COP17 provided the perfect platform for BMW to launch its e-mobility strategy for South Africa – making it the first auto manufacturer to do so. Importantly, the company’s commitment to a green, sustainable South African future goes much further… 

As detailed elsewhere in this issue, the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) drew the world’s eager eyes to Durban last year. As such, the BMW Group used its BMW Group Sustainable Future Conference – a side event to COP17 – to announce three major sustainability initiatives in South Africa.

Voted the “World’s Most Sustainable Carmaker” for seven consecutive years by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, the BMW Group takes a three-level approach to sustainability: economic, environmental and social.

BMW has for almost four decades had significant interests in South Africa – its 3 Series cars being built for local and export markets at the company’s Plant Rosslyn, outside Pretoria, the first BMW plant ever established outside Germany. Now BMW is again giving back to this country.

“The leaps in efficiency demanded by climate change require both evolutionary improvements to vehicles and a radical new approach,” said Bodo Donauer, managing director of BMW South Africa. “In that regard, I’m proud to announce that the BMW Group will become the first manufacturer to bring e-mobility (electric mobility) to South African roads in 2012.”

A series of countrywide road shows in the first half of this year kick off the initiative, giving customers the opportunity to experience the electric MINI E. Information about local customers’ e-mobility requirements will be gathered, and infrastructural hurdles South Africa needs to overcome to adopt the technology as a viable means of reducing CO2 emissions highlighted.

“Sustainability throughout the entire value chain, comprehensive product responsibility and a clear commitment to resource conservation go hand in hand with the success of the BMW Group,” added Dr Rainer Feurer, BMW Group vice-president corporate strategy and planning, environment. Having already halved the Rosslyn plant’s energy usage and emissions since 2006 (saving more than R50 million in energy costs), the company will this year partner the City of Tshwane in a “waste-to-energy” project.

This will utilise methane gas converted from unusable organic waste at a landfill site in Onderstepoort, which will be piped approximately eight kilometres to BMW Plant Rosslyn.

Depending on quantity, the gas will be used to either produce electricity via gas-powered generators or supplement the usage of natural gas in the production process. Indications are that there’s enough green waste at the site to cater for approximately 40 percent of Plant Rosslyn’s gas requirements. “This is a vital step in a process that will see all of the Rosslyn plant’s energy requirements supplied from renewable resources in the future,” noted Donauer enthusiastically.

Not that the company is thinking only of its own future. Said Donauer: “I’m delighted to announce that the company’s highly successful BMW Maths, Science and Technology Excellence Project will be implemented at two high and three primary schools in the Nyavini district, south of Durban.” Those schools will also be incorporated into the BMW School Environmental Educational Development (SEED) Programme, which teaches pupils about a sustainable lifestyle, including farming techniques, taking care of their surroundings and entrepreneurial skills. Produce from SEED gardens will ensure pupils receive at least one nutritious meal each day.

Finally, in a public/private partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, a clinic will be built focusing on HIV/Aids testing, counselling, treatment and mitigation in the district. Modelled on the clinic built by the BMW Group in Soshanguve in 2005, this clinic will also provide fundamental healthcare to the community, which is 50 km from the nearest hospital. 

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