Sunday, October 5, 2008

What makes a company "green"?

According to Co-op America, “Green businesses operate in ways that solve, rather than cause, both environmental and social problems. These businesses adopt principles, policies, and practices that improve the quality of life for their customers, their employees, communities, and the environment.”

Companies like Whole Foods, the first major U.S. corporation to purchase enough wind-energy credits to offset 100 percent of its electricity use, and GE, whose sales of its Ecomagination products topped $12 billion in 2006, are considered "green". Tesla's Roadster—the hybrid for the environmentally conscious adrenaline junkie—rips from 0 to 60 miles per hour in four seconds without a puff of carbon-dioxide pollution. SC Johnson's innovative Greenlist process is a classification system that evaluates the impact of thousands of raw materials on human and environmental health.

And then there is Sharp.

As a winner of the 2007 Evergreen Award (in the Technologies and Electronics industry category) Sharp is reducing the negative environmental impacts of their production facilities, and is working to “lead the way into an era of clean energy” by expanding the use of solar power. Sharp has been in the forefront of alternative energy development since 1959 when it began researching solar cells. Mass production first began in 1963, and Sharp is now the world’s largest photovoltaic module and cell manufacturer. In July 2008 Sharp announced it would build the world's largest solar cell plant in Sakai, western Japan, by March 2010, along with an advanced liquid crystal display (LCD) panel plant.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded Sharp its "SmartWay Excellence Award" for conserving energy and lowering greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and freight activities. Sharp was one of the first members of the SmartWay Transport Partnership, which was created by the EPA in 2004 as a voluntary alliance that establishes incentives for fuel efficiency improvements and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Sharp has been in the forefront of alternative energy development since 1959 when it began researching solar cells. Mass production first began in 1963, and Sharp is now the world’s largest photovoltaic module and cell manufacturer. In July 2008 Sharp announced it would build the world's largest solar cell plant in Sakai, western Japan, by March 2010, along with an advanced liquid crystal display (LCD) panel plant.

There's “green” and then there's "super green".

Sharp has deployed a “Super Green Strategy” that aims to achieve the highest level of environmental consciousness in all corporate activities. This has resulted in such successes as plant-based resin paint, converting 10 factories to “super green” factories, achieving development goals for “super green” products and devices (for the last three years in a row), making all factories world-wide “green” factories, and developing a nation-wide environmental education program for elementary schools in Japan.

In 1997 Sharp established its Environmental Protection Group. The group has seven important elements:
1. Super Green Management
a. continuously making efforts to strengthen environmental sustainability management
b. raising employees' environmental awareness by building an Integrated Management System
2. Super Green Technologies
a. developing unique environmental technologies that contribute to environmental conservation
b. reducing environmental impact during production
c. developing superior technologies as an essential factor in the performance of products and devices
3. Super Green Products and Devices
a. establishing increasingly higher objectives with the goal of continuously improving the environmental performance of products and devices
b. increasing the percentage of net sales accounted for by Green Seal Products, Super Green Products, Green Devices, and Super Green Devices
4. Super Green Factories
a. certifying a factory with a high level of environmental consciousness as a Green Factory (GF), and a factory with an extremely high level of environmental consciousness as a Super Green Factory (SGF)
b. achieving medium-term plan to convert all domestic and overseas Sharp Group production sites into Green Factories or higher (2007)
5. Super Green Recycling
a. recycling used products effectively
b. recycling products that have reached the end of their service life based on three concepts:
i. improve the recycling rate and aim for zero landfill disposal
ii. improve the efficiency of the recycling system to reduce recycling costs
iii. incorporate recycling technologies into the development and design of products
6. Environmentally Conscious Logistics
a. creating a system to accurately assess environmental impacts in distribution
b. promoting initiatives to optimize transport methods and load efficiency
c. setting a goal of slashing annual CO2 emissions per sales unit by at least 1%
7. Environmental Communication
a. disclosing environmental information through exhibitions and various media, including Environmental and Social Reports, websites, and newspaper ads
b. promoting dialogue on environmental topics with local communities by sponsoring various events and holding factory tours

An excellent example of a Super Green factory is the Kameyama plant. The plant uses a variety of technologies to control the amount discharged then reuses and recycles as much as possible, thereby achieving zero discharge to landfill. (Sharp is already achieving zero discharge to landfill at all its domestic production sites.)

Through construction of a closed system that recovers and reuses all the wastewater from manufacturing processes (the largest wastewater recycling system in the industry) 28,300 tons per day of water used in manufacturing processes at the Kameyama plant is completely purified.
A photovoltaic power system covering a total area equal to three baseball stadiums, a 1,000 kW fuel cell system, and a cogeneration system (the largest of their kind in Japan), comprise an impressive array of alternative energy sources. Creating energy, reducing CO2 emissions, and reducing environmental impact are all accomplished with this integrated energy strategy.

The ISO 14000 environmental management standards exist to help organizations minimize how their operations negatively affect the environment (cause adverse changes to air, water, or land) and comply with applicable laws and regulations. ISO 14001 is the international specification for an environmental management system (EMS) and specifies requirements for establishing an environmental policy, determining environmental aspects and impacts of products/activities/services, planning environmental objectives and measurable targets, implementation and operation of programs to meet objectives and targets, checking and corrective action, and management review.

In keeping with their environmental policy, all Sharp plants worldwide are now ISO 14001 certified. In 2002 Sharp introduced its own Environmental Management System adding 49 additional control points to supplement ISO standards.

Sharp’s focus on building a sustainable society through environmentally-conscious policies is reflected in their expanding use of solar energy, environmentally-conscious product design, and reduction of negative environmental impacts in production facilities. A model of environmental and social responsibility, Sharp has raised the bar on standards for the rest of the business world.

Until next time...become the change you imagine.


Patty said...

Great food for thought about the impact companies can have. Small companies can also have great influence. There is a great fashion company here in Australia who is taking this approach - Gorman. She is using eco fabrics (organic cotton, bamboo), gives discounts to custoemrs who ride their bike to the shop, requires her suppliers to have an environmental policy, composts in the office, uses green couriers, etc. I just love the idea that even small companies can have such a big impact.

Izmet said...

I think it is important to support small businesses whenever possible, and especially if they are environmentally responsible. Thanks for bringing the company to my attention!


high blood pressure prevention said...

well japan is really advance in this aspect

Evan J said...

This is an important issue for all countries to look into.

We should have started thinking about these things globally starting many years ago.

One thing I still would like to see is more hemp clothing. I don't smoke cannabis(anymore) but the clothing can be really comfortable and form fitting.

- Evan

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.