Sony on the road to zero

edie's energy editor Luke Walsh speaks to Dr Thomas Fischer the man tasked with keeping one of the world's biggest electrical companies green.

Sony’s head of European environmental affairs Dr Thomas Fischer is facing a hectic few weeks as he prepares to begin another cycle of sustainability targets with the end of another financial year.

But, with the terrible events surrounding the company’s homeland there’s never been a better time for Sony to focus on being green.

Thomas, who is based in Stuttgart, Germany, originally studied electrical engineering at university, but his environmental leanings began much earlier as he grew up spending a lot of time in the forest nurturing a keen interest in the natural environment.

In later life and as his career got underway, Thomas got his first break taking a job working with luxury German TV manufacturer Loewe.

He was working on developing a greener television for the business which is usually focused on the high end of the market with expensive and impressive looking TVs.

Working on the greener TV got him noticed and Thomas moved on to Sony, who he joined in 1998, and was quickly tasked with drawing up plans for improving the company’s sustainability.

Obviously, energy efficiency is at the forefront of electronics giant thinking, but as a Japanese firm, which has a foothold in pretty much every country’s market, power sources are very much at the forefront of its thinking.

A policy, introduced long before the tragic tsunami and resulting chaos at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, means Sony Europe claims to now source 100% of its energy from renewables and doesn’t use any nuclear power in that mix.

“Our European electricity procurement is 100% renewable from sources such as hydropower, solar, biomass and wind, that also means no nuclear as policy.”

Although, Thomas does concede it’s more expensive and in some countries Sony has to offset, but only because of the makeup of that country’s power supply infrastructure.

While it is a big part of the business but it’s not solely because of being green that Sony is driving the environmental agenda so high up the corporate ladder.

“Sometimes we do have to pay more to source our energy from renewable sources, that’s an unavoidable part of deciding to run the company this way.

“But by maximising our energy efficiency, through carrying out simple things like insulating buildings, we can still make savings.”

Talking of savings Thomas is working towards a looming target of reducing Sony’s global energy use by 30% by 2015 – compared to fiscal 2000 consumption.

It is also cutting 14% of total CO2 emissions from all transportation and logistics again compared to 2008.

Other global targets include a 10% reduction in product mass (against 2008), 50% absolute reduction in waste generation (compared to 2000) and a 30% absolute reduction in water consumption (against 2000 levels).

And, it’s not just Sony’s own emissions Thomas is trying to cut but also for its products namely a 30% reduction in their energy use (against 2008), enabling Sony’s customers to reduce their energy bills but also their related emissions.

“Our long term target is to be carbon neutral by 2050 and we will get there, but it’s about making our products greener as well as our manufacturing process.”

To do this Thomas points towards products like the VAIO W eco edition lap top, launched last year, is according to Sony one of the most environmentally friendly laptops.

The computer features recycled plastic parts, an electronic manual and a carry-bag that overall saves about 10% in CO2 emissions during production.

But, while he’s in charge of making sure the global giant’s European carbon footprint is under control is Dr Thomas Fischer he feels a these days often discussed carbon label for electronic goods not being credibly implementable today.

“Measurement of a carbon footprint is extremely difficult as the supply, chain is very deep”.

“We first need a universal carbon footprint calculation as currently there’s no standard to compere, there needs to be standardisation.

“There’s a real need for a more forensic standardisation that can be applied to business.”

Waste is also crucial for Sony with recycling and water targets as prominent as its energy targets in the company’s green plans.

“Rreused material is going into items like television stands, but it is also used in other areas like camera lens hoods or the packaging of DVD cases.”

Away from the day-to-day sustainability agenda Thomas also keeps his eye on the environmental claims of items using Sony’s official branding.

“There is to be honest a lot of rubbish in the market and I’m concerned with every product produced or carrying Sony branding.

“To ensure that on top of our own product also our own marketing material is compliant we’re working hard as a company having several programs running to address this.

“In the same way all our electronics suppliers must comply with our rules so must companies making marketing goods such as pens or T-shirts for us.

“If they don’t we’ll not work with them and, in the past, we ended or refused to start business with organisations that don’t meet our sustainability criteria.”

Luke Walsh

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