Volkswagen Group South Africa is prioritizing environmental sustainability, aiming to make its Kariega plant carbon-neutral by 2030.
Currently, the company is making significant progress towards this goal. Solar photovoltaic panels installed across its sites can generate 4 488 MWh of electricity annually, with an investment of R34 million. Additional solar panels at the Kariega plant’s employee car park, costing R55 million, will contribute a further 4 500 MWh in generation capacity starting September 2024.
To address water consumption, VWSA has installed rainwater harvesting tanks capable of storing 1.2 million litres of rainwater, supplementing the wastewater recycling facility built on-site in 2021, which reduces freshwater usage in production by 26%. The company has also implemented waste reduction initiatives, resulting in a 5% reduction in landfill waste in 2023. Notable reductions include 17 tonnes of cardboard box waste and 46 tonnes of plastic waste in 2022 and 2023, respectively.
Moreover, VWSA is actively promoting biodiversity through projects like spekboom planting and removing invasive alien plant species at its Kariega sites. These efforts have already led to a 57% reduction in environmental impact compared to 2010 baseline measurements. Key reductions include a 56% decrease in energy usage, 53% in CO₂ emissions, 73% in freshwater usage, and 76% in waste production.
Ulrich Schwabe, VWSA Production Director, emphasized the company’s commitment to minimizing environmental impact across its operations, attributing success to employee contributions. These achievements have earned VWSA international recognition, including the Lean & Green Management Award and the SJM Flex Environmental Award in 2023.
Volkswagen’s sustainability initiatives are crucial not only for environmental protection but also for operational resilience. By harnessing solar energy and implementing water conservation measures, VWSA mitigates the impacts of load shedding and water shortages, ensuring uninterrupted vehicle production.
Volkswagen Group South Africa’s proactive approach to environmental sustainability serves as a noteworthy example for other brands in the automotive industry. By prioritizing renewable energy, water conservation, and waste reduction, VWSA not only minimizes its environmental footprint but also ensures operational resilience in the face of challenges like load shedding and water shortages.
Other brands can take a page out of VWSA’s book by embracing environmental consciousness as a core value. Investing in renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, can significantly reduce reliance on traditional energy grids and mitigate the impact of power disruptions. Similarly, implementing rainwater harvesting systems and wastewater recycling facilities can alleviate pressure on freshwater resources, especially in regions prone to drought.