Supplier input needed on OEM sustainability

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Automakers and suppliers will have to work together to deliver on the industry’s sustainability goals, leaders from General Motors and BASF Corp. said during a Zoom presentation of the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars on Tuesday.

“People working in the value chain need to collaborate together to make sure we actually work with the right partners,” said Gulay Serhatkulu, BASF senior vice president of performance materials in North America.

“We want the companies we [do] business with to be part of responsible actions as well,” she said. “All stakeholders must unite to transfer this aspiration for a better world to become a reality.”

GM is aiming for at least 50 percent of the materials in its vehicles to be sustainable by 2030. But that goal will only be achieved with the help of suppliers, said Dane Parker, GM’s chief sustainability officer.

“We realize that how we’re going to move the needle together on this is to actually look at the content of the product. How can we innovate around that? And how can we use the technology that’s here, or that’s coming, to make better use of materials that we have, whether they’re metals or plastics, and reuse materials,” he said.

Much vehicle content already can be recycled at the end of its cycle, but the industry has an opportunity to use more sustainable content on the front end, he said.

“It has to be a partnership,” he urged. “There’s huge opportunities for innovation here. Technology is going to enable changes.

“We’re going to see some exciting changes going forward.”

Many of the commitments made by auto companies to reach targets on environmental efforts reflect a shift in the public’s perceptions and desires, said Parker, who took on the GM role on Feb. 1.

“The generation that’s joining the work force… is much more attuned to sustainability,” he said.

Companies realize that they need to prioritize environmental practices for the sake of employee engagement. When employees, investors and customers have the issue at the top of mind, Parker said, “we’re all much more aware of our daily choices and actions.”

GM’s vision of a planet with no vehicle crashes, emissions or congestion is a “moonshot,” he said.

“Things like autonomous electric vehicles are going to be a really important part of that as we go forward. But right now, electric vehicles can be an important part,” he said. “We can build roadmaps within that moonshot that get us step by step by step and take us there.”

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Saurabh Shukla

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