcing of materials and environmentally-friendly manufacturing of its cars to the carbon footprint of meals available at the company’s cafeterias.
At first glance, it might seem surprising that a car manufacturer is focusing on the sustainability of the food served to its employees. However, a closer look will reveal that sustainability is enhanced when foodstuffs are handled carefully, the environment is protected and storage and transportation is minimised.
Realising that green eating is growing increasingly popular; Audi’s cafeterias are serving 66% more vegetarian and vegan meals than they did two years ago. Meat dishes are still available but not in the amounts that were common in the past.
Today, the portions are more in line with the 200 to 600 grams of meat per week that is recommended by the German Association for Nutrition. Audi employees are also treated to a “meatless Monday” every month, when the cafeterias serve only meat-free meals. Sustainability is enhanced since producing meat has a much higher carbon footprint that cultivating vegetables.
Food waste is also taken seriously. To prevent leftovers through overproduction, chefs plan menus precisely with the help of prognostic data. If there is any waste, Audi finds the most sensible way to use it. For instance, Audi is working on a project in which food waste is dehydrated, composted, and delivered to a biogas plant.
Packaging waste is another concern. One source for it is the packaging in which products are delivered. On this front, Audi works with suppliers to utilise multi-use packaging wherever feasible or have products delivered loose. The other is the materials used when serving food to employees. Since 2020, food is distributed in packaging made from bagasse – a compostable material that is a by-product of sugar cane processing – and unbleached kraft paper as well as bioplastics made from renewable raw materials. There is no plastic in the packaging or takeout utensils anymore. These may look like small steps but when combined with the company’s other sustainability efforts in the transportation of automobile components, Audi achieves a big impact.
Till May 2022, battery modules and cells for the Audi e-tron and Audi e-tron Sportback were transported by truck over approximately 1,300km from Hungary to Belgium. Every day, 12 to 15 fully loaded vehicles set off across Europe. This caravan of trucks is now being replaced by rail transport and is scheduled to be completed by the beginning of 2023. The switch will reduce carbon emissions by around 2,600 tons every year. Wherever possible, Audi uses DB Cargo’s DBeco plus service – for example, currently for the legs of the route in Austria and Germany: The service sources power exclusively from renewable sources such as wind, water, or solar energy, making transport carbon-free. In Hungary and Belgium, Audi uses DBeco neutral. With this product, the power used for transportation is offset by means of climate certificates, reducing carbon emissions elsewhere. However, Audi has its sights on higher objectives.
Audi reinforced its commitment to sustainability by supplying a fully electric fleet for the first time to the annual World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland in May 2022. Comprising Audi e-tron GT, Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron and Audi e-tron quattro models, the all-electric fleet moved some of the world’s top leaders in impressive Audi style.
Audi’s mobile charging containers ensured the cars were charged only with green power. All the charging containers are equipped with processed Audi e-tron batteries taken from development vehicles. This is a sustainable, second-life application that functions as buffer storage on-site and allows for a much higher charging capacity than the local electric grid. Audi had successfully highlighted the importance of sustainability at WEF but it is doing even more.
Audi is taking on the challenge of recycling damaged car windscreens and windows. In this one-year pilot project announced in April 2022, it is recycling damaged glass into new windowpanes to save resources, energy and water in window manufacturing. Audi hopes to use car windows produced in future models. It will be the only process of its kind thus far and complements Audi’s environmental objectives.
By 2025, Audi wants to reduce the environmental impact by 35% per car produced when compared with 2010. The Audi vision is to produce vehicles with no CO₂ emissions or waste water whatsoever. The Brussels (CO₂-neutral) and San José Chiapa (no waste water) plants have already achieved this goal.
Audi is working on decarbonising its supply chain, for instance by rolling out the Aluminum Closed Loop or anchoring the use of green electricity in supplier agreements. Training for all employees in procurement and suppliers to raise awareness of sustainability standards in the supply chain also contributes to achieving this goal.
Additionally, Audi has been a member of the Global Battery Alliance since 2017. The alliance seeks to ensure social and ecological sustainability in the value chain for the raw materials that go into batteries. Among other things, it deals with the conditions under which raw materials are mined and sustainable recycling concepts in the spirit of a circular economy. Members of the alliance also focus on innovations that contribute to battery sustainability.
One of the key topics here is the integration of sustainability requirements into the supply of raw materials. Audi is primarily achieving this by practising due diligence to both environmental and human rights issues along the supply chain.
Audi works relentlessly to conserve natural resources, prevent environmental pollution, and take social responsibility. In short, sustainability is now an integral part of the Audi DNA. Given the urgency of the impending climate crisis, Audi’s actions are very timely and it plans to collaborate with even more partners to ensure a cleaner, greener world.