Over the next few years, the topic of resource efficiency is going to shift even further into the spotlight at the Volkswagen Group. That is because the sparing use of energy and raw materials makes a major and growing contribution to cost-effectiveness. The Volkswagen brand’s production sites are already pooling their activities under the “Think Blue. Factory.” program, which includes a raft of ambitious measures and ensures that managers and employees at the production plants never lose sight of the objectives. 54
Other Group brands are following their lead and have developed their own concepts to enhance energy and resource efficiency while building employee awareness of these issues.
By 2018, the Volkswagen Group is aiming to have cut specific energy and water requirements, waste volume and CO2 and solvent emissions (VOC) per vehicle by 25%, compared with the 2010 baseline. This goal applies across the board to all the Group’s production sites, and builds on the general production process requirements defined in the Group’s environmental principles. The overarching aim is to minimize the environmental impacts of production. By the end of 2013 we were already half-way to our goal, having cut the environmental impacts of production by 12.5%. This was broken down as follows:

  • energy consumption: –12.5 %
  • CO2 emissions: –19.5 %
  • water consumption: –4.6 %
  • solvent emissions: –12.3 %
  • waste for disposal: –13.8 %

Under the “Think Blue. Factory.” program, new production sites are built in accordance with strict environmental criteria. In existing plants, depending on the age of the production equipment, ecological objectives are met either by replacing or upgrading machinery or by redesigning production processes. The experts in Wolfsburg collaborate closely with each individual factory and devise customized development plans for each site. The “Think Blue. Factory.” toolkit contains various instruments for systematically reducing the ratios and optimizing consumption. A dedicated catalog of 140 guide measures for eco-friendly automobile factories is a key element of this toolkit and the appropriate actions are selected for each plant. This catalog is constantly evolving, because “Think Blue. Factory.” is a dialogue-driven process in which best-practices are rolled out from individual plants to all sites. At the same time, production technology at the factories is also upgraded in line with the latest advances in manufacturing systems and processes. Through this sharing of local best practices, new options and opportunities are continuously being created.
Of the 43 global production sites belonging to the Volkswagen brand, 27 participated in “Think Blue. Factory.” in the reporting period. Between the program’s launch in 2011 and the end of 2013, more than half of the 3,400 planned measures had already been implemented. Since 2010, this clearly defined approach has led to the following interim results for the Volkswagen brand: energy consumption is down 18.5%, CO2 emissions have been reduced by 28.4%, waste volumes are down 30.2%, and water consumption has been cut back by 11.0%. Solvent emissions have increased by 2.7%.

Saving energy in production

In the reporting period, the intranet-based IT tool “Massnahmen@web” documented more than 1,260 measures across the Group to optimize processes in the fields of energy and environment. Energy savings of 381 gigawatt-hours (GWh) and CO2 savings of around 229,000 t were achieved, which translates into cost savings of €28.6 million per annum. Noteworthy success was achieved by all brands in this respect.

Volkswagen. Efficiency measures to reduce energy requirements in production, coupled with local combined heat and power (CHP) plants powered by natural gas, are typical of the energy-saving measures used by the Volkswagen brand. In April 2013, construction work began on a new CHP plant and two boilers at the Braunschweig (Germany) factory. The new systems are driven by a natural gas engine from MAN Diesel & Turbo with around 84% efficiency. With a total output of 46 megawatts (MW), the CHP plant will reduce the Group’s CO2 balance sheet by 30,000 t. The CHP plant at the Zwickau (Germany) factory is already operational, and meets around 35% of the site’s electricity requirements and 50% of its heat requirements, whilst simultaneously reducing the CO2 load by 23,000 t per annum. At the Wolfsburg (Germany) site, the world’s most technically advanced paintshop for plastic vehicle parts is now operational. It uses 50% less energy than the old paintshop, while cutting emissions by an impressive 90%. At the Emden plant, the use of geothermal energy saves 12,000 MWh and therefore reduces CO2 emissions by 1,660 t, while at the same time cutting the annual energy bill by €70,000. At the Bratislava (Slovakia) plant, a pilot project to analyze the use of energy in the paintshop culminated in savings of 49,000 MWh which equates to 9,800 t of CO2, and bringing cost savings of €700,000.
In 2013, Volkswagen was presented with a “Golden Peacock Environment Management Award” by the Indian Institute of Directors for its eco-friendly production at the Pune (India) plant. In March 2013 a state-of-the-art press shop came on stream at the Uitenhage plant in South Africa. The new facility forms the core of an extensive range of measures that have made Uitenhage one of the most eco-friendly production plants in the southern hemisphere. These include aspects such as the use of recycling-friendly materials, a lighting system equipped with presence detectors, and a stormwater retention basin. In 2012 this already led to us winning the title of “Greenest Manufacturer” from the South African Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

