Five Key Takeaways From The Sustainability Report
Your five need-to-knows from McLaren Racing’s landmark report
From fashion and food to fishing and Formula 1, whatever your hobbies and interests, chances are you’re seeing the term ‘sustainability’ everywhere. Over the past decade, as we’ve gained greater awareness of social and environmental issues, the term itself has increased in popularity and found its way into everyday vocabulary.
Brands and global enterprises now have whole departments dedicated to it, and in motorsport, sustainability is a key driver behind innovations such as the current V6 hybrid power units and F1’s recently announced 100% synthetic fuels, which will be used from the 2026 season.
The underlying principle is that economic growth shouldn’t come at the expense of the planet or society, but how do we know if we’re on the right track or just paving the road to sustainability with good intentions? In short, we say goodbye to the talking phase and commit to accelerated action through more accountability, transparency and – most importantly – data.
That’s why, in June, McLaren Racing released its 2021 Sustainability Report to give a more detailed picture of our economic, environmental and social impacts as well as our positive strides and future goals. It’s a necessary milestone, but at almost 20,000 words, there’s a lot to get through in one sitting, so if you haven’t had yet a chance to digest the full report, here are your top five key points to take away.
1. Sustainability matters
“We can’t fight for every tenth of a second if our supply chains are disrupted, if our people aren’t thriving, or if our teams lack the diversity and skillset needed to forge excellence.”
In the report’s opening message, McLaren Racing’s CEO, Zak Brown sums up exactly why we need to take sustainability seriously. No team operates in a bubble, which means that even without the moral imperative to act fairly and responsibly, our economic sustainability relies on our ability to both minimise and adapt to external threats and risks.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calls for urgent, “transformational” action, which includes committing to science-based targets on global temperatures and working to become climate resilient. With the world more connected than ever, global events from extreme weather to materials shortages have a knock-on effect on every aspect of our lives.
We can’t control everything, but we can do better in our own operations while advocating for progress in our sport and positively influencing our people, partners and fans.
2. It’s not just about climate change
While we tend to think of sustainability in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or waste, it is in fact a complex web of connected economic, environmental and social issues.
The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which cover poverty, inequality, and health and wellbeing, as well as clean energy and climate action, provide a useful framework for organisations like ours to model policies on. The four pillars of our sustainability strategy – Net Zero; Circular Economy; Diversity, Equality and Inclusion; and Health and Wellbeing – align with ten of the UN’s SDGs, so we can be confident we’re supporting a global mission as part of a community of changemakers.
Our two social pillars contribute to five SDGs and help us address inequalities and technical skills shortages that can hold back both our people and our industry. We don’t agree with cynical takes on representation because we know – and the data tells us – that systemic inequality exists, and we can do more to address it. The data also tells us that diverse companies perform better, so it’s in our competitive interests to improve our recruitment processes and unlock pathways for underrepresented groups.
Quite simply, if we don’t find, train and nurture the very best talent, when it comes to lights out, we’ll be less competitive than the teams who do.
3. Racing drives progress
“While we can’t always predict which solutions have the greatest potential for impact, we have a responsibility to be fearless in our pursuit of better, and continuously explore and test ideas that could unlock possibilities beyond the race track.”
One of the most exciting things about F1 off the track is its potential to produce ground-breaking innovations that can shape the world. In the report we talk about the need to keep influencing conversations at every level – from embedding a sustainability-first mindset into every corner of McLaren to advocating for high-level policy changes that spur all teams into action. We also highlight how we’re incorporating sustainable materials and circular design into car development, with the aim of building a fully circular F1 car.
One such project was with cleantech specialist Bcomp, which resulted in Formula 1’s first natural fibre racing seat. As well as having a significantly lower carbon footprint than its carbon fibre counterpart, the flax-based seat can be ground down into a new base material or thermally recycled without residual waste-to-landfill.
From steering-wheel buttons to synthetic fuels, there’s no limit to the power Formula 1 has to change global consumer habits, and we can’t wait to see what cutting-edge technologies are just around the corner!
4. We’re on the right track but there’s a long way to go
The report highlights key initiatives and projects over 2021, but it also includes a lot of data, especially regarding our waste and emissions. Our 2019 carbon emissions profile is the baseline against which future progress will be measured and covers all championships, not just Formula 1. McLaren Racing’s emissions figures are significant, but we know we can only make progress and hold ourselves accountable if we’re fully transparent.
As part of our Net Zero pillar, we’re signatories to the UN’s Sports for Climate Action framework, have committed to achieve net zero by 2040 and to get our targets validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Our updated target is consistent with limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels and will account for the full value chain of all our racing series including esports, IndyCar, Extreme E, our 2023 entry into Formula E and any other racing series we may enter.
The SBTi commitment, which requires us to reduce our emissions by 50% by 2030 and by around 90% by 2040, differs in scope and boundaries from F1’s 2030 goal. McLaren is following the science and working with F1 to drive change across Formula 1 and meet the factory-to-flag emissions reductions required to achieve the F1 2030 Net Zero Commitment.
Our people data suggests that recent improvements to recruitment processes have already had an impact. We have a lot to do to boost the 4% figure of women in technical roles, but we’re encouraged to see that 43% of new hires in 2021 were female, while 12% of recruits were from ethnic minority backgrounds.
It’s a long journey, but while some numbers show how far we have to go, others remind us of what’s possible when we take action.
5. There’s room for joy
“We believe there is inherent value in racing that can’t always be measured in championship points or lap times…. memories, experiences and stories are valuable beyond measure, and they’re worth making.”
Despite the serious topics and targets, we don’t want sustainability to be all doom and gloom and the report dedicates its final pages to McLaren’s #FansLikeNoOther, reminding us that there’s still plenty of room for joy.
Sustainability doesn’t mean losing sight of what makes motorsport special or sacrificing opportunities to create more treasured memories; it just means working harder to protect our sport and our team for future generations.
In short, we want to keep striving to build experiences that are worth sustaining.
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