When the United Nations launched its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New York in 2015, Pirelli was there. Being part of the UN Global Compact LEAD initiative – a group of companies working to advance sustainable practices within their own organisations and encourage others to do the same – Pirelli carefully adhered to the process of establishing the 17 goals, which aim to “end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all” by advancing universal principles on the environment, human rights and working conditions.
It was back in the 2000s, many years before the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals were introduced, that Pirelli started communicating a strategy focused on sustainability, enhancing rather than depleting the world’s resources. In its 2017-20 Sustainability Plan, with selected targets to 2025, Pirelli included specific references to the contribution that each goal can make to the United Nations’ SDGs.
Back in the 2000s, Pirelli started communicating a strategy focused on sustainability, enhancing rather than depleting the world’s resources
“Our Sustainability Plan is integrated with our industrial one; the ultimate goal is to make Pirelli sustainable,” says Filippo Bettini, chief sustainability and risk governance officer. “The SDGs also offer a framework we can use to better direct our efforts. We believe that contributing to the achievement of of the SDGs is very important, as each company is asked to act in the interests of the planets’ future. That’s the real value.”
Bettini recommends that companies link sustainability targets to the SDGs (read all 17 here), after identifying the areas where they can make the most significant contribution according to their business sector, their activities and development strategy. Pirelli itself has linked its strategic priorities to 12 of the UN goals (see the full list below) – some common, such as climate action, and others less so, such as wellbeing and good health.
One aspect of the business can impact several SDGs. Take tyre development, for example. When in use, most of a tyre’s environmental impact is a consequenceof its degree of rolling resistance – on average as much as 20 per cent of a car’s total fuel consumption can be indirectly attributable to its tyres’ rolling resistance. It is important to pay attention to this: tyres must have the right grip to keep the car safely on the road in a variety of conditions, while at the same time limiting fuel, achieving a reduction of rolling resistance of its car tyres by 15 per cent compared with 2009, the base year for its sustainability goals, with a target of a 20 per cent reduction by 2020.
Tyres must have the right grip to keep the car safely on the road, while at the same time limiting the impact on fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions
Pirelli has linked this goal to three SDGs: “climate action” in that innovation which leads to lower rolling resistance has adirect impact on cutting emissions into the atmosphere; “wellbeing and good health” in that innovations is also aimed at simultaneously improving safety on the road, and “sustainable cities and communities” in that the result is better air quality.
Tyre performance is also a critical issue for electric cars which are seen as the future of the automotive industry and are expected to account for more than 20 per cent of the market by 2025. Electric vehicles are 10-15 per cent heavier than petrol or diesel cars, so Pirelli has developed tyres that will keep pace with their particular demands while keeping rolling resistance to a minimum.
Pirelli has connected its product innovation to the SDGs (sustainable development goals) regarding “industry, innovation and infrastructure” and also “sustainable cities”.
In addition to creating new digital products, Pirelli is currently focused on a process of digital transformation across the whole business, including factories. This involves current investment in training to increase the skills of workers called upon to contribute to the group’s ever more digital growth. This links to the SDGs of “quality education” and “industry, innovation and infrastructure”.
“We’re working on a very important programme of training and development to create responsive and agile mindsets that will allow us to compete in the digital era and as protagonists of future mobility,” says Eleonora Giada Pessina, group sustainability officer.
In Pirelli’s view, contributing to the success of the United Nations’ SDGs implies that, whenever possible, it is preferable to engage with a whole value chain rather than proceeding unilaterally as a single corporation. One notable example is its natural-rubber supply chain, which connects with five of the UN SDGs, including one key one – “working in partnerships to achieve the goals”.
“Instead of working alone on the sustainable management of the rubber supply chain, we have adopted an approach which, while it may require more effort, we believe in in terms of its potential impact: dialogue and partnership, with each key player along the natural rubber value chain (growers, NGOs, resellers, natural rubber processors, multi-lateral organizations, car makers) supporting shared involvement throughout the sector,” explains Bettini.
Instead of working alone to establish sustainable supply, we took a more challenging approach, setting up partnerships with everyone along natural rubber value chain
The aim of Pirelli’s policy for sustainable natural rubber is to increase transparency in order to protect labour and human rights, preserve the development of local communities and prevent deforestation through more productive ways of farming. With dialogue and a shared approach involving its stakeholders , Pirelli will this year publish its policy-implementation document.
In addition to improving natural rubber productivity and quality, starting from how the rubber is grown and harvested, Pirelli is also developing new renewable materials for tyre production. The goal is to double the share of renewable raw materials and reduce by 30 per cent the fossil derived materials used in specific products between 2017 and 2025. This links to SDGs “industry, innovation and infrastructure” and “climate action”.
For Pirelli, the UN’s SDGs framework provides the opportunity to identify the areas where it can make the greatest difference for the company, the planet and its people. In this this article it has only been possible to cover a few of them. These priorities go hand-in-hand with the company’s own vision for securing long-term success.
“For Pirelli, this is not about specific projects,” says Pessina. “Sustainability translates into the long-term company development strategy.”
Pirelli’s Sustainability Plan 2017-20 impacts on 12 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
- Goal 1: No poverty
- Goal 3: Good health and wellbeing
- Goal 4: Quality education
- Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation
- Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy
- Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
- Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure
- Goal 10: Reduced inequalities
- Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
- Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production
- Goal 13: Climate action
- Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals