"There's a growing need for standardization," said Tammy Snow, Continental North America's sustainability head. "Every customer is using their own definitions, their own measurement methods for measuring carbon footprints and using different data-sharing platforms.
This creates challenges and inefficiencies for all suppliers that have multiple customers."
But standardization is easier said than done. While partnerships have become more commonplace in recent years, automakers tend to resist sharing large amounts of data or sets of practices with their competitors.
Martinrea's D'Eramo believes the collaborative approach auto companies adopted to develop health and safety standards in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic could serve as a template for how to move forward.
"The OEMs and supply base worked together openly to develop standards that everyone could use to get through the pandemic safely," he said. "Because sustainability is something where everyone's trying to do similar things and answer the same questions, we need to do something like that."
Having common standards across the board could also help to get smaller suppliers moving faster on carbon reduction, he said.
"There's such a huge difference, from $40 billion suppliers to $50 million suppliers, that there needs to be some kind of standardization here," D'Eramo said. "If we can find a way to cooperate — at least for a majority of companies — it would help everyone a lot. You're trying to achieve a social goal here, not so much a competitive goal."
Reducing the industry's carbon footprint is a timely and costly undertaking — but significant progress is already being made.
"If you want a seat at the table to get business, you need to say you're a great company with a proven track record, with great people, the right price, on-time delivery and all those things," said Doug Liedberg, Dana's chief sustainability officer.
"But now you also need to demonstrate that you have the right green energy technology, run your business the right way and show that you're helping to drive sustainability priorities across the supply chain."