Volvo Cars, the premium car maker, is updating its business model to a changing world and believes the car industry as a whole needs do to the same, its president and chief executive Håkan Samuelsson has announced.

The announcement was made at the bi-annual meeting of the UN Global Compact Nordic Network in Gothenburg and represents one of the biggest gatherings of Nordic corporate sustainability experts under the auspices of the United Nations. Over 190 delegates from 100 companies and organizations met at Volvo Cars headquarters to discuss how business can support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Volvo Cars is a founding member of the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative of which Real Leaders is also a signatory.

In his opening speech Samuelsson (pictured above) told the gathered delegates that customer expectations and demands are changing and that the car industry will have to change with them. Sustainability is no longer a simple box-ticking exercise, but business-critical as well as a significant business opportunity for those companies that get it right.

“Our customers want safer, more sustainable and convenient cars,” says Samuelsson. “We can meet that demand, be a force for change and grow our business at the same time. I am confident that our next generation of fully autonomous, electrified and connected vehicles will help make the cities of the future cleaner, safer and smarter.”

 

As an example, he underlined the importance of Volvo’s electrification strategy. “We recognize the limitations of the internal combustion engine and the appetite for change in society. That is why we have such an ambitious target when it comes to electrification. Our commitments will not only help protect the environment and make people’s lives better and safer. They also make perfect business sense.”

Volvo Cars is adapting to this new reality by making sustainable business an integral part of its corporate strategy. As part of its sustainability program, the company has identified nine commitments directly supporting the SDGs that were agreed by all UN member states in 2015.

The automaker believes these commitments will contribute to its sustainable profitability and growth. For example, it has committed to having up to 1 million electrified Volvos on the road by 2025, and aims to have climate-neutral manufacturing operations that same year. It has also stated the most ambitious safety vision in the industry: by 2020, no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo.

The company has so far made good progress in reaching these targets: for example, CO2 emissions from its European manufacturing plants have fallen by 70% between 2004 and 2016. It currently offers six plug-in hybrids in its range and plans to make every new model available as an electrified vehicle. New world-leading passive and active safety systems have significantly reduced the risk for traffic accidents and serious injuries for Volvo drivers.

Volvo Cars knows it cannot make progress by itself, so the company is focusing on both private and public partnerships within the sustainable development arena. It cooperates closely with safety organizations and public bodies to share its knowledge and advance traffic safety, it works with both public and private partners in the Drive Me autonomous drive experiment and it joined hands with Stora Enso and the Belgian government to realise a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions at its manufacturing plant in Ghent.

The other commitments within Volvo’s sustainability framework include ensuring no fatalities or serious injuries involving any of its employees or contractors, an aim to be a leader in customer well-being by offering better filters and materials, and promoting a diverse and inclusive company culture.

This week, along with Volvo, Nike, Unilever, Deutsche Bank, Nokia, Nestle and more than 9,000 companies in 170 countries, Real Leaders renewed its commitment to the United Nations Global Compact. As a signatory to this global initiative Real Leaders believes that responsible business practice, combined with collaboration and innovation, can bring about powerful change in markets and society. We have shown that principles and profits go hand in hand, and that thousands of other companies think this way too. You can read our public declaration on the UN Global Compact website here.