Wednesday, May 3, 2017

BMW creating shared value through design

The BMW group is a globally recognized company. In 2016, the company celebrated its 100th centenary. The company believes that sustainability has not just become a success factor for business, but is also increasingly the focal point of individual lifestyle. Therefore, modifications have been made over time with the goal of achieving sustainability across the entire value chain, starting from research and development and proceeding in supply chain, production, logistics and transport, sales and utilization and disposal and recycling. Today, the company is successfully on its way to reducing carbon dioxide emissions and toxic volatile organic compounds and increasing sales of electrified vehicles. With this outlook of a more sustainable future, the company is innovating products and services not only to enhance the benefits of customers but also to have a positive impact on society and the environment.

Since the automobile industry is linked to transportation and many other urban issues, one of the unique initiatives taken up by the BMW group is its collaboration with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation to form the BMW Guggenheim Lab.

The BMW Guggenheim Lab is a mobile laboratory that is part urban think tank, part community center and public gathering space. The idea behind this collaboration is the exploration of new ideas and forward-thinking visions for city life.  The Lab launched in New York in 2011, traveled to Berlin in 2012 and then opened in Mumbai in 2013. The theme for the Lab is “Confronting Comfort”. In today’s era of globalization, comfort is what everybody aspires. It has become the measure of individual wealth, success and status. As a result, design strategies today have started focusing on consumerist comfort and less on interaction with the environment. The BMW-Guggenheim Lab taps into this issue and brings together architects, urban designers and the local citizens to find solutions to these growing issues.

The potential for new systems of urban living raises a variety of questions, among them: Can architecture and adequate urban infrastructures promote, enhance, and develop personal and collective growth at a physical and intellectual level, specifically by encouraging involvement with urban systems? And how can comfort be customized geographically, without the imposition of homogeneous systems throughout the globe? What would responsible comfort mean in zones with different economic, social, and environmental conditions?

This program establishes a social purpose for BMW that could help address the exclusiveness/elitism of the “Ultimate Driving Machine”. The collaboration can be identified as a CSR program for now, but if detailed further can be a unique example of creating shared value. Presently, the program is in a nascent stage which only focuses on research and development. But once the Lab has concrete urban solutions, more stakeholders should be brought together such that the solutions can be implemented for the benefit of all. The success of such a project that has global impact would be one of its kind. 

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