Tesla Company Review

January 12, 2017

Welcome to the Tesla company review. In this series of articles, we put the spotlight on businesses that we think are doing ambitious and honourable things for the environment. These features will cover things like corporate social responsibility, sustainability, green credentials, carbon reduction measures, recycling, reuse and reduction efforts, supply chain responsibility, and more.

Each category will be scored out of 20, to give a total score out of 100.

Does a day go by that Tesla’s co-founder, CEO and product architect, Elon Musk, stays out of the news? If he isn’t shooting rockets into space, saying controversial things to reporters, or getting into fights on social media, then he’s often trying to improve on his range of electric vehicles. He has succeeded, as the vehicles have become more aesthetically pleasing, offer greater mileage on each charge, are less prone to faults, and are at a cost with mass-market appeal. Tesla didn’t just keep those fantastic batteries locked inside the cars, instead, they created a home ‘powerwall’ to be charged by solar panels so that people could embrace solar energy at night. 

Does it get better? It might. Read on to find out.


Score: 18%

The following findings are really a mixed bag. One the one hand, they’re doing a lot of good, but on the other hand, they are faced with a huge amount of critics who feel that they aren’t doing enough, or are cleverly covering up the bad stuff.  They are a huge proponent of the electric car movement, with year-on-year sales increases, and constant R&D going into their improvement. They doubled the energy potential of the ‘Powerwall’ home battery, from 2.2kw to 5kw, free of charge. Supporting the development of a solar-powered hyperloop and regularly encouraging sustainable innovations in the field of technology. Elon Musk revealed that they would not pursue any lawsuits against companies that would use Tesla technology and patents to further the sustainable transport agenda. He said "We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform." Tesla is building a Gigafactory in Nevada, which will be powered entirely by renewable energy sources upon completion. Estimations are for the creation of 50GWh of batteries by 2020, enough for 500,000 cars, in a net zero energy factory. Expect to see a massive plant covered in solar panels and surrounded by wind farms. Fulling embracing (and pioneering) the transition to a carbon neutral economy and the urgent need for a new sustainable business model for the transportation industry based on zero emissions. Ok, now some bad stuff. Corporate sustainability reporting from the company is lacking, causing some concern from stakeholders. They earned a zero on the Transition Pathway Initiative corporate climate governance assessment, finishing dead last out of 138 well known companies. Fortunately, this wasn’t for wrongdoing, but instead because they didn’t supply any information.  The Tesla cars require charging grids, repair centres, second hand parts, and eventually they will create around 700kg each of e-waste in a time when e-waste is already at tipping point. Sustainably speaking, the amount of cars sold, compared to the equity, would suggest that the company cannot survive in the long run (unless it sells more units), which is not very sustainable.  Considering all of these factors, they deserve a very high score for prioritising progress over profits. They may be operating at a loss sometimes, but clearly the funding is there for the long run, and the innovation outweighs the adverse risks.

Green Credentials

Score: 20%

You don’t get to be worth $50bn without impressing a few people along the way. In terms of awards, they’ve won dozens, if not hundreds. We’ve just picked out the most relevant ones here, and this is really a tiny percentage of what they’ve won: 2012 Swedish Renewable Energy Award 2013 Green Car Reports: Best Car to Buy 2013 World Green Car of the Year 2013 Natural Resources Canada EcoENERGY Vehicle Award 2014 Strategic Visions - America’s Most Loved Vehicle 2014 AAA Top Green Car 2014 Detroit News Most Innovative Vehicle 2014 AOL Auto Technology Award of the Year For Supercharger Network 2015 American Automobile Association Green Car Guide Top Spot 2015 Good Design and Overall Product Design at the Good Design Awards 2016 Business Car Luxury Award 2016 Technology of the Year Finalist 2016 Auto Express Driver Power Award 2016 AAA American Green Car Award Do you need to see more? Ok, here’s a few. 2017 AAA Top Green Vehicle, and Overall Best 2017 Motor Trend Car of the Year Finalist 2017 Forbes Vehicle of the Year 2017 Good Design Award 2018 AAA Top Green Vehicle Perfect scores don’t come often, but in this case, it’s completely merited.

Corporate Social Responsibility Test

Score: 17%

Corporate Social Responsibility So, we’ve proven that Tesla is highly committed to long-term sustainability, and that they have been recognised as a true pioneer of the movement, but what about their corporate social responsibility? Ongoing R&D teams looking to improve the environmental friendliness of automotive and energy storage. Cars are being designed to offset the negative and pollutive side effect of fossil-fuelled vehicles, benefiting society in the long run. Lobbying for law changes that would allow more rapid progress for sustainable transport. Allowing other companies to use their patents in the name of building a common platform and supporting a common agenda. Developing sustainable energy solutions, such as the Powerwall, to support customers in secondary markets. Costs are minimised and charging networks are developed in order to made the cars more accessible and usable.  Admit that they cannot meet the global demand for electric cars, so shared their ideas with other manufacturers to have the sustainable transport movement go forward. Cars are just one branch of the Tesla tree, they are also trying to make solar the #1 type of energy production on Earth.  Elon Musk has donated more than $20m to global research and solar energy for disaster zones.

Carbon Footprint

Score: 18%

Reducing CO2 from cars and factories on a regular basis. Developing more efficient batteries for future models. Recovering 70% of the carbon by recycling the batteries at the end-of-life. Tesla has a counter on their website that shows, real-time, how much CO2 has been saved from the environment around the world. As of October 16th 2018, that figure is 3.37 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, with the US saving more than 50% of that total. The Tesla S model emits 75% less carbon than comparative fossil-fuel powered cars per mile, although the carbon footprint of creating the batteries is often greater than manufacturing car engines. 

Recycling, Reuse, Reduction

Score: 18%

Recyclable chassis constructed from aluminium. Recyclable batteries that are safer to dispose of. The Gigafactory project is working to ‘close the loop’ by intelligently processing and recycling end-of-life Teslas into the material streams for the production of the new Teslas.  60% of Tesla batteries get recycled. 10% get reused, usually the battery case and some electrical components like wires and metals. Tiny pieces of metal like copper and cobalt are recovered and sold. Fluff and slurry often go to landfill due to excessive costs in recycling them. Their production line worked with a series of reuse experts, including StopWaste, and switched to reusable windshield racks on the production line, saving about 100 tonnes of cardboard waste per year. Tesla prioritises reuse over recycling.

Total Eco Score

Score: 91%