Volkswagen Creatively Counters its Carbon Footprint



2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

Every day, companies churn out billions of products to serve all walks of life. As consumers, we almost always see and experience the end product, but rarely do we think about what it takes to make the product.

When you drive your car do you ever think about all the manufacturing processes that went into it? What about all the emissions that stem from said manufacturing? From minerals and raw materials to production and consumer use, plus recycling efforts, all of these emissions add up in a hurry. When fossil fuels burn, they produce carbon dioxide. Production of coal, natural gas and oil generate methane. Fossil fuel combustion produces nitrous oxide. The list goes on. Companies have emissions requirements they’re expected to meet, but many times they either surpass these thresholds or simply want to reduce their overall carbon footprint. Recently, we had a chance to take a trip to Northern California to see an example of what a huge company like Volkswagen does to help with sustainability and reduce its emissions impact.

For starters, the entire Volkswagen group has very ambitious strategies that seem to go above and beyond what a standard company might do to help the environment. The automaker plans to reduce its passenger vehicle carbon dioxide emissions by 90% by 2050. That might seem a ways out, but a 90% reduction is massive. VW plans to improve fuel efficiency during each vehicle redesign by 10-15 percent. From 2010 to 2020, the company’s greenhouse gas emissions due to production are set to be reduced around 40 percent. E-mobility — personal transportation powered by electricity instead of internal combustion — is also a critical factor in sustainability for most automakers. Fuel cell, battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles can all contribute, provided a company can achieve efficient production and recycling processes. Volkswagen Group engineers are working on electrifying 40 different models, with many of them already in markets worldwide. The automaker will also invest $10 million dollars in charging infrastructure throughout the U.S. by 2016.

Despite these efforts, the reality is there are tens of millions of vehicles produced every year globally, with the VW Group producing millions all by itself. This brings us to carbon offsets, one of the most effective ways to help a large corporation reduce environmental impact. Essentially, an offset is a “credit” of sorts. A company can buy carbon offsets through projects that help reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. While offsets are voluntary, emissions limits aren’t, so this is an effective way to help meet emissions limits and do some good for the planet in general.

For this particular trip and in this instance, Volkswagen is working with 3degrees and The Conservation Fund, two companies leading projects at the Garcia River Forest to reduce logging impact, protect wildlife and other conservation efforts. These Garcia River Forest projects help preserve a roughly 24,000 square foot forest area, with emission reductions actually checked and monitored by an independent third party to ensure accurate assessment of these efforts. 3degrees acts as a ‘broker’ for offset projects, while The Garcia River Forest is owned by The Conservation Fund, a non-profit, who bought the area in 2004. We had an opportunity to talk with the wonderful folks from the Conservation Fund, who answered all sorts of questions about native redwood trees, endangered fish, and more. The end-goal for The Conservation Fund is to ensure business is able to be conducted in a sustainable way in the forest while still preserving and growing the habitat.