The new press shop in Uitenhage meets the highest environmental standards.

ŠKODA. In July 2013 ŠKODA brought a new combined heat and power (CHP) plant on stream at its production plant in Kvasiny (Czech Republic). The CHP plant will cut annual CO2 emissions by 10% or 8,000 t. Power and heat are generated by a gas engine, with the heat being used to warm up the water for the heating system.

Green IT

The optimization of IT and telecommunications infrastructures and equipment offers great potential for improving resource and energy efficiency. One example here is the iDOMP global tender process for printers. This will gradually lead to a 32% improvement in energy efficiency across the printer fleet as a whole, compared to the printers replaced, resulting in annual energy savings of 2.18 GWh. At Audi the new data center which went live in November 2012 in Ingolstadt (Germany) is boosting the energy efficiency of the IT systems by one-third. An indirect outdoor cooling system uses outside air to cool the servers at ambient temperatures of up to 11 °C. 56

The Group already obtains around one third of its electricity from renewable sources.

Renewables Drive Production

Between now and 2020, the Volkswagen Group is planning to invest some €600 million in widening its use of renewable energy resources: hydropower, wind power, biomass and photovoltaics. Around one third of our global electricity consumption already comes from regenerative sources, and a number of pioneering projects based on renewables are already up and running.
The Volkswagen Emden plant is a showcase example implementing the “Think Blue. Factory.” concept with a unique combination of renewables. Alongside the world’s largest geothermal field, the site not only uses solar power, biomass, cogeneration and wind power, but is also one of the Group’s first production sites to use innovative hydraulic energy storage. In January 2013 the Volkswagen brand brought on stream what was at the time the world’s largest solar power plant. The Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park generates a peak output of 9.5 MW and it remains the largest solar power plant operated by an automaker in the USA. Its approximately 33,600 solar panels are expected to yield around 13,100 MWh per annum, which would cover 13% of Chattanooga’s electricity requirements at full production capacity.
The Group also meets its targets by purchasing green electricity: since the beginning of 2013, 100% of the electricity purchased by Volkswagen Slovakia has been from renewable sources, thereby reducing its indirect CO2 emissions by 22%. In September 2013, Volkswagen de México signed an agreement with the power utility Mexico Power Group to purchase an annual average of 290,000 MWh of green power. This will be generated by the La Bufa wind farm in Zacatecas state, scheduled to go on stream in September 2014. This green electricity would cover around 60% of demand at the Puebla and Silao plants, and reduce the CO2 balance sheet by 140,000 t each year.
The Polkowice (Poland) site converted to 100% hydro power back in 2011. Heat is supplied as district heating by an efficient gas and steam power plant. The remaining CO2 emissions are completely compensated by the reforestation of land directly adjacent to the Motor Polska factory, which entailed the planting of 59,820 trees in 6.82 hectares of forest in cooperation with the local forestry commission.
“SEAT al Sol”, currently the world’s largest photovoltaic plant in the automotive sector, came on stream in November 2013. The plant comprises 52,827 solar panels with a maximum rated output of 10.6 MW, and covers an area of 276,000 m2 on the roofs of six halls and four storage areas for finished vehicles. In its first year of operation, “SEAT al Sol” generated 17,629,086 kWh of energy at full capacity, exceeding its planned output by 18%. This in turn reduced CO2 emissions by 7,000 t. SEAT has also signed a green energy supply contract with certificates guaranteeing that the energy will originate from 100% renewable sources or high-efficiency cogeneration, helping to prevent emissions of CO2 and other pollutants.
At its site in Crewe, Bentley Motors constructed the UK’s largest rooftop photovoltaic plant in 2013. The 20,000 solar modules have a rated output of 5 MW, covering around 40% of the factory’s power demand, and potentially saving 2,500 t of CO2 emissions at the same time.

