Sony is a world-leading supplier of electrical equipment, and a world leader in sustainability too. The company sets progressively more challenging environmental goals every few years – progressing along its “Road to Zero”, an ambition to achieve a carbon footprint of zero by 2050.

European head of environmental affairs, Dr Thomas Fischer, says: “It is very challenging, so to make it workable we have calculated the targets we need to achieve in the interim.

“We have set targets for 2015 that cover both operations and products, and impact on greenhouse gas emissions, waste generation, use of recycled materials, water consumption, carbon dioxide emissions from our logistics and transport, and so on.

“For our operations, we’re looking to reduce carbon emissions by 30% against 2000 levels, water also by 30% against a 2000 base year, and for our products we have very similar targets – 30% reduction in energy consumption compared to 2008, a 10% reduction in product mass, and an increase in the use of recycled materials and reduction in the use of virgin plastics of 5%.”

From 73% in 2000, recycling has increased so 99% of waste generated by Sony Europe manufacturing facilities is either reused or recycled.

Fischer says: “We’re doing pretty well, but while we’ve already partially achieved some of our targets for 2015 some of these results are related to the economic crisis, so we cannot let up our efforts.”

Achieving ambitious reductions in resource and energy use along with waste generation across hundreds of sites worldwide is difficult – simply measuring the results is a challenge. Sony addresses these difficulties though a global environmental management system based on ISO 14001, which covers all aspects of its sites and products.

Performance is managed and measured on a number of levels, from individual site through to country, continent and globally, and audited both internally and externally by Bureau Veritas to ensure progress is constant.

All sites report on their progress against the group’s environmental targets, and laggards implement improvement programmes that involve, for example, the sharing of energy efficiency best practice across sites.

“We also put a lot of effort into supplier control,” Fischer says. “This is mainly to check compliance with substance requirements – we have 3,000 suppliers globally, and only do business with ‘green partners’, so they have to provide evidence they don’t use certain substances.

“We audit our suppliers – it is very important, particularly in light of the strict REACH chemicals regime in Europe.”

Considerable effort is expended improving the environmental performance of products, with the introduction of televisions that shut down automatically when no one is in the room, and development of a plastic with 99% recycled content.

Production of SoRPlas (Sony Recycled Plastic) cuts CO2 emissions by almost 80% compared with virgin plastics. Sony is also marketing a Blu-ray player that uses 47% less power than its predecessor and is one third narrower. The smaller size cuts shipment-related carbon emissions by 40%.

Fischer says: “If our products are to be competitive they need to incorporate good environmental performance, and energy

efficiency is easiest to communicate to the market.

“We’re also planning for the reduced availability of resources, which is why we have targets to reduce the intake of virgin materials into our products, and as much as possible, to use recycled material.

“Full compliance with environmental requirements globally is necessary to protect our brand name, but we also see the benefits of reducing our energy costs – particularly as the cost of energy is going up. So with every saving, not only are you reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but also your costs.

“However, there are some actions that increase our costs but we still do, such as using 100% green electricity across Europe. This reduces our CO2 footprint, but comes at an increased cost as you’re paying a premium. But we see it as an important signal to the market and a way of stimulating renewable energy generation.”

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