Prime Mover Magazine

Michelin commits to greater sustainability focus across its business

Sustainability is a fundamental concern for businesses that use natural resources in which waste reduction and limiting environmental impact means taking responsibility for the lifespan of a product. Michelin is one of them.

Global businesses invested in responsible long term best practice like Michelin, understand that sustainable solutions are not only necessary for protecting the environment but are significant factors in economic and social development with benefits for both customers and communities.

Committed to sustainable mobility, Michelin is currently on track to meet its goal of shrinking its Michelin environmental footprint (MEF) by 50 per cent by next year. MEF measures water withdrawals, energy use, CO2 and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions – the amount of waste produced and used in landfill. The growth of road mobility insofar as it has lasting effects on human and economic development, poses environmental challenges including those in safety, energy, health and quality of life. With this in mind, Michelin designs tyres that last as long as possible so as to save on raw materials to help reduce its impact on the environment. There is no need for trade-offs, Michelin has said in a statement, between safety and the environment. The two are not mutually exclusive. Changing tyres when the tread depth wears down to 1.6mm instead of 3mm would reduce, as an exemplar of best practice, the purchase of around 400 million tyres a year worldwide.

For environmental impact alone that’s tantamount to removing 35 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere according to Michelin. It says retreading gives tyres a new lease on life without compromising safety. As a Michelin truck tyre can be retreaded twice, it triples its useful life, not to mention reduces its natural resource consumption by up to 70 per cent according to the global tyre manufacturer.

Just as Michelin is minimising the amount of waste produced through biosourced materials and eco-friendly natural rubber production practices, the company has invested heavily in better tyre disposal through recycling plant Lehigh Technologies, which it purchased in 2017. Last year Michelin engineers announced plans to make new tyres from 80 per cent renewable materials like wood, straw and beets. The company currently spends $800 million a year on researching sustainability. It has announced, as part of its research, a renewable, biodegradable and airless 3D printed concept tyre in which drivers pull into a docking station to have the treads reshaped in accordance with road conditions.

The company also claims to be the market’s largest buyer of natural rubber which is the critical raw material for the tyre industry globally. In 2016 Michelin worked with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to prepare its Responsible Natural Rubber Procurement Policy to protect the environment and the rights of its suppliers against land grabbing and irresponsible use of natural resources.

Ouro Verde Bahia, a pilot project in Brazil, aims to improve the living conditions on an ecological reserve by showing the sustainable growth strategy at work for its smallholders. Similar projects are also underway in Indonesia and West Africa.

Michelin has since developed the Rubberway mobile app which allows it to chart the Corporate Social Responsibility practices of stakeholders across its supply chain.

A Michelin tyre delivers, according to CEO Jean-Dominique Senard, the same level of safety performance until the end of its useful life. “What excites us is the possibility of leveraging innovation, our corporate DNA, to reinvent mobility in ways that are more environmentally friendly,” he said.

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