“SEAT al Sol” is the world’s largest photovoltaic plant in the automobile industry.

Over 90% of water consumption happens in the upstream material production and supply processes.

Focus on Water Management

As part of its mission to become the world’s most eco-friendly manufacturer, the Group is aiming to reduce freshwater consumption at all its brands by 25% by 2018 (base year: 2010). The high volumes of cooling water used in automotive production offer scope for reduction. Based on the comprehensive data collated in our Life  Cycle Assessments, we have undertaken a pioneering analysis of our water footprint, and identified the processes that consume the most water over the life cycle of representative Volkswagen brand models. Unlike CO2, detailed analysis of the water footprint reveals that the use phase plays only a minor role. 96% of water consumption is attributable to the production process, most of it upstream and a mere 10% in our own factories. Our scientific paper on this topic won an award from the Environmental Science & Technology Journal during the reporting period. We are currently refining our techniques to enable them to be used on a larger scale in future. Throughout every aspect of our water management strategy, we remain mindful of the fact that water resource availability varies significantly from one region to the next, and solutions must be adapted accordingly. In the current reporting period, for the first time the Volkswagen Group managed to compute the proportion of water recovered and reused. Given the large number of sites and the complex production processes, this was just the first step in a systematic inventory. 45 sites have already submitted data, and together they used 3.8 million cubic meters of recycled water, corresponding to 8% of their combined freshwater uptake.

There is a limit to the extent that water use in production can be continuously reduced by technical means. So it is important to reuse water as often as possible, or to operate a closed cycle. This principle is already in use at many of the Group’s sites worldwide. Our treatment plants employ innovative membrane or evaporator techniques, allowing the bulk of the process water to be reused. This way, more than 95% of the water remains in the cycle, or else is used for cooling, flushing toilets, and garden irrigation. As a result, we are very close to achieving our vision of a virtually wastewater-free factory at a number of sites.
The Salzgitter (Germany) site treats all its industrial wastewater and recycles it completely. The recycled water is used, for example, in the production of emulsions. Thus, in the engine plant, an evaporator system is used to extract most of the water from oily wastewater. Once separated, the condensate can be used in its entirety to produce new emulsions and detergents. The remaining oil concentrate is either used as lubricating oil, or thermally recycled in our own power plant. This has led to annual water savings of around 30,000 m³. At our Braunschweig (Germany) plant, a conductance-controlled water spray metering system in the paintshop saves 34,380 m³ of water, reducing overall costs by around €232,000.
At our Pune (India) plant, more than 99% of all biodegradable materials are removed using state-of-the-art biological wastewater treatment technologies such as a membrane bio-reactor, allowing water to be reused on-site. Almost 100% of the wastewater is returned to the cycle. In 2013, Volkswagen India was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by the Triveni Water Institute of the Confederation of Indian Industry. The Pune plant uses special taps which can reduce freshwater consumption by 75%; these have proven highly efficient. In Bratislava (Slovakia), in collaboration with Comenius University, we have established a crayfish farm which is supplied with treated wastewater from the Volkswagen plant. The farm provides optimum conditions for this endangered species.

In 2012, Bentley succeeded in reducing water consumption at its Crewe (England) site by an impressive 36% year-on-year, thanks to extensive water treatment programs, and in October 2013 was the first automaker to be awarded the “Carbon Trust Water Standard” certificate by the UK organization Carbon Trust in recognition of this achievement.

Reducing Solvent Emissions

Our paintshops use innovative waste air treatment techniques. New application techniques also reduce the use of rinsing aids. In Pamplona (Spain), for example, the Volkswagen brand has reduced bonding agent waste to zero as part of the “Think Blue. Factory.” program. The plastic parts paintshop, which began operation at the Wolfsburg plant in August 2013, has reduced energy consumption by up to 50% and emissions by an impressive 90%. Every day, the 120 employees paint up to 4,000 bumpers and other plastic parts.

