By David Amienyo, Volta Trucks’ Sustainability Principal. | November 2022
As the world looks towards the recent COP27 summit and our collective aim in continuing to limit global temperature rises, we take a closer look at the people driving the sustainability principles here at Volta Trucks.
As a chartered and passionate environmental and sustainability scientist, David has extensive experience and a portfolio of successful projects. He is the best person to help guide us towards achieving our key aims…
“Volta Trucks has such a clear sense of purpose in wanting to be at the forefront of tackling the climate crisis and making cities safer and healthier for all.”
Sustainability Principal, Volta Trucks
Sustainability is, first and foremost, about the environmental and social challenges we all face as a society. For companies, it means doing business without negatively impacting the environment, community, or society. However, over the past few years, as the climate crisis and other issues have become front page news, companies are now expected to play an active role in tackling pressing societal issues, while continuing to create value for their shareholders. At Volta Trucks, we recognise that we have a unique opportunity to be part of the solution to pressing societal challenges while building a financially successful and resilient company, and that’s something we take very seriously.
My career in sustainability has been an interesting journey through academia, automotive manufacturing, consulting, leading me to the intersection of technology, policy, and finance in smart and sustainable cities. This diverse professional background has given me a front-row seat to some very successful and some ‘not-so-successful’ sustainability initiatives and projects. Insights gained from all those experiences and the opportunity to build a combination of technical, strategic and communication skills, give me the exact foundations I need to lead Sustainability at Volta Trucks, as we seek to make a meaningful contribution to tackling important societal challenges, while building a commercial yet still responsible company.
You don’t often come across a company with such a clear sense of why it exists, beyond the desire to be financially successful. In contrast, Volta Trucks has such a clear sense of purpose in wanting to be at the forefront of tackling the climate crisis and making cities safer and healthier for all. Being part of that mission is a real privilege and I couldn’t ask for a better foundation on which to build our sustainability strategy. In addition to that, I have the privilege of working with colleagues who, regardless of their roles, are part of this company because they care about the important challenges we face as a society and are committed to utilising their skills and expertise to make a positive impact. As sustainability impacts every area of the business, I have the unique privilege of engaging with, learning from, and being inspired by colleagues across the company.
I’ve always been interested in environmental and social issues, and in connecting the dots between seemingly unrelated things – in many ways, that’s what sustainability is about. It’s a passion in my own life that inevitably crossed over into my career choices – as roles within sustainability became a real option in the modern world. I’ve been very fortunate to work with and learn from some leading thinkers in sustainability, both in academia and within industry.
For me, it goes back to the idea that we all have a role to play in tackling pressing societal challenges. The need to contribute to efforts and the power of working together to address critical environmental and social issues, is what underpins my career and motivates me. There’s a quote by George Bernard Shaw that comes to mind: “Both optimists and pessimists contribute to society. The optimist invents the aeroplane, the pessimist the parachute.” I think at Volta Trucks, we’re trying to be the former, and it’s certainly a privilege to be part of that.
Absolutely. The consensus among my fellow scientists is that the extreme weather events that we are experiencing more frequently are the result of human influence – the record-breaking heatwaves of the past summer being a case in point. Air pollution is another issue that most of us, especially those who live in or spend significant amounts of time in cities, have become acutely aware of. I’m always shocked by statistics that reveal the scale of the link between air pollution and health issues. For example, The World Health Organisation estimates that globally, 93% of children under 18 live with air pollution levels above recommended guidelines. The European Environment Agency also estimated that over 300,000 premature deaths in EU27 member states in 2019 were linked to air pollution in 2019. It is sometimes too easy to lose sight of the fact that these statistics represent real people including our friends, families and even ourselves.
I think it’s simple – the electric mobility and renewable energy transition has the potential to move the needle on tackling climate change – transport has the highest reliance on fossil fuels of any sector and accounted for 37% of CO2 emissions in 2021. Although the Volta Zero will be operating in specific markets in Europe and the US to begin with, it is worth noting that climate change is a global issue. Therefore, the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be felt across the world as this transition is scaled up across the economies that account for the bulk of global emissions. Together with our partners, we are taking steps to ensure that we contribute to this transition.
The work itself varies from day to day. In practice, I spend my days implementing Volta Trucks sustainability strategy, which comprises of a range of projects in collaboration with different business areas, all of which are designed to drive long-term value creation while making a positive impact on society. This involves a lot of communication with colleagues across the business, which is always a great opportunity to ask questions and gain important feedback. Understanding the concerns and needs of a range of stakeholders is critical to building a robust sustainability strategy therefore, most days also involve some form of stakeholder engagement and research. This ensures that we have a finger on the pulse of sustainability issues that are reshaping the business landscape in general, and the industry in which we operate.
I think the biggest challenge for anyone who works in sustainability is bringing clarity to a multidisciplinary concept. Designing a strategy that encompasses a range of environmental and social issues, understanding the impact of these issues on how the organisation operates, understanding the needs of different stakeholders and communicating our efforts with clarity are critical. However, I enjoy the challenge of connecting the dots on these aspects and generating insights to help the organisation make better decisions. Another important aspect is ensuring that as an organisation, we don’t lose sight of the fact that sustainability is about so much more than KPIs and targets. It’s making sure that the targets we set ourselves and the KPIs we track are linked to what’s happening in the real world.
That we all have the capacity to make a difference, no matter how small, it is just being aware that every single decision we make has future implications. That is why at Volta Trucks, we are actively leveraging the power of partnerships with like-minded organisations to maximise the opportunities that the transition to electric mobility and renewable energy presents.