Production performance

Systematic approach to improving environmental performance

The Volvo Group was one of the first companies in the world to have an environmental management system certified according to ISO 14001 and today 99% of our production is certified in accordance with ISO 14001. We carefully monitor and manage our production processes to continuously increase the efficiency and performance in all of our facilities.

The Volvo Group has 65 production facilities in 20 countries, covering a wide range of production processes. Regardless of size and location, all of our production units must comply with our minimum requirements for environmental performance and an improvement program. The requirements include monitoring of energy consumption, waste levels and emissions to air and water, as well as specifying maximum emission levels to air and water.  

In 2011, net sales rose by 17%, which has affected our emissions, energy consumption and use of resources.

Targeting energy consumption

Reducing energy usage per manufactured unit is a priority environmental target. The Volvo Group’s energy usage was 2,471 GWh in 2011, an increase of 156 GWh compared with 2,315 GWh in 2010. The use of energy has been made more efficient and the energy efficiency index is 8.1 MWh/SEK M (9.0). Most of the recorded energy usage is for heating and production processes, and approximately one third of energy usage is used at our powertrain production facilities.

Since 2004 we have reduced energy consumption by 46% per unit produced.

Energy saving targets

Since 1995, the Volvo Group has worked systematically to improve energy efficiency. Since 2004, the Volvo Group has put an extra strong focus on energy reduction in its own processes. Energy consumption has since decreased by 46% per unit produced. Energy efficiency initiatives, such as controlled lighting and ventilation, turning off equipment from idle running and replacing old machinery have contributed to the result. We are proud of the results and continue to pursue energy savings.

The energy saving challenges for 2010–2012 are:

  • To reduce idling losses, i.e. energy use outside production, by 50% 
  • An additional energy reduction of 15% per produced unit in 2012 compared with 2008
  • Continue the work with investigating the possibility of making the Group's facilities carbon neutral

Most of our focus has been on our production sites, although we are striving to include most parts of the value chain in our work. One example is Volvo Trucks, where we are working with our dealers to make the workshops more energy-efficient and increase the use of renewable energy.

Towards carbon dioxide neutral production

Our long-term ambition is to make our production carbon-neutral. Emissions of carbon dioxide decreased from 279,000 tons to 255,000 tons in 2011.

NRV is the first U.S. manufacturing facility to achieve ISO 50001 standards

Volvo Trucks’ New River Valley (NRV) assembly plant in Dublin, Virginia, is the first U.S. facility to be certified to the ISO 50001 standards. This achievement has been done under a pilot program supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). ISO 50001:2011 is a voluntary international standard on energy management system which outlines the framework for energy management.

Carbon dioxide neutral production plant

Volvo Trucks presented the automotive industry's first carbon dioxide-neutral plant in Ghent, Belgium in 2007. The plant invested in wind power and a biofuel plant to produce electricity and heat, which resulted in an annual reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 10,000 tons.

Since May, 2011, Volvo Penta’s engine plant in Vara, in Sweden, has been powered without using any fossil fuel and is considered to be carbon neutral. In 2011, the Volvo Truck's plant in Tuve, in Sweden, became carbon dioxide-neutral. Volvo Trucks are currently working on making the plant in Umeå, in Sweden, carbon dioxide-neutral.

Volvo Trucks presented its first carbon dioxide-neutral dealership facility in Verona, Italy, in 2008. The ambition is for more dealers to follow this initiative. Based on a mapping of energy consumption at dealerships in Sweden and the United Kingdom, recommendations for reducing the energy consumption have been developed. A tool for reporting on energy use at dealers facilities is also under development.

Other emissions to air

The Volvo Group has a minimum standard for emissions to air. The strategy to decrease emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides is to use low-sulphur fuels and/or purification equipment. The emissions are largely due to the use of energy for heating.

Emissions of sulphur dioxide increased from 33 tons in 2010 to approximately 34 tons in 2011. Nitrogen oxides decreased from 719 tons to 474 tons. Relative to net sales, emissions of nitrogen oxides decreased while sulphur dioxide emissions were stable.

Emissions of solvents (VOCs) stems mainly from painting and surface treatment processes, and are a high-priority issue that is subject to statutory control in most countries. Solvent emissions totaled 2,554 tons in 2011, representing an increase of 260 tons mainly due to the significant production increase. Emissions of solvents decreased in relation to net sales.

Since 2010, water management is included in the strategic process that precedes the review of Group targets in our business plans, a process where companies are challenged to formulate ambitious goals.

Increased focus on water management

Since 2010, water management is included in the strategic process that precedes the review of Group targets in our business plans, a process where companies are challenged to formulate ambitious goals. Each company will establish targets related to water use, which eventually will lead to aggregated targets at a Group level.

The main issues in relation to water include inefficient water use and industrial wastewater treatment systems.

Water consumption and emissions to water have been measured since 1990. We also include water as an area for our minimum environmental requirements for production, with regard to substances in process water and that process water with organic content must be treated chemically or by an equivalent method.

Water consumption

Water consumption compared with net sales has decreased every year, with the exception of 2009, which was due to very low production volumes.

