2019 has been one of the hottest years in recent decades, marking a new milestone in the worldwide increase in greenhouse gas emissions and extreme weather events. The transportation sector alone is responsible for 23% of CO2 emissions worldwide. Although much has already been done to make mobility compatible with sustainable development, an immense challenge remains.
In response, the Michelin Group, a true pioneer in sustainable mobility, is moving fast and looking far ahead. Our objective is for all our plants across the world to emit zero CO2 emissions by 2050. Another goal: reduce tire-related energy consumption per kilometer traveled by 20% by 2030. The Group’s strategy is in line with the Paris Agreement signed at the COP21 in 2015 to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. It is a concrete response to a global objective: the decarbonization of the transport sector by 2050.
We are putting this roadmap into action every day. How? Through a strategy that includes every stage of the product life cycle, from production and logistics, to how customers use tires and the development of new forms of mobility.
Accelerating the energy transition in our plants
To reduce the carbon footprint of our Production at a global level, Michelin developed a strategy founded on two pillars: consume less, and implement an energy transition. This strategy has already had concrete and positive effects: in Europe, 85% of our plants are powered by electricity that is guaranteed to come from renewable sources. Between 2010 and 2018, we reduced CO2 emissions by 22%.
In the future, we will pursue these efforts by improving the energy-efficiency of our industrial tools, using more renewable energy, and eliminating coal: currently, 5 out of 70 of the Group’s sites around the world are still coal-fired. We have already launched studies to evaluate the feasibility of replacing coal with another source of primary energy, such as gas or biomass. All our plants will phase out the use of coal by 2030 at the latest.
Transport less, transport better, transport differently
In Logistics, our top priority is reducing the impact of transportation on the environment. To do this, we must do three things: transport less, transport better, and transport differently. This principle applies to the company’s internal organization as well outside of it.
Transporting less simply means that the best form of transportation is one that isn’t used. We can do this by restricting our product sales area to the level of the production site, thereby reducing the distance traveled and limiting the number of trips.
Michelin’s commitment to “better transport” entails using increasingly efficient transport (such as avoiding empty runs, for example) that is pooled and takes an intermodal approach. Several initiatives around the world illustrate this: a train between Poland and Germany is now replacing trucks, thus preventing the production of 42 tons of CO2 per week, the equivalent of 70,000 km traveled by road. And some of our products are now shipped between Canada and the United States by boat instead of by road.
Each and every day, Michelin designs alternative modes of transport that are more environmentally friendly. In Europe, our deliveries to customers are now combined with other freight deliveries. This is what we mean by transporting differently.
A strategy that extends to the customer experience
Our ongoing efforts to reduce carbon emissions naturally extend to the customer experience, with tires that are more and more durable, safe, and energy-efficient. By extending the life of our products, Michelin is proving that tires can and must offer very high performances until the tread wear indicators appear. If drivers used their tires until the legal tread depth of 1.6 mm, this would keep us from wasting 400 million tires each year and prevent 35 million tons of CO2 emissions.
In the United States, we offer a MICHELIN Energy Guard aerodynamic solution for trailers. This significantly reduces the truck’s fuel consumption, and therefore its CO2 emissions. In practical terms, it reduces CO2 emissions by 10T per year per trailer*, the equivalent of 10 round-trip flights between Brussels and New York**.
*for 161,000 km traveled, the CO2 equivalents were calculated using www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gases-equivalencies-calculator-calculations-and-references
**Source for 1 ton of CO2 equivalent: www.ecoconso.be/fr/Qu-est-ce-qu-une-tonne-de-CO2
All these efforts illustrate the Michelin spirit, founded on boldness, innovation, and progress to make things better for our customers and the planet. Climate change presents an enormous challenge, but we can overcome it with unfailing determination on the part of all stakeholders. Michelin strongly believes that hydrogen mobility will be a key part of the solution. It will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, particularly in urban areas. To move things even faster in this direction, the Group created Symbio, a joint venture with Faurecia, in November 2019 to become a world leader in hydrogen fuel cell systems and reinvent the mobility of tomorrow.
