Lesson 1 – Sustainability across the automotive value-chain


The automotive industry is a major industrial and economic global force. However, it’s also responsible for 7.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, with its detrimental impact on the environment impossible to ignore.

The industry is responding at last, with sustainability finally a key strategic priority and many automotive manufacturers adopting electric vehicles in efforts to achieve carbon neutrality. However, a lot of work is still needed if strategies are going to achieve their critical environmental targets[i].

One problem is that execution is often not holistic and therefore can be fragmented and less effective. If we are to achieve planet-saving sustainability, the whole industry needs to come together to review and adapt the entire automotive value chain: from material development and engineering all the way to manufacturing and operations.

Supporting a circular economy can help the automotive industry reduce the lifecycle carbon emissions per passenger km by up to 75% by 2030.

It requires designing out waste from the value chain by reducing or fully eliminating the use of fossil fuels and toxic chemicals and instead using sustainable resources such as:

  • Renewable energy
  • Biodegradable materials
  • Reusable and recyclable materials

While circular systems are already being deployed by 52% of organizations to enhance reuse, sharing, repair, remanufacturing, recycling and end-of-life practices with positive results, these initiatives need to be better applied collaboratively across the entire value chain and given equal importance at every stage.

Domains where the sustainable practices could be implemented:


  • Greener designs / product development, such as lighter, zero emission or electric vehicles
  • Optimized use of natural, recyclable resources. Henkel, for example, uses renewable thermostats in paint shop sealants and coatings
  • Optimizing use of biodegradable components, such as bioplastics


  • Environmentally responsible sourcing of metals, materials and products
  • Implementing mobility and digital sustainability services
  • Lowering emissions
  • Reducing transportation: moving from road to rail


  • Maintenance, quality and production processes to reduce waste and improve recyclability and reuse of materials
  • Renewable energy procurement
  • Using recyclable packaging
  • Implementing waste recycling, easy returns and responsible end of life disposal
  • Collaborative eco production methods. For example, Henkel have created a number of low cure structural adhesives that reduce the manufacturing carbon impact. However, to be successful, the entire production chain needs to support lower temperature processes.


  • Take back vehicle schemes for refurbishment and reuse
  • Making sustainable manufacturing a reality

Mobility is the lifeline of a modern economy. However, as natural resources become scarcer and climate change more impactful, the urgency for the automotive industry to make good on sustainability goals has never been greater.

Collaboration is the key to that effort. The time for being protective about innovation, even with competitors, is over. Sharing information, being transparent and working together to develop, improve and implement sustainable solutions – while emphasizing the need for pragmatic, cost-effective approaches – is the only way we can – together – develop sustainable manufacturing and a healthier planet for all.


[i] https://www.henkel-adhesives.com/ro/en/applications/all-applications/industry-insights/delivering-sustainability-along-the-automotive-value-chain.html

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