Finally! Finally someone had the guts to commit to a ‘Zero” environmental footprint. Today, Sony surprised the rest of the world by making headlines of a different kind. They committed to a complete zero environmental footprint by 2050. Their plan, titled “A road to Zero” is a really, really long term decision but at least it is something. I think this is the most groundbreaking announcement they have made in the recent past. This despite being in the headlines for their new PlayStation controller and for a slew of new cell phones. Very recently, I’d written about the concept of “Supply to Zero”, an idea inspired by Bill Gates’ concept of “Innovating to Zero”. Sony has taken this a step further by covering all aspects of its business.
Sony’s Goals I must say their goals are extremely lofty. Sony has announced targets based on four environmental perspectives – biodiversity, climate change, control of chemical substances and resource conservation. Their specific targets for the term starting fiscal 2011 and ending fiscal 2015 (which translates into March 2016) include:
- 30% reduction in annual energy consumption of products (compared to fiscal 2008)
- 10% reduction in product mass (compared to fiscal 2008)
- 50% absolute reduction in waste generation (compared to fiscal 2000)
- 30% absolute reduction in water consumption (compared to fiscal 2000)
- 14% reduction in total CO2 emissions associated with all transportation and logistics (compared to fiscal 2008)
- 16% reduction in waste from sources like parts packaging used by suppliers (compared to fiscal 2008)
- Increase of waste recycle ratio to 99% or more
- 5% reduction in utilization ratio of virgin oil-based plastics in products (compared to fiscal 2008)
- Assessment of impact of resource procurement and facility construction on biodiversity, and promotion of biodiversity programs such as groundwater cultivation
- Minimization of the risk of chemical substances through preventive measures; reduction in use of specific chemicals defined by Sony; and promotion of use of alternative materials
Analysis The sheer comprehensiveness of their commitment surprises me. It seems to cover the entire breadth of the product lifecycle, including parts of their supply chain. The distribution piece is covered – albeit in a minor way until 2015. Plans include using more economical and environmentally friendly modes of transport. Also, they’ve committed to reduce the amount of incoming packaging – something that a lot of companies like HP, Dell and Wal-Mart have already been practicing. The direct impact that this is going to have on their procurement piece is yet to be seen. The goals here are a bit generic-sounding like “Understand greenhouse emissions attributable to parts and raw materials”. This is understandably a first step. I would personally love to see what they discover in this regard.
This is a something that will inspire a lot of “green” news in the future. Wal-Mart announced just last month that it was going to work with its suppliers to reduce its carbon footprint. What Sony has announced is certainly a more massive effort. What does tomorrow herald? A great new dawn? Do give me your thoughts.