The new plastics paintshop in Wolfsburg.

Waste Prevention and Recycling

A successful waste strategy is in force throughout all Volkswagen plants, helping to reduce and prevent waste. At our Pamplona plant, as part of the “Think Blue. Factory.” program, for example, research is underway to analyze waste-producing processes and devise new procedures. Adhesive residues, paint sludge and wastewater have already been successfully reduced. In this way, waste volumes at the site have been cut by more than 60% since 2010.
We are one of only a handful of manufacturers to incorporate the supply of spare parts into our sustainability strategy. For example, the Volkswagen brand’s sites in Kassel (Germany) and Dalian (China) use a high-quality industrial process to remanufacture replacement parts such as engines and gearboxes, restoring them to as-new condition. Producing a remanufactured gearbox, for example, uses one third less primary energy than manufacturing a new one.

Since the Genuine Remanufactured Parts Program was launched in 1947, some 7.9 million engines, 2.9 million gearboxes and more than 78 million other vehicle components have been given a new lease of life. The benefit for customers is that genuine remanufactured parts are, on average, 40% cheaper than their new counterparts, yet offer the same quality, functionality and manufacturer’s warranty. As well as benefiting customers, this program is also good news for the environment: in the case of engines, for example, up to 70% of materials are reusable. So remanufacturing engines alone saves around 7,000 t of steel per annum.

New Volkswagen vehicles contain around one third recycled material.

The Volkswagen brand views recycling as an integral part of vehicle development, with the outcome that 85% of each new vehicle can be recycled and 95% recovered. New Volkswagen vehicles currently contain around one third recycled material. Take the Golf 7, for example: a certified calculation method computes the share of recycled material at between 34 and 35%. In order to ensure that this resource is still viable at the end of a lengthy service life, the brand is committed to the development of cutting-edge recycling technologies for end-of-life vehicles and their parts. Examples include the patented, multiple award-winning VW SiCon technique for processing shredder residues, and the LithoRec research project on the recycling of lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles. 57
Wherever possible, the Group’s brands use renewable raw materials and recycled materials in their automobile production. For example, Volkswagen do Brasil has collaborated with u niversities and suppliers to develop a technique for processing natural curaua fibers for use in the production of door trim and parcel shelves. Recycled PET can also be used as a plastic in vehicle production, for example in seat covers. 5859


Waste fractions   Circulated   Return rate   Recovery rate  
Paper, board, card 6,445 t 93.7% 84.3%
Plastics, total 1,035 t 98.8% 65.2%
Metals 99 t 164.7% 148.2%
Wood 543 t 35.9% not surveyed


Optimizing Logistics

Intermodal transport links at least two modes of transport (road, rail, ship) together. This approach is used to transport materials because suppliers do not always have their own rail link. In intermodal transport, a crane traditionally transships containers from a truck onto a train and vice versa. New transshipment technology eliminates the need for a crane, allowing freight operators to switch flexibly between modes of transport, regardless of location. The CargoBeamer pilot project aims to relocate a large proportion of the 1,000 or so truckloads heading for the Wolfsburg site each day from the roads onto the rails, and thereby significantly reduce CO2 emissions from our logistical processes. In the reporting period, the cooperation partners Volkswagen AG and CargoBeamer AG received the 2013 elogistics award from AKJ Automotive for construction of the CargoBeamer terminal. Some shipments of material for series produc tion already use intermodal transport. Relocating from road to rail is expected to cut CO2 emissions by 60% and energy consumption by 70%.
Audi is continuously refining its logistics to save energy and minimize CO2 emissions, and that includes the transport of finished vehicles. Wherever financially viable and technically feasible, Audi is committed to the use of rail freight. Across the Audi Group, more than 60% of vehicles leave the factories by rail. For selected models from the brand’s Ingolstadt plant, more than 70% are transported by rail, half of them on trains powered by renewable electricity. In 2010, Audi became the first company in Germany to sign up to the carbon-neutral “Eco Plus” rail freight service offered by DB Schenker. For this product, the German rail operator Deutsche Bahn purchases additional green power for its domestic routes. Technical inspectorate TÜV SÜD has analyzed the CO2 neutrality of Eco Plus and confirmed that 100% of the energy supplied is used for rail shipment of Audi vehicles and has no negative impact on the green power mix of other rail customers.