Interview with Nicolas Beaumont, VP Sustainable Development and Mobility Michelin Group
We want to reinvent mobility rather than restrict it.
In connection with the COP25, Nicolas Beaumont, VP Sustainable Development and Mobility, described the key components of the Michelin Group's climate strategy and its tools to reduce CO2 emissions.
The Michelin group has implemented a Climate strategy. Can you describe its main components?
Our strategy is founded on internal actions pertaining to Michelin's business activity. We launched this strategy more than 20 years ago, organized around three main areas:
In Production, we constantly seek to answer the question, “How can we produce better and more sustainably?” We are taking action so that our plants consume less and better by increasing our use of green energy (85% of our European plants now run on electricity that is guaranteed to come from renewable sources).
The second area is Logistics, which means transporting less and better all while developing alternative modes of transportation. This requires a comprehensive overhaul that we are undertaking in collaboration with our logistics partners and customers.
And the third area is Product use. We are developing products and services that will allow our customers to reduce their vehicle's greenhouse gas emissions. We are pioneers in this field. In 1992, Michelin created the first energy-efficient tire, called the “green tire.” Now we are going even further by expanding our offer to include hydrogen power, which is making it possible to rapidly deploy clean modes of transport.
We strongly believe that circular economy can help combat climate change. Our goal is to create more value for the greatest number of people all while preserving natural resources. This objective is reflected in our “4R” strategy, which continuously pushes us to reduce, reuse, recycle and renew. It underpins all of our research and actions.
Lastly, and this is important, Michelin's efforts are part of a global framework. We cannot take on this challenge alone. We are working alongside other engaged and responsible stakeholders and joined the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which calls on companies to align their CO2 reduction targets with the Paris Agreement. We have launched international events such as the yearly Movin'On Summit, which brings together a range of stakeholders — cities, NGOs, companies, international organizations, start-ups — around a clear objective: to go from ambition to action to reinvent mobility and make it more innovative, safer, more accessible, and more environmentally friendly — that is, more sustainable.
Is growing mobility compatible with sustainable mobility? What is Michelin doing to achieve this?
At Michelin, we believe that mobility is necessary for human progress. People need it to access healthcare, employment, culture, etc. So we want to reinvent it rather than restrict it. That's what we are doing with the International Movin' On Summit. We are also doing this in our plants by rethinking the ways we move around, offering an electric car-sharing service, for example. Another area is the creation of SYMBIO, our joint venture with Faurecia, which will deploy hydrogen technology to help provide rapid access to carbon-free transport.
As you can see, to make mobility sustainable, we have to look at all of its aspects. Our vision is comprehensive and positive.
Can you offer concrete examples of ways you are providing Michelin customers with better sustainable mobility?
It's difficult to measure the positive impact of decarbonization on consumers' daily lives. For an individual driver or a fleet, it means greater fuel efficiency and cost savings because the tire is used longer. For the environment, it means fewer CO2 emissions. Our commitment to sustainable mobility is reflected in our “Long-lasting performance” approach. Why? Because we provide our customers with tires that remain safe and effective until the last few kilometers. The tires last longer, which reduces wasted materials and greenhouse gas emissions. If drivers use their tires until the legal tread depth of 1.6 mm, this would keep 400 million tires from being wasted each year and prevent 35 million tons of CO2 emissions. This could have a major impact on the climate!
How does Michelin envision transport and mobility in 2050?
It will need to be sustainable and increasingly efficient, accessible, safer, and carbon-free. This kind of transport will require products and services that emit less and less CO2 and are produced as part of the circular economy. This represents a real opportunity for Michelin since sustainable mobility is in our DNA. Each and every day, we are looking for the best ways to move towards a carbon-free future.