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The Paradox of Power

When one traditionally thinks of Land Rover, the word ‘green’ only refers to the colour of the vehicle. In recent years though, the automotive giant has developed a keen affinity with the environment, and it looks like it is set to lead its peers in cleaning up the industry for the benefit of future generations.


In 2005, activists of the environmental group Greenpeace breached security at a Land Rover factory in Britain to halt production of what they call the ‘climate-wrecking’ vehicles.


Greenpeace denounced Land Rover as ‘climate criminals’. With such strong emotions and words strewn around, Land Rover was keen to change its ‘green’ image. Instead of gas-guzzling and thick black smoke that pollutes the air, it now wants people to associate it with a clean environment and a reputation as a market leader in environmentally-friendly initiatives.


Our Planet

As Land Rover celebrated its 60th anniversary, it launched its ‘Our Planet’ communications campaign, which outlined the progress the company has made in improving its environmental performance, and expressed a commitment to maintain the momentum with technical innovation. These full-page press ads run through its green credentials by giving a clear description of the four different areas the company is focusing on when it comes to reducing the impact on the environment.


The four different areas are:

- Developing a technology that is environmentally friendly

- Use sustainable manufacturing practices

- Striking a balance with the carbon emissions of the new vehicles

- Getting involved with humanitarian projects and such by donating to conservation and humanitarian projects


In addition to the USD 1.4 billion investment into making their vehicles cleaner and greener, Land Rover embarked on the largest and most comprehensive CO2 offset programme undertaken by an automotive manufacturer. This is a fully-evaluated and comprehensive offset programme that will help minimise their overall impact on the environment. CO2 offsetting enables an immediate and significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions while Land Rover develops the new technologies that will dramatically reduce CO2 and other emissions from their vehicles.


So how exactly does CO2 offsetting work in this case? The programme has two key elements.

Firstly, Land Rover will offset the CO2 emissions from its manufacturing assembly operations for all vehicles, and secondly, customers of all new Land Rover vehicles sold can opt to pay to offset the CO2 emissions produced by their vehicle, calculated on the certified CO2 emissions level for each Land Rover model. The scheme, run by highly respected CO2 offset provider, ClimateCare, will have a balanced portfolio of projects, to ensure a good mix of CO2 reductions and sustainable development whilst managing risks for project delivery.


The price of a CO2 offset is dependent on many factors such as the project type, any of which falls under the following categories:

- Renewable energy- such as wind or solar to replace fossil fuel use

- Energy efficiency- this reduces the amount of fuel needed

- Technology change- developing and rolling out new technologies


The CO2 offsetting concept is relatively new, and there has been much debate about its merits in cutting greenhouse gases. Arguments continue over whether carbon offsetting is merely a tool for absolving guilt, and environmentalists are concerned that it does nothing to reduce emissions from a vehicle’s tailpipe. Another issue is that drivers are not being encouraged to travel less. Birmingham University’s Sustainability and Environmental Advisor, Dr. Trevor Shields, says, “It gives the wrong impression that we can still drive around as we are doing now, and somewhere else in the world those bad driving habits will be offset.”


Land Rover maintains that carbon offsetting provides a ‘stopgap’, and that the CO2 offset programme is just part of a wide ranging set of measures announced by both Ford and Land Rover. This, they say, will see considerable investment in environmental technology to reduce CO2 emissions from their vehicles, which includes consideration of launching a battery powered version of Land Rover’s Freelander 4x4.


How does it work?

Land Rover is sponsoring several worldwide programmes, including the one in Uganda. The forests in that part of the world are vanishing at an alarming rate due to the high demand for charcoal to cook with. The majority of the population rely on wood and charcoal for cooking electric and LPG cookers are way beyond the means of most Ugandans. It takes 10 tonnes of lumber to produce just 10 large sacks of charcoal. Giving the locals more efficient stoves should slow down the deforestation.


By partnering with the Ugandan Stove Manufacturers Ltd in Kampala, it is financially supporting this community project. They have developed a stove that now has an insulated combustion chamber that burns wood, as opposed to charcoal. It also retains heat for much longer and ultimately uses less fuel. At USD 4.50, it does cost three times the price of the old stove. However, thanks to Land Rover’s assistance, they are being offered on an interest-free loan of USD 1.50 a month over three months. Plus, it also saves about USD 33 a year on charcoal.


Even with this, many critics still ask the question: how is it helping to offset carbon emissions? The forest, a known major contributor in absorbing CO2 gases, isn’t being felled at an incredible rate to feed the 1.13 tonnes of charcoal needed by each household, on an annual average basis. Also, each improved stove saves between 1.5-2 tonnes of CO2- in the making and burning from charcoal- being emitted into the atmosphere. In the period between September 1, 2005 and December 31, 2006, 200 stoves were sold, effectively reducing 8,732 tonnes of CO2 emissions.


