Think major carbon emission contributors – and power generation, construction and aviation will likely spring to mind.
But big tech companies are also big polluters, with the tech industry’s carbon footprint accounting for 2% to 3% of greenhouse gas emissions across the globe, according to the United Nations.
Among Japan’s biggest tech companies, Panasonic Group is well-aware of its impact on the environment and is taking significant strides to change that.
The Japanese electronics manufacturer is responsible for around 110 million tonnes of CO₂ emissions per year across the entire value chain (Scope 1, 2 and 3).
That’s equivalent to the annual electricity use of 20 million homes – and around 1% of total emissions from the global electricity consumption.
Such significant impact requires significant change, and Panasonic is rising to the climate action challenge.
By 2050, the Group aims to create impact that reduces CO2 emissions by more than 300 million tons – or about 1% of the current total global emissions.
It’s an ambitious long-term goal but one that sits at the heart of Panasonic’s corporate mission – to achieve an "ideal society with affluence both in matter and mind" and in which “every individual is happy”.
Founded in 1918, Panasonic Group has always had long-term goals.
In 1932, founder Konosuke Matsushita established an astonishing 250-year plan spanning ten generations – a plan that saw the Group set forth is own Environmental Charter in 1991, ahead of other companies.
In taking the reins in 2020, current Group CEO of Panasonic Holdings Corporation, Yuki Kusumi, has set out his own vision for the remaining 160 years of the original founder’s vision.
Top priority is the environment, with the group embracing the Green Impact Plan, a long-term environmental vision established in the year ending March 2023 alongside global sports ambassadors Naomi Osaka, Nathan Chen and Michael Phelps.
“As we are a corporation with significant GHG emissions, Panasonic’s duty to our customers and the world at large demands that we transform our business,” says Kusumi.
And the Group is doing just that.
As well as being named to the CDP ‘A list’ or leadership in climate change-related transparency and performance, Panasonic has joined the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, along with 200 of the world’s leading sustainable businesses, to work towards a net-zero future.
They have also signed onto pledges including the Low Carbon Patent Pledge (to grant free licenses to patents related to low-carbon technologies), and the Climate Action 100+ (a commitment through the UN by high-emission companies to reduce their impact).
Plan to reduce 1% of current total global emissions
Panasonic’s ambitious plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across its business operations by 2030 and across the entire value chain by 2050 (1% of global emissions) includes the entire lifetime of its products and involves a multi-pronged approach.
As well as tackling its own emissions, the Group is also helping society to decarbonise by addressing its existing technologies and businesses and developing new clean energy solutions – impacting everything from factories to products, mobility to supply chains.
Along with its high-level targets come shorter-term goals, with Panasonic now in its Green Impact Plan 2024.
In tackling its own Scope 1 and 2 emissions, across its 250 production sites and factories along with its office locations, Panasonic has been progressive in the switch to clean manufacturing.
In 2021, the company created a global taskforce to help standardise common practices and measurements – with energy-saving measures and expansion of renewable energy use taking centre stage.
The concept of the Zero CO2 emission factory was born and is being rolled out worldwide, with Panasonic on track to reach its short-term goal of 37 net-zero emission factories and sites by FY 2025.
Already, Panasonic has achieved net zero CO2 emissions at all 14 of its global automotive facilities, as of January 2023, and 31 zero-CO2 emission factories and large-scale sites overall, as of September 2023 – including those in Brazil, Costa Rica, China and Thailand, which account for more than 10% of the company’s global factories.
The plan too is to have all factories recycling 99% or more of waste by FY2025.
As a global leader in developing innovative technologies and solutions for wide-ranging applications in the consumer electronics, housing, automotive, industry, communications and energy, Panasonic is helping wider society cut emissions too.
As well as using existing technologies to tackle emissions, the company is developing new clean energy products and solutions to avoid and reduce CO2 emissions in society.
And consolidating this expansion into new clean technologies, the Panasonic Group switched to an operating company system on 1 April 2022 with Panasonic Holdings Corporation serving as a holding company and eight operating companies – including Panasonic Automotive Systems and Panasonic Energy.
The Group reported net sales of US$65.67 billion in the year ending March 2023.
Developing technologies to help others decarbonise
Among clean energy technologies Panasonic is developing and rolling out, air-to-water heat pumps, vacuum-insulated glass, high-performance solar panels, fuel cell technology and EV batteries.
