In 2007, Volvo delivered a breakthrough. This time though, it wasn’t about what you’d see on the road. Instead, it was about the way everything was produced at the Ghent plant in Belgium – the world’s first CO2-free vehicle plant.
When politicians and industry representatives came to visit Volvo’s truck plant in Ghent in September 2007, factory staff didn’t bother turning the lights on. As a result of making the factory – down to the smallest detail – as energy efficient as possible, there was no need for lighting during daytime. Windows had been built into the roof and interiors were painted in light colors, so there was plenty of natural light.
The reason for the visit was to experience the world’s first CO2-free vehicle plant from the inside. A milestone in Volvo’s continuing endeavors to decrease emissions – one that have been going on for decades. During the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm in June 1972, Volvo articulated its first environmental declaration.
Although 1970s environmentalism looked very different compared with today’s climate action, climate change had already been recognized as a problem. Volvo’s declaration acknowledged the role of automotive manufacturers in the fight against increasing emissions, and environmental care was soon adopted as one of Volvo’s core values, alongside quality and safety. It has been a watchword ever since.
Naturally, caring for the environment as a core value meant exploring cleaner technologies to help build Volvo products across the board. This required innovation – and supporting scientific developments in the field of sustainability. This, in turn, led to the establishment of the Volvo Environment Prize in 1990, which was founded with the intent “to support technical and scientific innovation in the environmental field in the broadest sense, not just in areas directly related to Volvo.”
A total of 20 million Swedish kronor was initially earmarked for the prize fund, and every year since then, it has awarded pioneers in the field of sustainable scientific development.
Care for the environment also led Volvo to discover ways in which its own manufacturing footprint could be reduced. So, in 2007, Volvo Trucks made its factory in Ghent, Belgium emissions-free. Partially powered by on-site wind power plants and a bio-oil-fired boiler, with the rest of the site’s energy supplied by certified sustainable sources, the Ghent plant currently produces more than 40,000 trucks per year in its emission-free manufacturing processes. Ghent continues to be a key manufacturing hub for Volvo and recently became home to the company’s first battery array assembly plant.
Working towards the climate goals of the Paris Agreement with validated science-based targets as an instrument, Volvo is increasingly focused on improving sustainability. This also covers the entire supply chain. In 2021 and 2022, Volvo released multiple groundbreaking vehicles made with fossil-free steel – further proof that the desire to create more and more sustainable solutions is stronger than ever.