Sony Announces a 31 Percent Drop in Carbon Emissions

This week, Sony announced that it has reduced its overall carbon dioxide emissions by 31 percent since 2000, a figure that has been verified by a third party company. Sony outlined its successful Green Management plan in 2006 to meet several environmental goals by the fiscal year 2010, including reducing its emissions by a mere 7 percent, but it surpassed that goal by 24 percent, bringing good news to environmentalists and activists.

Among the changes laid out in this plan was an effort to green Sony’s methods of acquiring parts and products, the production of its electronics, and the disposal and recycling of its waste. Sony focused on reducing the impact of shipping and transporting its products, lessening the emissions from those processes by 26 percent. Sony exceeded its 2006 goal of eliminating 40 percent of total waste from all of its facilities, eliminating 50 percent of waste instead. It reduced the amount of groundwater it uses by 41 percent.

In the last decade, Sony has advocated for and promoted the use of recycled and eco-friendly materials, including paper, by purchasing these materials for their own use. Most of Sony’s facilities are active in their local communities, hosting environmental workshops and supporting green initiatives. Its newly-constructed Osaki office in Tokyo was built to a high environmental standard — among its energy-saving features are an evaporative cooling system and a thermal heating reservoir. Electricity at some of its European facilities has been sourced completely from renewable sources since 2008, and 99 percent of waste from European manufacturing sites is recycled. Sony has designed and produced some of its most popular items to consume less energy, including the Bravia LCD TV and the Blu-Ray Disc Recorder device, which required half the amount of power in 2010 than it did in 2008.

In spite of these laudable successes, Sony failed to meet its goal of bringing the ratio of reused and recycled waste at facilities outside of its native Japan up to 95 percent. Though its Japanese plants reuse or recycle 99.6 percent of waste, foreign facilities recycle only 87 percent. Sony also aimed to incorporate 12 percent more reused and recycled materials into its production, but fell short of this goal at only 8 percent. Most of the company’s recycled materials come from cardboard, and it has succeeded in reducing the size and volume of its packaging, saving a substantial amount of plastic and cardboard. Though Sony wished to cut its use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 40 percent, it stopped just short of this goal at 35 percent. VOCs, commonly found in plastic and latex substances such as paint and solvents, contain chemicals that can leach out into the environment as gases, and are usually difficult to substitute.

The electronics giant has high hopes for the future, as outlined in its Road to Zero campaign, in which the company has promised to cut 100 percent of its carbon emissions by 2050, building on its environmental successes and striving to meet the goals it fell short of in 2010. Other goals outlined in this plan include reducing energy consumption from 2008 levels by 30 percent per year, cutting packaging waste by 16 percent and lowering carbon emissions from transport by 14 percent by 2015. Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer said that his company aims to be a model of sustainability in the electronics industry, saying, “From the development of new materials and energy efficient technologies, to the introduction of better processes in manufacturing and production, we will work aggressively to meet the ambitious targets we are setting for ourselves and, at the same time, establish a model for others in our industries to follow.”

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