Corona stuck around. So what?

Corona stuck around. So what?

A meme inspired by WALL-E, the 2008 movie (American computer-animated science-fiction romance) about the lonely robot that tried to clean up Earth on its own, got JACO DE KLERK thinking – what will happen to those of us who survive this pandemic?

There are two things that I absolutely adore, to my wife’s annoyance: animations and memes. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines memes as an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by internet users, often with slight variations.

I had a wonderful chuckle when I saw a meme depicting a captain of one of the starships (the Axiom) from WALL-E with the heading “Welcome to month nine of our three-week pandemic”. In the movie, the captain’s actual line is: “Oh, I see the ship’s log is showing that today is the 700th anniversary of our five-year cruise.”

For those of you who aren’t familiar with WALL-E’s plot, humanity polluted the Earth to a point where it couldn’t sustain life for much longer. So, in the 29th century, the human race evacuates the planet and leaves Waste Allocation Load-Lifter: Earth-class (WALL-E) robots to clean up their mess. The “temporary” space excursion lasts longer than anticipated and, in the centuries since the Axiom left Earth, its passengers have degenerated into helpless corpulence due to laziness and microgravity. (But I digress, and don’t want to ruin the story for those of you who haven’t seen it.)

While the meme’s jests did put a smile on my face, this pandemic definitely isn’t a laughing matter; it has the whole world stressed. But, in the transport and logistics game, we have to worry about something else that is just as important: the future of our planet. If Earth doesn’t survive, we’ll be doomed regardless if Corona moves on or sticks around.

Luckily, various industry players are already doing their part through their product offerings that run on electric and alternative fuel drivetrains.

This in and of itself isn’t a silver bullet that will save our planet post-Corona, as the transformation to electric mobility in particular increases the energy demand in the supply chain. Compared to a conventional combustion engine, the production of an all-electric vehicle is twice as CO2 intensive, mainly because of the lithium-ion batteries.

Electric vehicles can, however, make up for a large part of the initially higher CO2 emissions from the upstream value chain due to their emission-free driving. This is where the three-pointed-star brand shines as it works with its global supplier network to reduce CO2 emissions in the production phase.

“Together with our partners, we are implementing the Mercedes-Benz Ambition 2039,” explains Gunnar Güthenke, head of procurement and supplier quality at Mercedes-Benz Cars. “Almost half of our approximately 2 000 suppliers have signed an ‘Ambition Letter of Intent’ and are committed to supplying us with only CO2 neutral parts in the future.

“These companies account for more than half of the annual purchasing volume of Mercedes-Benz AG. This is an important proof point on the way to achieving our climate goals: our supplier network has also recognised the signs of the times, and is following the transformation. We place an additional focus on, particularly, CO2-intensive components and materials such as battery cells. We are also in the process of setting up a tracking system that will enable us to see how CO2 emissions are reduced over time.”

A supplier declining to sign the Ambition Letter will not be considered for new supply contracts and the company is in close dialogue with all other suppliers to jointly develop strategies for CO2 reduction.

Jaguar Land Rover is also joining the good fight as its venture capital and mobility services arm, InMotion Ventures, has invested in the blockchain technology firm Circulor, which provides Traceability-as-a-Service to verify responsible sourcing, underpin effective recycling and attribute CO2 footprint and other impact metrics to the flow of materials.

“This investment is further evidence of Jaguar Land Rover’s commitment to improving the sustainability of its supply chain around the globe, and will help authentically trace raw materials from origin to supplier, eventually to vehicle,” says Sebastian Peck, managing director of InMotion Ventures. “The implementation of blockchain technology provides a great opportunity to make a systemic change in supply chain compliance, not just for the automotive world but for other industries, too.”

The technology uses a combination of GPS, biometrics and QR codes to digitally verify the movement of raw materials at every step of the process. As well as tracking compliance, the digital process will enable Jaguar Land Rover to assess the carbon footprint of its supply network.

Douglas Johnson-Poensgen, CEO and founder of Circulor, adds “Our blockchain technology has already proved its worth in tracking materials, and we are excited to innovate further with Jaguar Land Rover and its global supply chain. We believe the digitalisation of the supply chain is key to ensuring traceability between the multiple intermediaries that handle the material between its origin and the manufacturer.”

The investment will enable Jaguar Land Rover to source its materials with greater transparency as to the provenance, welfare, and compliance of suppliers throughout its networks.

I truly hope that many players follow these examples. Otherwise, Corona will be the least of our worries as we might have to cruise among the stars for our own survival.

Published by

Jaco de Klerk

In his capacity as editor of SHEQ MANAGEMENT, Jaco de Klerk is regarded as one of the country’s leading journalists when it comes to the issue of sustainability. He is also assistant editor of FOCUS on Transport & Logistics.
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