A Sustainable Automotive Industry: Today and the Future

How the Automotive Industry is Becoming More Sustainable 

Like most industries, the automotive industry adopts climate-friendly practises by minimising activities that could harm the environment. Many manufacturing companies are letting go of traditional techniques such as casting, moulding, machining, and other practises that are harmful to the environment. 

However, the industry has recognised that there are challenges to adopting more sustainable manufacturing methods to reduce carbon footprints. 

Below, we cover some ways the automotive industry is becoming more sustainable.

Mapping out a Sustainable Automotive Industry

Automobile manufacturers and suppliers are mapping out sustainability by looking for solutions that are not only sustainable but also cost-effective and feasible. In doing so, they must recognise several issues when integrating sustainability into their business models

Among the issues that automotive companies have to deal with are climate change and carbon emissions. For instance, they must consider which powertrain solution can reduce carbon emissions. Should they go for fuel cells or electric batteries?  

Companies must also consider the skills and expertise required to implement these sustainable solutions. More importantly, they must know how to measure their carbon footprint and ensure compliance with the legislative requirements. It is also essential to recognise that recruiters in automotive software engineering play a critical role in assisting companies in meeting their sustainability goals. These agencies enable the automotive sector to take a huge step towards a sustainable future by recruiting top talent with expertise in building energy-efficient procedures, optimising vehicle performance, and lowering carbon emissions.

Currently, the automotive industry lacks a parallel view on sustainability, which leads to confusion and hampers the industry’s transformation to sustainability. As such, companies must establish a roadmap of industry-relevant standards, regulations, tools, and collaborations on sustainability worldwide. The roadmap can help companies identify opportunities to collaborate in a non-competitive situation, allowing them to set priority areas for the industry.

Only by working together can companies build a resilient and sustainable future, and companies must recognise that time is of the essence. It requires a concerted effort to achieve better transparency and address issues that hamper the industry’s push for sustainability.


Vehicles are large pieces of metal and could damage the environment if left to rot in a junkyard. Thus, recycling should be a crucial aspect of sustainability in the automotive industry. More and more car manufacturers are increasing the amount of recycled materials for manufacturing vehicles, which does not only apply to reusing manufacturing materials like aluminium and steel but also recycled nylon, yarn, PET bottles, and fishing nets. 

For instance, Mercedes-Benz aims to increase its share of secondary raw materials in its car fleet to an average of 40% by 2030, with other automobile brands, such as Stellantis, aiming for a target of 35%.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen has stopped using chrome for trims on doors, steering wheels, and instrument panels. It’s part of their plans to improve sustainability efforts. In addition, the company is introducing more recycled materials in its electric family, such as recycled marine debris.

Sustainable materials like bamboo fibres are also of growing interest among automakers, while some are turning to animal-free leather alternatives made from mushrooms, cactus, and other plastic alternatives. It’s a significant move to sustainability, and experts estimate that by 2040, about 60% of the automotive industry emissions will come from materials used in car production. Moreover, bio-based materials have the added benefits of minimising weight and increasing energy and emission savings. 

Crushed cars stacked at an auto scrapyard photographed in Fort Washington, Maryland, USA. A Sustainable Automotive Industry: Today and the Future
Crushed cars stacked at an auto scrapyard photographed in Fort Washington, Maryland, USA.
By IFCAR – Own work, Public Domain

Digital Responsibility

As more and more people turn to self-driving and connected vehicles, the automotive industry’s focus has shifted to digital issues like data protection and security and unlocking digital value. On the other hand, car manufacturers and suppliers are defining the digital technologies and functionalities necessary to implement sustainable solutions in the industry. However, this requires strict guidelines to prevent data law violations. 

Carmakers are focused on digital transformation initiatives and disruptive technologies to achieve their sustainability goals while improving economic growth. Establishing a long-term corporate sustainability strategy with net-zero ambitions, taking into account the needs of investors, suppliers, and government laws, is one of the best practises in the industry for reaching a successful carbon-neutral pathway.

Another strategy is embedding sustainability and circularity in each stage of the product lifecycle, from design to engineering, production, logistics, and distribution. Some companies are implementing sustainability-based key performance indicators to keep track of carbon footprints across a multi-tiered supply chain. 

Another effective initiative is through successful fleet management, with several variables at play to sustainably manage it. For this strategy, companies have turned to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for optimising delivery routes, implementing eco-friendly material packaging, and efficient warehouse management with real-time tracking that can assist in managing carbon emissions.

Public-Private Coordination

Modern vehicles consist of over 30,000 components. Thus, gaining a comprehensive view of a car’s entire value chain, from raw materials to end-of-life, can be immensely complex. 

Furthermore, increasing government sustainability regulations, standards, and collaborative initiatives have made things more difficult. Therefore, there is a strong need for increased collaboration and shared responsibility assessment among the public and private sectors to accelerate the automotive industry’s transition to net zero.

The solution is establishing transparency in value chains, allowing the industry to identify risks and develop effective mitigation strategies early on. It also requires information-sharing among trusted partners.  

Industry leaders representing the global automotive ecosystem should work with government entities and engage in public-private dialogues about a non-competitive exchange of information to benefit stakeholders in the automotive industry.

Increasing Value Chain Transparency

Given the increasing scarcity of natural resources, sustainable value chains are also becoming more significant for the automotive industry. The sustainability initiatives are based on the principle of reusing and recycling resources. Thus, transparency in the value chain is critical for achieving sustainability. 

Transparency allows the industry to trace the origin of vehicle parts and components, ensuring sustainability in the value chain. In line with this, automobile manufacturers and suppliers are looking for ways to integrate innovative solutions, from battery recycling to circular economy, using biodegradable components, and following sustainable processes in every stage of vehicle production, from research to development and manufacturing.

Automobile manufacturers should provide a toolkit that allows for openness in the demand-supply balance, including regional consolidation, while also focusing strategic counsel on managing industry risks through non-competitive collaborations. Identifying potential disruptions in the value chain early on allows the industry to address the challenges of resilience while achieving sustainability goals.