Bentley went further than the products, and started its ethical manufacturing journey years ago: between 2010 and 2019, the brand reduced the energy consumed by the plant by 54 per cent per car produced. In 2019 a biodiversity drive resulted in 120,000 bees in hives on site in Crewe.
But car brands looking at these early pioneers and now joining the eco party should be aware of what constitutes true carbon neutrality, because consumers are educating themselves on responsible corporate behaviour at a speed that companies will struggle to keep up with. Anya Hindmarch issued a warning shot across the bows of all luxury brands by commenting on the behaviour of carbon-offsetting initiatives like planting trees last month. Savvy High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) and High Earners Not Rich Yet (HENRYs) consumer groups not only see through cynical environmental behaviour, but actively shy away from it and seek out more honest competitor brands. Instead of offsetting your carbon output, advised Hindmarch, get yourselves down to your local landfill dump and look at the real-time, real-world impact your business is having on your local environment. Learn what parts and supplies are causing the biggest amounts of landfill and act to reduce it. In other words, put your money where your mouth is.
Cars with interiors made from recycled marine plastics, protein leathers, sustainable wool, recycled cork and the bi-products of other industries are all well and good, and the media wires are stuffy with press releases talking about these new materials, but a quick look at just how much of these materials feature in the cars is depressing: it’s rarely more than 25 per cent of the overall interior.
Furthermore, trouble is mounting for electric-car producers. For a while we were wowed by the use of electricity over fossil fuels to power our vehicles, but now there are two major fronts opening up in the environmental wars to contend with: huge ethical concerns about the extraction of lithium, nickel and cobalt, and the even bigger challenge, which grows every day, of what to do with the batteries once they are no longer usable in cars. It’s estimated that by 2030 12 million tonnes of batteries will be on the scrap heap, and 2030 is only year one of mandated electric car sales.