– Article in partnership with Panasonic –
Acting first means leading by example, and this is an essential step for companies that aim for sustainability as a mission and not an obligation. Here is how Panasonic has taken this path.
Sustainability as a commitment to the global community
Foremost, I want to start with a confession: Whenever I see news stories and headlines about climate change, I feel a sense of horror and hopelessness. Nevertheless, I also hear a little voice of hope in my mind that reminds me to take action in my own small way. For example, it has led me to consume less energy driving my car, use 100% renewable energy at home and in my business, and sort my waste with the utmost precision.
In my view, failing to do these things would indicate that I either: (1) didn’t acknowledge the magnitude of the issue or (2) that I was scapegoating and waiting for someone else to do it for me. As members of a global community – who all share the same air and water – we must consider how our individual and collective actions impact the environment, other people, and those who will follow in our footsteps.
I had the opportunity to reflect on this deeply while attending Panasonic’s second sustainability management briefing, the GREEN IMPACT PLAN 2024. The group outlined the concrete actions they will take by 2024, including reducing CO2 emissions throughout their value chain and lowering emissions in broader society. While there was no shortage of thoughtful innovations that could move the needle, I was most impressed by a very long-standing idea. The philosophy of the founder, Kōnosuke Matsushita stood out to me, namely: “Things will not change for the better if you leave them to others… adopt the mindset of ‘I will do it first.’”
When it comes to something as far-reaching and critical as the climate crisis, everyone must work together to safeguard our only planet. Beyond our commitment as ordinary citizens, we need mass producers to get on board. We need look no further than our devices to see the collateral impact that our conveniences have had on the environment. Of course, the power an electrical device consumes does not just occur during its use but also when it is produced. This gives us reasons to not only pause before making a purchase, but also to call on executives to embrace the “I will do it first” mentality. And that is precisely the point I want to underscore in this article, written in partnership with Panasonic.
Panasonic by 2024 will be committed to reducing CO2 emissions along its value chain and in broader society. Click To Tweet
Where Philosophy meets Culture
Matsushita’s guiding philosophy is felt at every level of the company; in fact, it has shaped the entire business culture. When he said that “a company is a public entity of society”, he presumed that the original mission of an enterprise is to contribute to the development of society – and we can see this also in the way Panasonic transparently shows not only its own emission reduction responsibility but also how much it aims to tackle climate issues as its overall societal responsibility, what Panasonic called the “societal impact” of its GREEN IMPACT.
As a case in point, approximately 200 kilometers from Tokyo – in the city of Kusatsu – Panasonic has created the first production plant in the world capable of being powered entirely by renewable energy.
The plant produces fuel cells that convert hydrogen into electricity and “waste heat”. Almost all of the site’s exposed surfaces are covered with photovoltaic panels that generate nearly 570 KW of electricity at maximum efficiency. This is coupled with the next generation of 99 Panasonic pure hydrogen fuel cells, which allow for another 495 KW of peak power generation capacity (99 x 5KW). Panasonic has also installed a system of batteries. The battery system has 1.1 MWh of storage capacity. Their ingenious micro-grid design allows for the excess energy produced by the photovoltaic panels (e.g. on weekends when there is no production, there are times of surplus energy generation) to be stored in the batteries and then delivered when needed.
If everyone were to follow their lead to do their part, the future would look much brighter. Allow me to walk you through it. On a typical day – let’s a sunny day in April in the morning, about half of the energy required by the Fuel cell factory production is generated by photovoltaic panels and the rest by the fuel cells. In the event of adverse weather (where photovoltaic panels are not generating as much electricity), the mix changes by using remaining energy from the battery systems and use more hydrogen to have the fuel cell systems generating the electricity needed. In this way, 100% of the energy that the plant requires, is – in an ideal case – produced from renewable sources and with zero emissions. The rollout to other factories of Panasonic or also offering this set up to other companies will be looked at and decided after the pilot phase.
Panasonic is currently proving that this is not only feasible, it is necessary to safeguard our future. Waiting for others to act is no longer an option.
As I see it, Matsushita’s “I will do it first” mentality should be adopted by every individual and organisation, because we are all in this together and we each need to do our part. Every company has an interest and a moral obligation to promote environmental policies that will benefit our planet, without waiting for others or to be imposed on them by governments.
This is our one and only planet and human beings are the only species capable of undoing the damage we have caused in the name of “development”. Let’s do it now, together, and without waiting for others.
- Original article previously published here