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SA tyre manufacturers commit to carbon net zero by 2050

by Merelda Naidoo
8 minutes read

South African local tyre manufacturers are playing their part in driving towards a greener future and building a more sustainable future for all. Combining cutting-edge technology with capital investment and innovative practices, all four local manufacturers have committed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 in line with global targets.

Bridgestone South Africa, Continental Tyre South Africa, Goodyear South Africa, and Sumitomo Rubber South Africa, as members of the South African Tyre Manufacturers Conference (SATMC), are taking a collective effort to play a key role in mitigating climate change in their industry.

Nduduzo Chala, Managing Executive of the SATMC, said, “The role of emissions in climate change cuts to the heart of the industry we operate in. As a united body of local manufacturers, we aim to be responsive to the needs of our customers and partners. Climate change impacts us all, and we are all demanding real action from each other. We are proud that the SATMC, and its member companies, have responded to this call to take action with a range of measures aimed at reducing their emissions, responsibly using energy, and cementing a circular economy to reduce and eliminate waste.”

Taking action

Bridgestone has announced the launch of “Bridgestone E8 commitment” that includes a corporate commitment to the realisation of a carbon neutral mobility society.  Setting focused targets, Bridgestone has committed to reduce its absolute CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030 (when compared to base year 2011).  Toward this goal, Bridgestone will contribute to CO2 emissions reduction during customers’ use, raw material procurement, distribution, reuse/recycle phases of the product life cycle, and from manufacturing where its local Brits plant has its own targets in line with the company’s global objective of attaining carbon neutrality by 2050.

Continental Tyre South Africa, in line with its international mandate, is striving for 100% emission-free driving, industrial products and factories. The company has committed to a three-step process towards achieving 100% climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest, along its entire value chain of products, operational processes, and supply chain. Phase one looks at the direct emissions from its operations, phase two will focus on the indirect emissions from purchased energy and the final phase will take into account all emissions associated with the company’s activities.

Goodyear’s Better Future framework outlines the company’s high-priority environmental, social and governance topics globally under four pillars – Sustainable Sourcing, Responsible Operations, Advanced Mobility and Inspiring Culture. In December 2021, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company announced its goal to reach net-zero value chain greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, aligned with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and its new Net-Zero Standard. The company also announced its commitment to achieve near-term science-based targets by 2030, including reducing Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 46% and Scope 3 emissions by 28%, as compared to a 2019 baseline. In December 2022, Goodyear submitted its science-based targets to SBTi for validation.

Finally, Sumitomo Rubber South Africa’s journey to net zero is aligned with its parent company, Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI), headquartered in Japan, and is based on the GENKI Sustainability Activity Guidelines of Governance, Ecology, Next-Generation Products & Solutions, Kindness, and Integrity. The company has declared a commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieve carbon net zero by 2050.

Renewable and efficient energy

All four SATMC members are taking steps to invest in renewable energy, which reduces reliance on fossil fuels.

Bridgestone South Africa has had a successful renewable energy process, saving 7,4MWH between 2020 and 2022.

This entailed implementing the ISO50001 Energy Management System, introducing energy saving initiatives relating to compressed air efficiency, and installing variable speed drives and smart LED lighting. The company has also implemented a green energy wheeling facility – which is a decentralisation of power supply – that uses renewable energy for all electrical energy requirements. This method has reduced emissions by 70% from a 2017 baseline.

In addition to the energy saving initiatives employed at its manufacturing facility, since 2020, Continental Tyre purchases EAC certificates for every MWh electricity purchased from the grid, to offset the carbon emissions from the electricity generation process following their commitment to greener energy.

Goodyear’s target is to have transformed all its manufacturing operations and processes to 100% renewable energy by 2040, and – so far – all its manufacturing facilities in Europe and Turkey are using renewable electricity.

In the past five years, Sumitomo Rubber SA has generated 1MW of solar energy, with a further 6MW in the pipeline. To further change its energy usage, the company has installed LED lights across all sites and electricity usage is closely monitored.

Manufacturing processes and value chain

Identifying processes that have a higher impact on emissions is key to achieving carbon neutrality. This analysis also opens the path to finding innovative ways of doing things differently.

