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Tokyo strawberries, with promise of fruit in all four seasons

ホームセンターで白花がいっぱい咲いているイチゴを買いました。「東京いちご」という名前は面白いです。4分の1の日本人は東京に住んでいるから、都市のために植物も野菜も開発して売り出すことは賢いと思います。このイチゴは四季に実をつけるそうです。ベランダのイチゴを食べたいです。

Recently I picked up strawberries from the home center, full of pretty white flowers. They were less than $2 each. I think it’s very interesting that they’re called “Tokyo strawberries.” In this urban country, it makes sense to develop and target plants, even vegetables, to city growers.

The label also boasts, “Pure Berry 2” with a registered trademark. But the biggest promise is strawberries in all four seasons. I am looking forward to my first balcony strawberry!

DPJ and the Environment

solar power

As I wrote earlier, the Democratic Party of Japan, which recently won a landslide election, is calling for major environmental changes, including significantly greater carbon emission targets than the outgoing LDP party. This week I learned that, on the premise of reviving the struggling Japanese countryside, the DPJ has also promised to reduce the gasoline tax and highway tolls. These pro-automobile ideas will not help with emissions targets.

Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation, is strongly opposed to the more ambitious emission goals. By calculating the difference in today’s prices between fossil fuels and renewable energy, numbers have been created to alarm the public about costs to consumers and businesses. A particularly Japanese explanation I heard from one Japanese corporate spokesperson was articulated as concern for the finances of business customers.

This organized resistance to change strikes me as short-sighted. According to a Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs chart based on International Energy Agency data, Japan is already the world’s most energy efficient nation (calculated as energy supply per unit of GDP): three times more efficient than the global rate, twice as efficient as the US, almost twice more than the European Union, and more than seven times India and China.

In the United States, Obama has called for 25% of electric energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. The DPJ’s solar subsidies and carbon taxes will spur adoption of solar energy, benefiting Sharp and Kyocera. In a world of climate change and peak oil, investing now in renewable energy seems vital for Japan’s energy security and global technology exports.

If the focus is strictly on carbon emissions, and not renewable energy, Japan risks further dependence on nuclear energy. Already 26% of electric power in 2007, nuclear power produces dangerous waste, all the more so in a small island nation prone to earthquakes. This makes news that nuclear industry and international energy leaders are seeking to increase operating rates. From the Japan Times,

Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency, urged Japan last year to relax its “hyper cautious” atomic safety standards to increase output.

The country’s operating rate averaged 59 percent in 2008, compared with 90 percent in the U.S. and 76 percent in France, according to industry group the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum Inc.

With energy use increasing in the developing world, now is the time to debate the difference between carbon neutral and renewable energy, and the role of national governments in promoting change that can spur international competitive economic advantage.

japan's nuclear reactors

(from the Nuclear Fuel Transport Co, Ltd)

japan's nuclear ship transportation

japan's nuclear ship transportation

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