2008 saw the inauguration of SEAT Autometro, a rail link between the brand’s Martorell plant and the port of Barcelona (Spain). SEAT currently exports more than 40% of its vehicles by sea. At full capacity, the train can transport more than 105,000 vehicles a year to Barcelona. In 2009, Autometro was joined by Cargometro, linking the Martorell plant to the factory in the free port zone (Zona Franca). Together, the two rail links take around 57,000 truck journeys off the road each year, eliminating 2,600 t of CO2 emissions.

SEAT Autometro connects the Martorell plant to the port of Barcelona.

Conserving Biological Diversity

Alongside climate change, the drastic loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity is one of the greatest challenges facing us today. At Volkswagen, protecting these natural assets is one of our declared aims – one that prompted us to become a founding member of the “Biodiversity in Good Company” initiative. 60

In 2008, the Volkswagen Group published a Mission Statement outlining its commitment to the conservation of biodiversity.

Biodiversity management is complex, and affects the entire value chain. Our factories offer the greatest scope for direct influence. When building or extending its production facilities, the Group gives preference to brownfield sites to help minimize land sealing. Furthermore, since 2010 we have been analyzing the potential ecological risks at our sites and identifying adjacent land with a high biodiversity value. All production sites in Germany and Europe in the immediate vicinity of protected areas have been identified. During 2013, there were no known cases of Volkswagen’s activities endangering the natural habitats of species on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

Collaboration for Biodiversity

For over a decade, we have been in dialogue with the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union NABU, and have collaborated on joint nature conservation projects. In June 2013, we extended this partnership until 2015. Working closely with NABU, we are committed to using energy and resources more sparingly, and to protecting our moorlands. Because moorlands store greenhouse gases, and are often home to endangered species, moorland conservation is an excellent example of combining nature conservation with climate protection.
NABU and Volkswagen Leasing have been campaigning for moorland protection in Germany since 2009. Volkswagen Leasing donated €1.6 million to help set up the German Moorland Protection Fund, created in 2011. August 2013 saw the completion of a project in the “Weißer Graben” nature conservation area  in Lower Saxony (Germany). This was the first phase in a larger project for the rewetting of dried-out areas in the Lower Saxony Lichtenmoor moorlands.
Since 2006, Volkswagen de México has been funding scientific research into Mexico’s species diversity as well as a number of specific conservation projects, under the motto “Por Amor al Planeta” (For love of the planet). By 2013, €30,000 had been awarded to eight individual Mexican scientists in recognition of their services to species conservation in Mexico and to support their ongoing work. Each year, the same amount is awarded to a nature conservation project, sometimes extending over several years. Three such projects have been funded in this way since 2006, making Volkswagen de México the most important private donor to biodiversity issues in Mexico.

Afforestation and Tree Planting

Forests are particularly important to biodiversity because of their function as CO2 sinks and habitats. In 2013, Volkswagen supported NABU’s work to convert coniferous forest into species-rich mixed woodland in the Biesenthal Basin near Berlin. Ever since 2007, for every ŠKODA vehicle sold in the Czech Republic, the brand, assisted by its employees and their families, has planted a tree in the regions where it operates. In 2013 that meant almost 60,000 seedlings, bringing the overall total to 423,000 trees planted in cooperation with more than 50 local partners. Tree planting is also an opportunity to sensitize local employees to nature conservation issues. At the Kaluga factory of Volkswagen Group Rus, employees took part in a mass maple planting in May 2013, having planted 100 lime trees in the factory grounds the year before. In October 2013, employees and their families planted 200 willows along the banks of the River Aller in Wolfsburg, while in Zwickau, the children of employees planted trees in a biotope adjacent to the factory premises.
The Audi Environment Foundation, established in 2009, likewise focuses on nature conservation. Since January 2013, the Foundation has been supporting the Steigerwald Sustainability Center founded by the Bavarian government near Schweinfurt, Germany. Over the next five years, the Foundation has committed an initial sum of €100,000 to a number of its own projects.