energy efficiency

Environmental Management and Biodiversity at Hitachi

Hitachi 2009 Environmental Sustainability Report 2009

It was exciting to meet several leaders of Hitachi’s Environmental Strategy Office, who explained Hitachi’s leadership in corporate environmental management and in worldwide environmental standards through the IEC TC 111 ( International Electrotechnical Commission’s environmental standards). Across seven fields of business and products– including ICT, power, and high functional materials and components–Hitachi has developed its own IT system for tracking sustainability progress along eight criteria: resource reduction, longevity, recyclability, disassembly and disposal, enviornmental protection, energy efficiency, information provision, and packaging.

Hitachi Product Life Cycle

Beginning in 2009, Hitachi produces an annual Environmental Sustainability Report (2.05 MB download) separate from its Corporate Social Responsibility Report to provide greater transparency and details about its long-range goals and annual performance in preventing global warming, conserving resources, and preservation of ecoystem.

The complexity of Hitachi and its environmental goals are both staggering. As Hitachi and Japan seek to contribute to global environmental progress, they have identified a need to not only monitor the environmental impact of manufacturing and distribution, but to also create new global standards measuring indirect carbon emissions, or the environmental benefits achieved by their customers using new eco-products. As international governments move toward strong carbon emission agreements, knowledge and standards must continue to improve.

Hitachi direct and indirect emissions

In addition to environmental management, Hitachi is also weighing the effects of energy change on its core businesses. One central research and strategy group shared with me a summary document exploring future scenarios and their implications. Without discussing the content, I am impressed by Hitachi’s mastery of this important strategic planning method, originally developed by Royal Shell. The scenarios guide immediate senior executive and business group decisions, with detailed metrics for continuous monitoring.

Several things struck me as particularly forward-looking in Hitachi’s Environmental Strategy Office: a vision of sustainability as a critical business opportunity, an appreciation of eco-diplomacy, an eagerness to measure the global impacts of corporate products and national technologies, the support from Hitachi’s most senior executives for comprehensive environmental change, and the emergence of cross-product focus on “social infrastructure” that include power, transportation, and information and communication technologies. One of the themes of Tokyo Green Space is global urbanization, and new, integrated approaches are essential for making sustainable both mature and emerging cities.

I was also very encouraged to hear that Hitachi is focusing on biodiversity as a new mid-term goal for the next 5 to 10 years. This movement from reducing negative effects to creating positive impacts strikes me as particularly visionary and capable of creating tremendous change. I can only imagine the challenge of promoting new visions of sustainability in a corporation with 1,100 companies, 10 trillion yen in revenue, and over 400,000 employees. My meeting convinced me that Hitachi has some of the smartest leaders working on environmental management.

2025 Emission reduction target

Why green cities?

Green cities, where the urban forest replaces concrete slabs, are receiving new support from city governments and corporations. The Tokyo Municipal Government announced many exciting green city initiatives starting in 2006 in a ten year plan for transforming the city in its bid for the 2016 Olympics. Other motivations include climate change, heat island effect, energy efficiency, and tourism.

Japanese governments and corporations are begining to promote their leadership in green cities for a global audience. It is a pleasure to see Hitachi, a sponsor of Tokyo Green Space, promoting environmental diplomacy in China. Under Hitachi’s China Energy Conservation and Environment Commercialization Promotion, Hitachi activities include sharing water treatment technologies with Sichuan University and hosting an “eco-cities” conference with Chinese government organizations and corporations.

Hitachi CEO Kawamura Takashi is backing an unprecedented 2025 Environmental Vision in which Hitachi products will reduce global CO2 emissions by 100 million tons. This ambitious vision seeks a 50% reduction from 2000 levels. And to provide a concrete idea of the size of this committment, Hitachi explains that eliminating 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions would require a new cedar forest of 130,000 square kilometers, or one third the size of all of Japan.

Hitachi's image of forest required to eliminate 100 million tons of CO2

Hitachi’s bold plans suggest that reversing climate change is not a charitable gesture but essential to its business success in a global marketplace. Rather than seeing trade-offs, Hitachi envisions “harmonious coexistence of environmental preservation and economic growth.” 

Efforts to reduce carbon dioxide and promote the environment must of necessity focus on cities. According to the United Nations Population Fund, in 2008 more than half the world’s population, 3.3 billion, were living in cities. If the 20th century saw urban global populations rise from 220 million to 2.8 billion, the rate is now only increasing. By 2030, almost 5 billion people will be living in urban areas, with the largest growth rates in Africa and Asia. The UNPF estimates that in 2030, more than 80% of urban residents will be in the developing world.

If designed well, the city of the future promises to be most sustainable environment for the world’s population. It is exciting to see how Japan, with its 30+ years in energy efficiency and bold new ideas, is becoming a global leader in smart growth, technology and the environment.

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