Money well spent

Speaking about Land Rover’s investment in the environment, Phil Popham, the company’s managing director, said, “At Land Rover, we are determined to make sustainability integral to our business model. Despite a tough economic climate, it is important that Land Rover carries on showing strong leadership in this area to secure a sustainable future for our business. While we work to reduce our impacts through the development of new technologies, we continue to be proud of the CO2 offset projects we run with Climate Care that positively and profoundly affect both infrastructure and behaviour in many countries around the world.”


In October last year, Land Rover extended the CO2 offset initiative to the Gulf and Levant. Robin Colgan, Managing Director, Land Rover Middle East, echoed the statement, saying, “The extension of Land Rover’s industry leading CO2 programme in this region is an important step in reducing our impact on the environment. Land Rover is very well established in the Middle East, and is the market leader in the premium SUV sector. This brings with it a certain responsibility, and we feel that it’s time to act.” He also believes that despite the current credit crunch, this initiative will remain successful in the region, and the current downturn will not impact on this investment.


The investment was given a further boost when Land Rover snagged the prestigious ‘Manufacturer of the Year’ award at the CAR Middle East Awards 2008. “This comes just after the recent launch of our CO2 carbon offset programme in the Middle East, and tops off a fantastically successful 60th anniversary year; all of which reinforce our position as the leader in the premium SUV segment in the region,” said Colgan.


The Middle East plan

Land Rover is committed to addressing the challenges of climate change, and for vehicles sold in the Middle East, as with many of the other participating markets, the first 72,000 kms of use have been balanced through an industry leading offset programme run by ClimateCare. Similarly, existing customers can also participate in the programme by offsetting their emissions for a fee.


ClimateCare will, in turn, invest in eco-friendly schemes to the extent that environmental damage is offset by investments in projects that improve the world in which we live. These include a wind farm in China, a hydroelectric generator in Tajikistan, and the aforementioned distribution of energy-efficient cooking stoves in Uganda.


Veronica Ochiltree, Vice President, ClimateCare, said, “By extending the CO2 programme to this region, Land Rover has reiterated its commitment to a sustainable environment. This significant step reflects our philosophy of reducing CO2 emissions, as part of an integrated strategy of carbon management, incorporating technology development and internal emissions reductions. We are proud to be associated with Land Rover in bringing this initiative to the Gulf and Levant.”


Other commitments

Murray Dietsch, director of Land Rover programmes, said, “The new challenge is sustainability– we have to reduce our environmental impact. We are investing USD 1.2 billion over the next five years on environmental projects, but we have to do this without compromising our vehicles’ breadth of capabilities.”


Once again, the critics are sceptical, saying that Land Rover should instead be addressing the real problem- the emissions from vehicles. To that, Land Rover shared that it has reduced emission levels with each successive model in their range. CO2 emissions from the all-new Freelander 2 are 11 per cent lower on the petrol derivative, and 5 per cent lower for the diesel derivative, than the previous model. The CO2 offset programme is part of Land Rover’s overall approach to reducing emissions.


Then there’s the Land_e technology concept, which contains a number of environmental product innovations Land Rover is working on for vehicles of the future. The Land_e technologies would cut CO2 emissions by 30 per cent, and achieve 50 mpg on a Freelander-sized vehicle. Also, Land Rover refutes that it is doing this simply because it’s cheaper than investing in technology to improve their products. It said that the programme is not cheap, nor is it an alternative. It adds that the intention is to invest significant sums to help minimise our impact on the environment.


Regardless of any hidden agendas, the CO2 offsetting programme is still a worthy cause, and it does help in many ways. This is already proven in Uganda, and perhaps in many other states. For this region, with the penchant for SUVs, this programme should prove to be a hit. At least for those who care.


ClimateCare’s experience

ClimateCare works with a wide range of leading companies across many industry sectors, and has been doing so for over 10 years. Their list of current partners includes Aviva, The Co-operative Bank, Barclays Bank, Bombardier, Land Rover, The Labour Party, The Conservative Party, The Liberal Democrat Party, Powergen, Forum for the Future, First Choice,, Guardian Newspapers, Penguin Books and Lonely Planet.


They manage the largest retail voluntary offsetting scheme in the world through their partnership with Land Rover. As part of a wide ranging initiative to reduce emissions from their manufacturing processes and develop new environmentally sustainable vehicle technology, Land Rover has committed to offset emissions produced by its UK manufacturing facilities, as well as the first 45,000 miles of each new vehicle sold in the UK. The programme generates in excess of 1 million tonnes of carbon offsets per year.


This pioneering programme is run as a true partnership between ClimateCare and Land Rover. They have established governance procedures to ensure that the programme delivers long-term benefits to the climate, and strategically to Land Rover. The Governance Committee is made up of senior representatives of both organisations, as well as independent experts from the climate change field. Its role is to oversee the processes and procedures used to manage the programme, as well as ensuring that communications are appropriately developed.


The day-to-day operations are overseen by the operating committee with representatives from both parties and an independent chair. The committee selects a portfolio of projects to balance price, delivery risk and the needs of Land Rover’s marketing and PR teams.


Source: Arabian Man/February 2009 


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