The Japanese conglomerate produces around 10% of EV batteries globally and is the largest battery manufacturer in North America and a Tesla supplier, with plans for a total of four battery plans in the US by 2031.
Panasonic is developing advanced EV batteries with battery materials company Sila Nanotechnologies, using nano-composite silicon anode material to deliver a 20% increase in range, reduce charging times, lower costs, and reduce dependence on critical minerals like lithium.
Among its energy decarbonisation plans, the company is also overseeing a massive expansion of heat pump production in Europe, as it looks to help apartment and commercial buildings switch to renewables.
"Panasonic has been investing in heat pumps for many years and has continued to develop this important key technology,” says Enrique Vilamitjan, Managing Director, Panasonic Heating Ventilation Air-Conditioning Europe.
Hydrogen fuel cell technology is another area of decarbonisation focus for Panasonic. Having already sold 240,000 fuel cell systems in Japan and Europe (saving around 1.4 tonnes of CO2 per year per system) the Group is now working with global initiative RE100 on pilot projects to decarbonise buildings.
RE100 is a global corporate renewable energy initiative that brings together hundreds of the world’s largest companies committed to 100% renewable electricity.
Last year, Panasonic kicked off a pilot plant in Kusatsu, Japan, to demonstrate that decentralised, stable and CO2-emission-free production is possible – and in response to demand is now developing RE100 pilot projects across Europe with plans to expand the solution to buildings and commercial facilities.
Among these, a demonstration project at its factory in the UK will commence in 2024.
Working closely with the Japanese government to track energy use and encourage customers to reduce consumption and decarbonise their grid, Panasonic is utilising many of its technologies to create a sustainable society.
“As a longstanding technology leader in Japan, we are using our brand position to encourage widespread sustainable initiatives and climate action, best illustrated in our development of smart, sustainable cities in Fujisawa, Tsunashima and Suita.”
All three smart, sustainable towns have been created on the grounds of former Panasonic factories and developed by Panasonic together with partner companies and local government institutions – to develop an eco-friendly smart lifestyle for all three towns, which will last 100 years.
As Panasonic’s headquarters, 50km from Tokyo, the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (SST) is a residential site with mainly detached houses and everything equipped with photovoltaics, while at Tsunashima, Panasonic is using its hydrogen fuel cell technologies to provide energy and has built a big energy centre here to trial further technologies.
Its latest location, Suita, aims to be one of the first cities in Japan to be 100% powered by renewables.
The Group is also bringing its sustainable city concept to Europe, with Future Living Berlin, a new residential area in Germany created using Panasonic’s photovoltaic HIT panels, heat pumps, and its energy management system.
Panasonic and circular economy principles
Another key focus is Panasonic’s Group-wide switch to circular economy design and consumption of products.
Alongside the reduction of resource consumption, and increased use of sustainable materials including recycled plastic and resin (the company operates its own recycling facilities), Panasonic is also rethinking its own product design philosophy with a focus on longer product life cycles.
Among measures the manufacturer is taking, the use of modular designs for easier repair, the integration of IoT for predictive fault detection, and the use of subscription models and marketing of used products.
With TOUGHBOOK Revive, for example, Panasonic Mobile Solutions has already successfully initiated a non-profit circular economy programme that gives business customers the opportunity to donate their discarded Panasonic TOUGHBOOK devices. The devices are refurbished by Panasonic, receive a new product warranty and find a new life with charities and other non-profit organisations.
Another example of its circular economy push, Panasonic Energy has partnered with Redwood Materials in North America on the supply of sustainable battery materials including copper foil for its EV lithium-ion batteries to be manufactured at its Nevada plant from 2024 and Kansas plant from 2025.
"Recycling and a local supply chain are essential to making the most of limited natural resources," said Kazuo Tadanobu, President, and CEO of Panasonic Energy, adding that by sourcing active cathode materials for North American facilities also significantly “contributes to reducing our CO2 footprint”.
Among resource-based targets set in the three financial years from 2020-2022, Panasonic has used more than 42,000 tonnes of recycled plastic material in the manufacture of its new products, with plans to double this to 90,000 tonnes for the 2023-2025 financial years.
For Panasonic, the circular economy has value far beyond the ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ approach to materials, with plans to invest in 13 circular economy-focused businesses and other sustainable ventures by FY2025.
“We at Panasonic recognise the value of investing in innovation, and that climate technology is an important, fast-growing sector that represents a huge opportunity,” says Masahiro Shinada, CEO of Panasonic Corporation.
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