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Sustainability in F1: The potential impact of the Mclaren sustainability report

Written by Heather Stevenson, Edited by Ishani Aziz

Credit: Bryn Lennon / Getty Images Sport

Last week McLaren released their fifty five-page 2021 Sustainability Report which focused on four key points; net zero, circular economy, diversity,equality & inclusion and health & wellbeing. With the release, it makes McLaren Racing the first team to release an annual sustainability report, but what are the key points, why are they important and what impact could it potentially have?

Firstly, the report focuses on net zero and talks about their aims of halving their GHG footprint by 2030 and achieving net zero by 2040. Reading into this the suggested roadmap arguably has some positives while staying realistic. For example they plan to fit LEDs in McLaren Racing’s areas of the MTC saving an estimated 1,367,000kWh and 373 tonnes of CO2e (CO2 equivalent) per year (2022). Another positive of the roadmap is that it talks widely about working together with other organizations and F1 more widely. For example, so that they can reduce emissions through looking at the race calendar to reduce the impact from freight and business travel and working with suppliers, franchisees and licensees to collaborate and identify opportunities for sustainable practices across materials, packaging, logistics and supply chain models. With this in mind you could argue that overall this part of the roadmap is realistic as it is measurable, logical and will target some of the team's biggest emitters. Also, as many of the steps focus on working with others it again is arguably a good step forward as in order to really target and combat climate change and be sustainable people need to work together. However, with that being said as the roadmap focuses largely on other third parties you could also argue that Mclaren are not fully accepting and including the full impact of their operation. The net zero section of the report also accepts that a motorsport team like Mclaren aren’t going to be fully net zero without carbon offsetting. On one hand again this could be seen as positive as the report is realistic. However some would argue that carbon offsetting doesn’t solve the problem of being more sustainable as although you do offset the carbon you are still using non-renewable resources.

The second key point that Mclaren want to target is to achieve a circular economy. This means that they plan to research and develop a fully circular F1 car and target waste elimination. They are hoping to achieve this by 2025, and plan to avoid single-use plastic by focusing on innovative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. Although reduce, reuse and recycle is a phrase often used by many companies and brands, innovation is really the key point here. As F1 and F1 cars are designed using the newest and most innovative technologies, there is a real opportunity for this to be a step forward towards creating and innovating solutions, to help make both F1 and regular everyday road cars more sustainable as F1 technology tends to filter down into road cars. Although often this takes time, creating a completely circular economy with no waste will be difficult to achieve by 2025 without a large amount of investment.

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Following on from the environmental sections of the sustainability report, Mclaren plans to focus on Diversity, equality & inclusion. The roadmap planned out targets getting 40% of Mclarens employees to come from under-represented groups. Mclaren launched McLaren Racing Engage with the aim of tackling the STEM skills shortage, addressing systemic inequalities, and finding new ways to unlock the full potential of all individuals with talent, passion and a drive to succeed. It plans to do this by working with four expert partners and aims to diversify talent in motorsport through multi-year investments in grassroots-level STEM initiatives, funding and mentorship programmes. The four partners are: Women’s Engineering Society (WES); EqualEngineers; The Smallpeice Trust; and Creative Access. Positively, it is the first programme of its kind in F1, and by investing and working with these partnerships it will try and target the problem as it will encourage education from a young age. However, looking at the data in the report, even though 43% of all hires were female in 2021 that only made up a 1% increase to the total Mclaren workforce between 2020 and 2021. Again this highlights that although making a plan and taking steps towards change is positive it will take time.

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The last main point of the report focuses on Health & wellbeing. Mclaren aims to positively promote and support the physical and mental health and wellbeing of their people and the communities they impact. In terms of resources Mclaren already offers a wide package of benefits including The MTC Fitness and Wellbeing Centre open 24/7 and the internal Health and Wellbeing site which offers resources including a list of Mental Health First Aiders, quick links to their Healix Healthcare benefits, as well as mental health guides, webinars and an on-demand video library. As they are already quite active in making sure that their staff have resources to live healthy lives, it is positive that they still included it in the report. It shows that they are aware and conscious of the importance of their staff's health and well-being which is good.The roadmap as well as their own staff focuses on positively impacting the communities where they work and race through charitable initiatives, fundraising and volunteering. Mclarens work with the charity Mind is a good example of how impactful and successful this can be. Not only have they raised £435,000 since the Austrian Grand Prix in 2020 but the openness of driver Lando Norris talking about his mental health sparked a conversation. It promoted to fans that everyone struggles and that openness and vulnerability aren’t necessarily negatives. It is especially good with the predominantly male fan base F1 has as there is still a stigma around male mental health and male suicide is still the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45. Focusing on health and well-being is arguably something that Mclaren has been doing well but it is arguably good to see that it is still part of the report and that they are continuing to make it a key focus.

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Overall, the Mclaren sustainability report focuses on important issues. The focus on becoming more sustainable in terms of the environment, improving diversity, equality & inclusion as well as focusing on health and well-being are all admirable. The report bases these four key points on data and as these data have been shared so openly it arguably means that the impact will be measurable. This transparency will encourage changes to be met as if they are not the failure will be clear to see. The reports roadmap has some ideas that are realistic and this realism could be seen as a benefit as being too ambitious especially on these sorts of issues could be detrimental as there could be a lack of results and arguably some change is better than none. However, lots of the proposed steps will arguably take time and focus on working with other people. This means that depending on your opinion especially on the environmental issues the reports roadmap may not target the issues quickly enough. Also it could be said that as it again is dependent on other organisations, companies and people, they have to be as committed as Mclaren are claiming to be and this may or may not happen. Hopefully this report, as a first of its kind, will encourage other teams to think, make a plan and encourage them to act too as the issues tackled are important ones.


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