Water consumption increased from 7,519,000 m3 in 2010 to 7,970,000 m3 in 2011.

Emissions to water

All of Volvo Group’s majority-owned plants have either installed their own treatment facilities or discharge their effluents to external treatment plants. An increasing number of plants are also installing closed process water systems.

Responsible use of chemicals

To restrict the use of chemicals the Volvo Group has, since 1996, maintained a "black list" of prohibited chemicals and a "grey list" of products whose use must be limited.

The lists serve as a tool for substituting hazardous substances from the production processes.
We maintain a database (MOTIV) to make it easier to choose chemicals that are going to be handled within the Volvo Group or on the aftermarket. The database contains detailed information on more than 6,000 chemical products.

Volvo Group has worked actively to implement processes for fulfillment of the obligations put forth in chemical legislation globally. Projects for ensuring compliance with the European REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) legislation have been conducted. REACH aims to evaluate and limit risks of chemicals to health and to the environment through the implementation of control measures such as registration, restrictions, prohibitions and communication requirements. REACH includes both chemicals and articles and requires a holistic approach on the control of chemicals. The Volvo Group continues the work to streamline the internal processes for REACH compliance and adapt existing tools to reflect the content of REACH.

During 2011, the Volvo Group redefined its environmental requirements on suppliers due to the new legislation. The new requirements were launched early 2012. The Volvo Group is mainly a down-stream user of chemicals and relies upon chemical suppliers to report according the new legislation.

Although our total amount of waste has decreased over time, changes in definitions have resulted in the amount of waste classified as hazardous increasing in recent years.

Tough follow-up on waste

In an effort to further improve material efficiency and the responsible use of resources and also encourage a more active follow-up of waste related to specific raw materials, business areas were asked to set up indicators to follow up on key material usage in 2009.

Waste is usually classified as either hazardous or non-hazardous, although definitions vary from country to country and change over time. Although our total amount of waste has decreased over time, changes in definitions have resulted in the amount of waste classified as hazardous increasing in recent years. The total amount of hazardous waste in 2011 was 25,943 tons, compared to 22,730 tons in 2010.


Noise levels from most of the Volvo Group’s plants are in general very low. Our target is to ensure that the external noise level, from our operations, measured at the nearest residential property does not exceed 60 dB(A).

Environmental management systems

The implementation of environmental management systems improves the quality of our environmental programs and helps to assure the quality of data reported. 99% of the total workforce at the Volvo Group’s production plants were working in accordance with the certified environmental management system ISO 14001 by end of 2011. This means that the management system has been audited by a third party.

Currently, 63 of our 65 production sites have been awarded an ISO 14001 certification. The SDLG site in China, and the Volvo Construction Equipment site in Tultitlan, Mexico, have not yet been certified, although the Mexico site has a similar system, approved by governmental authorities. The work of implementing environmental management systems covers the Volvo Group's processes, including product development, purchasing, sales and aftermarket and service.

Currently, 63 of our 65 production sites have been awarded an ISO 14001 certification. 

Audits ensure consistent processes and data collection

The Volvo Group has conducted internal environmental audits since 1980 to ensure adherence to the environmental policy. Environmental data is collected annually from production sites since 1990. Environmental audits help to monitor the environmental activities and examine the data. The audit program follows a set plan, although priority is given to auditing newly acquired operations or where the continuous improvement in environmental performance has become stagnant.

Data collection and coverage

The Volvo Group had 65 (65) majority-owned production plants around the world at the end of 2011, each of which was included in the data reporting.

The Volvo Group has reported detailed environmental data since 1991. The data reporting is based on the global environmental standard for production plants that was introduced by Group management in 2000. This standard specifies minimum requirements and focuses on a number of key areas, including:

  • Use of chemicals
  • Energy consumption
  • Water consumption
  • Emissions to air and water
  • Waste
  • Noise.
The full Volvo Group Environmental data report includes about 40 indicators, and will be available at from mid-April, 2012.

Environmental risk management

The consideration of environmental risk represents a component of the Volvo Group’s enterprise risk process. When assessing potential acquisitions of companies and real estate, audits consider environmental and social factors in addition to financial and legal aspects. The information provides the basis for action plans, if required.

All production plants must fulfill the minimum environmental requirements and submit to audits conducted by the Volvo Group’s Environmental manager and auditor, in order to minimize risk.

Environmental permits

All of the production plants in Sweden have the required environmental permits. 17 facilities in Sweden require permits that cover waste, noise and emissions to land, air and water. No permits had to be renewed in 2011. An annual inventory is made of polluted land on our properties. No remedial operations had to be done at real estate property in 2011. No spillages were reported in 2011.

Remediation programs

Audits may reveal a need for remedial work at contaminated properties used for former or current operations. Through an ongoing program of remedial measures, contamination discovered in refurbishment or rebuilding projects are dealt with immediately. Installations that pose the greatest risk of causing soil and groundwater contamination, such as underground storage tanks and underground piping systems, have been targeted for rebuilding work under an internal directive focusing on such installations.

Did you know?

Since May, 2011, Volvo Penta’s engine plant in Vara, in Sweden, has been powered without using any fossil fuels and is thus considered to be carbon dioxide neutral.