The auto industry needs to focus on electrification and sustainability


Sustainability has found its way onto the dashboard of many company executives, and the money will follow – especially in the electric vehicle space, when investment trends and R&D commitments play a role.

“ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) has become a priority for our industry, not only because of the long-term impact of emissions, but also because … the quality of the governance problem,” said Makoto Uchida, CEO of Nissan , across from CNBC’s “Street Signs” Europe Tuesday.

“And the ESG has a significant impact on how we as an automaker do our business. Of course, over the past few decades the industry has come under significant pressure from government and society to be more sustainable, but with a more conscious consumer,” said Uchida said, has “more emphasis on areas like electrification, autonomy and connectivity which I think the industry needs to evolve.”

Nissan recently announced it would be carbon neutral by 2050 and plans to electrify 100% of its new vehicles by the early 2030s. The all-electric Nissan Leaf sold 500,000 units in 2020, a car the company has been producing since 2010.

Investing in electric vehicles and electric vehicle components appears to be on a runway. California-based investment firm Wedbush predicts EV shares could rise up to 50% this year, emphasizing that there is more than just Tesla room in the market. In 2020, market research firm Fortune Business Insights valued the EV industry at around $ 250 billion.

EV components and materials will also grow in importance. Goldman Sachs highlighted six electric vehicle battery specialists with significant upside in a February release.

“There is a business imperative”

For Mario Greco, CEO of Zurich Insurance and founding member of CNBC’s ESG Council, there really is no other option but to pursue ESG solutions in the face of climate change.

“There’s a deal,” Greco told CNBC. “The most important thing is to work on prevention. Insuring the climate risk again is expensive and will become more expensive.”

Zurich Insurance has set new climate targets for its investments and activities to become a net zero carbon business by 2050.

“We have to change the industrial sector and our societies,” said the CEO. “And insurance can support this change – what insurance cannot do is just pay for the damage caused by climate change. But the change in industrial sectors and the change in the way we live today, we will live and we will do it.” be happy to keep moving forward. “

Insuring against climate risks will be a major challenge as weather events become more extreme. In this context, it is necessary “to work on prevention and to convert these risks into different business models,” said Greco.

But none of this means fossil fuels are going away anytime soon. In fact, the demand for fossil fuels will increase significantly in the coming years as the urban population continues to boom.

To counter this, Greco said, “I think we need to embed the cost of carbon in the pricing mechanism – today, pricing has no bearing on the final price of any good we buy. We need to embed this entirely in the cost of the goods and merchandise.” this will accelerate and facilitate the transformation of the oil industry. “

– CNBC’s Sam Shead contributed to this report.