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FISITA Forum Spotlight: the Renault approach to circular economy

Updated: Oct 6, 2022

Following the success of the fourth FISITA Forum, an exclusive event hosted by EDF for technical experts from organisations around the world, FISITA looks back at Sophie Schmidtlin, Chief Technology Officer Circular Economy Business at Renault Group’s contribution. Sophie is FISITA’s Deputy Vice-President Delegate General and Treasurer, and we look forward to welcoming her to the Executive Board of FISITA soon.

Given the Forum’s focus on carbon neutral mobility solutions of the future, Sophie illustrated Renault’s transforming business structure, aimed at working towards a truly circular economy. This involves working with suppliers to source sustainable materials, adapting production processes within manufacturing facilities, and re-using and recycling of parts or materials resulting from the dismantling of end-of-life vehicles in order to secure supplies of materials and reduce the impact on resources. From an automaker’s perspective, Sophie and her team have positioned Renault as a key example of how the industry must change.

To achieve this, the automaker is the only player in the automotive industry to have invested for several years - through partnerships - in the development of recycling channels:

  • Boone Comenor Metalimpex, a Renault and Suez joint venture, specialized in collecting scrap metal from industrial production plants for reintroduction into the supply chain.

  • Indra, another Renault and Suez joint venture, that collects and processes end-of-life vehicles in order to extract materials for recycling, and parts for reuse by the rest in the after-sales networks.

  • Gaia, a Renault subsidiary, that is managing closed loops of materials, through the collection (in Indra network) and processing of parts and materials from End-of-Life vehicles, in order to reintroduce them into the supply chain – such as recycled copper from the copper wirings, platinum, palladium, rhodium from catalytic converters, and polypropylene from bumpers.

More recently, Renault has been intensifying and diversifying its circular economy initiatives, such as its emblematic Re-Factory project aimed at making the Flins automobile plant the first and largest industrial complex dedicated to the economy. It is organized around 4 poles:

  • Re-trofit dedicated to reconditioning and extending the life of vehicles. Because of the fact that the second-hand market is booming, driven by the awakening of an ecological awareness and new modes of consumption which favour use over possession, and also by the supply and logistic and raw material and energy price crises that affect the next-gen car market.

  • Re-energy around intelligent reuse of electric vehicle batteries with the help of Renault Group’s Mobilize brand, such as green energy stationary storage and management solutions, but also battery repair shop.

  • Re-Cycle dedicated to the efficient and circular use of materials through reuse and recycling

  • Re-Start aiming to promote innovation and the sharing of knowledge around the circular economy through a training campus, an incubator and an industrial innovation center.

Looking forward, Renault will continue to promote innovation and knowledge-sharing, aimed at promoting circular economy through a training campus, a start-up incubator and an industrial innovation centre which benefits from Renault’s facilities and machinery. Since its launch, almost 11,000 second-hand cars have been refurbished. Renault has identified strong potential for not only economic and environmental but also social value creation; by 2030, the company aims to employ 3,000 people at its Re-factory working on circular economy activities.

Sophie believes that this framework should be followed across the global industry, to ensure that businesses do their part to combat climate change.

Sophie also focused on the importance of dealing with more complex materials, introduced due to the development of EVs. To cater for this, Renault together with partners is developing a closed loop EV battery recycling initiative to recover cobalt, nickel, and lithium at battery grade.

Sophie explained to the audience that the goals set by Renault will be instrumental in the automaker’s long-term success. Without establishing these key pillars, a business will be unable to develop and compete in the global market. Environmental aspects of business are no longer linear and must be treated as a business opportunity in itself.

The FISITA Forum Circular Economy Output Paper covering all discussions at the event will be available in October. Hear more from Sophie as she joins the world’s leading automotive and mobility brands at the FISITA World Mobility Summit on ‘Carbon Neutral Mobility - From Cradle to Grave’ on 17 October in Paris.

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