As the spotlight shines ever brighter on our need for sustainable change, Vogue meets the leading lights of BMW UK who stand behind the company’s drive for progress.

Much is made by companies of their collective responsibility to sustainability, but at BMW a fresh call-to-action, centred on the individuals who make up its 8,000-strong UK workforce, is innovatively turning the wheels of change. This new approach started with five workers from across the BMW Group who were sent as a delegation to the One Young World global forum in London in 2019. The summit – with representatives from every country in the world – lit a fire.


“You have people of note: celebrities, Nobel Peace Prize winners, people who have dedicated huge parts of their lives to try and make the world more sustainable,” explains Emily Latham, BMW UK’s social media marketing manager. “... but actually it was the young people who, against so many odds, have done the most incredible things to change their communities and the planet that were the most impressive.”

Following the forum, Latham – alongside Udara David, Alice Piper, Zain Abdi and Nick Bartley – moved quickly to capitalise on the powerful notion that no person is too small to make change. With an initial reach out increasing the group from five to around 30, they are spearheading a new approach to engagement in sustainable practices under the banner of BMW ’s Sustainability Champions.


The aim has been to balance BMW’s sustainably minded built-in processes and product output with actions employees at all levels can participate in and steer. The approach has been to apply core sustainability principles – particularly reusing and reducing – and using available resources, such as corporate survey tools, to ascertain key issues of concern across the company.

The trick for the Sustainability Champions has been reframing conversations to help individuals, teams and the whole company achieve positive action through slight alterations to their existing efforts. Udara David said, “I could see how much paper we were producing, sending off thousands of paper-based statements when they could so easily be digital.”

“Speak to anyone in any business,” adds Alice Piper, “and everyone has a minimum of one idea like that.” The Sustainability Champions have created a platform to discuss and implement “easy fixes” such as this in a realistic and lasting way.


For Abdi, the hope is about highlighting the broader positive impact of these efforts. “If we can push the message that it isn’t just about climate change – that there are so many different elements, from education to gender equality, and that can all be ingrained into our mentality within the business – then it’ll be a success.”

For Latham, success will be in the project's future uptake. “In a year’s time, I almost don’t want us to still be involved in everything. My hope is that we’ll come to the end of the first year and be completely amazed to see what everybody has achieved.”


Discover more inspiring stories from BMW and British Vogue's Forces for Change partnership.

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