Bridgestone South Africa has collaborated with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the National Clean Production Centre (NCPC) to accelerate its transition towards carbon neutrality. The company has implemented the use of recycled carbon black, recycled steel and friction, and began the sustainable sourcing of natural rubber.

The Continental group aims to achieve carbon neutrality in its production by 2040, representing the second step on its three-step journey. As the third and final step, the company is committed to ensuring that its entire value chain, from the responsible sourcing of raw materials and partnerships with suppliers, to the utilisation of products by consumers and the recycling of products at the end of their life cycle, will attain carbon neutrality by no later than 2050.

Goodyear has integrated sustainability throughout its organisation, looking at both inward and outward impacts across its business units and functions to achieve sustainable business outcomes. Within its four sustainability pillars, Goodyear is addressing Climate Decarbonisation and Resiliency, Circularity, Human and Labour Rights, and Supply Chain Governance and Transparency. Goodyear tyres already contain certain recycled materials, and the company is exploring additional opportunities and looking to work with customers to support beneficial reuses of its tyres.

Sumitomo Rubber South Africa has assessed its manufacturing process and plant facilities to identify environmentally friendly changes to the present systems and processes. As a result, 4% of natural rubber is currently sourced from the Ivory Coast, which not only supports intra-African trade, but has minimised supplier costs and further reduced carbon footprint. Other initiatives to support a carbon neutral space include tree planting at its Ladysmith plant, changing company cars to hybrid cars and water recycling and roof water harvesting in the Gqeberha warehouse.

Tyre design

Responding to consumer needs’ for more environmentally friendly products, manufacturers are reimagining their products to cater for the demand. Tyres with low rolling resistance and vehicles with less weight consume less energy and emit fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The ENLITEN tyre technology platform is Bridgestone’s innovative approach to tyre development. ENLITEN enables a lower environmental impact through CO2 emissions reduction, resource efficiency and material circularity (use of recycled/renewable material) without any compromise on performance or safety. Additionally, ENLITEN provides super low rolling resistance for excellent fuel efficiency and makes Bridgestone’s tyre portfolio more adaptable to the latest mobility evolution by making all Bridgestone ENLITEN tyres fully Electric-Vehicle-ready.  Locally, Bridgestone has a focus on design to modularity, and improving tread compounds for lower rolling resistance and reduced impact on the environment.

Continental Tyre South Africa is working on solutions for automated driving, new transport concepts, and tyres optimised for rolling resistance which reduce a vehicle’s carbon emissions. This is in addition to a number of other projects underway.

By 2025, Goodyear aims to reduce rolling resistance by 40% and reduce tyre weight by 9% in its global consumer tyre portfolio from a 2005 baseline. Earlier this year, the company revealed a demonstration tyre which is made of 90 percent sustainable materials and has passed all applicable regulatory testing as well as Goodyear’s internal testing.

Sumitomo Rubber Industries has set a target to manufacture tyres with 40% recycled material by 2030 and 100% by 2050. Since 2013, when it released ENASAVE 100, the world’s first 100% fossil resource-free tyre made from all-natural materials, the company has continued to advance and expand the technologies acquired for the development of ENASAVE 100, with the aim of increasing the sustainable content of its tyres. Locally, Sumitomo Rubber South Africa has also reduced its Truck, Bus and Radial (TBR) tyre weights to light weight tyres without compromising tyre safety.

Waste tyre management

Globally, an estimated one billion tyres reach the end of their useful life every year. Thus, reducing the negative environmental impacts of waste tyres is high on the agenda for the SATMC. The industry body is collaborating with the Tyre Importers Association of South Africa (TIASA), the Tyre Equipment Parts Association (TEPA) and the government to ensure that steps are taken to drive improvements and sustainability in both collection and processing of tyre waste.

The SATMC wants to see that end-of-life tyres (ELT) are properly disposed of, or reused in a circular economy, where they can be seen as a useful resource. Its Environmental Committee meets monthly and has identified four key focus areas – Waste Tyre Road Infrastructure, Municipal Infrastructure Engagement, Renewable Energy Solutions and Community Projects Using Waste Tyres.

Chala concludes, Managing Executive of the SATMC, said: “As we inch closer to 2050, we know that only a collective and collaborative spirit will enable us to see a healthy future for us all. The four local tyre manufacturers in South Africa will continue working on reducing the impact of their operations on the environment.”

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