Nov 01, 2023
Generating Sustainable Impacts / Feature Story
PGI in Action: Panasonic North America Sees Collaboration as Key to Addressing Environmental Challenges
- Without Action, We Could See More Extreme Weather Events
- Efforts Made at Local Automotive Factories to Reduce CO₂ Emissions
- Panasonic North America’s Circular Economy and Recycling Initiatives
- Partnerships Are Key to Achieving Environmental Goals
- Individuals Have Taken Action, Too
- PGI Efforts in North America Going Forward
Without Action, We Could See More Extreme Weather Events
Many parts of North America have been witnessing widespread devastation and added costs associated with severe weather events. The Atlantic coast has seen powerful hurricanes occurring with greater frequency, and this summer, Canada experienced a series of major wildfires that impacted air quality and forced many people to remain indoors. Scientists have long pointed out that climate change has caused these disasters to increase in both frequency and intensity.
To contribute to addressing these and other environmental challenges, the Panasonic Group launched Panasonic GREEN IMPACT—the Group’s commitment to reducing CO2 emissions from its own value chain while using its businesses to contribute to reducing CO2 emissions generated by customers and society.
Following the PGI in Action: Europe feature, Panasonic Newsroom Global (PNRG) interviewed Andrea Murphy, Director of Environmental Affairs Compliance & Sustainability at Panasonic Corporation of North America to explore the key PGI initiatives that Panasonic North America is taking part in, such as partnerships with other companies, individual efforts from employees, and interactive social media campaigns, aimed at achieving a more sustainable society. What follows is based on the conversation between Murphy and PNRG.
Efforts Made at Local Automotive Factories to Reduce CO₂ Emissions
“I think where we’re approaching the climate crisis in many ways here in North America, we are working to reduce our scope 1 and 2 emissions at our Panasonic factories,” said Murphy. Scope 1 emissions are emissions that occur directly in a company’s own value chain, and Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from purchased or acquired electricity, steam, heat, or cooling that are generated off-site and consumed by the company. Under PGI, Panasonic is working on reducing Scope 1 and 2 emissions by introducing zero-CO2 factories and other efforts to reduce energy loss in its value chain.
Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America (PASA) has already reached net-zero CO2 emissions at their factories in North America, most of which are located in Mexico with offices in the United States. PASA accomplished net zero in three steps: introducing energy-saving initiatives, utilizing renewable energy at each site, and procuring renewable energy.
At each factory, a group of employees from every department joined together and looked for ways that they could enhance or improve operational efficiency and reduce energy loss, such as replacing broken pipes, lights, etc. The employees decided to switch all their indoor and outdoor lighting to more efficient LED lighting, upgrade their HVAC equipment, and fix air leaks in some of its pipelines. After this, they looked to add renewable energy sources, like solar panels, to their rooftops where possible. Once these improvements were complete, each site shifted its focus to the third step—the procurement of renewable energy.
Panasonic North America’s Circular Economy and Recycling Initiatives
Panasonic promotes the effective use of resources and maximizes customer value through progress in recycling-oriented manufacturing and the creation of businesses oriented to the circular economy. The circular economy activities at Panasonic have two aspects: the creation of circular economy businesses, and the evolution of recycling-oriented manufacturing.
One such circular economy initiative put in place by Panasonic is its MULTISHAPE, a product that replaces multiple disposable personal care products, such as razors, nose trimmers, hair trimmers, and even toothbrushes with its five attachment heads, all compatible with the same body, motor, and battery. The unique design saves up to 60% of the resources it would take to make a single-function item, such as an electric toothbrush.
Panasonic is partnered with MRM Recycling to set up a mail-back program called “Take Back Tomorrow” for electric razors. If customers visit the MULTISHAPE website, they are able to register for the program, which allows them to recycle any electric shaver regardless of its condition, in return for a 30% off coupon for a MULTISHAPE. The shavers are first sent to MRM, and then shipped to other Panasonic partners ERI and Redwood for the actual recycling of the devices. ERI handles all of the plastic parts, separating them from the circuitry and turning them into pellets. The batteries then go on to Redwood, and are supposed to be recycled and used as feedstock for Panasonic’s new batteries.* “Without Redwood, we would have to buy raw materials from overseas and have extra emissions to ship that material into the United States. So, Redwood will allow us to have a domestic supply chain and increase the electrification of our transportation systems here in North America,” said Murphy.
Partnerships Are Key to Achieving Environmental Goals
As Panasonic is an electronics company, it is aware of its need to partner with companies that have other specialties. “Our partners or suppliers are hand-chosen. We partner with companies that have very similar initiatives to Panasonic, so they’re very happy to collaborate and work together toward those common goals,” said Murphy. Partnerships like the one with MRM, ERI and Redwood on the MULTISHAPE shaver recycling program not only allow Panasonic to be more environmentally friendly, they also directly contribute to the circular economy.
Aside from MRM, ERI, and Redwood, Panasonic has also partnered with Nouveau Monde Graphite Inc. (NMG) and Lucid Group. Panasonic’s partnership with NMG is discussing establishing a supply chain in North America for graphite, an active material used in lithium-ion batteries. NMG’s graphite has a low environmental impact, and sourcing the material in North America reduces carbon emissions in the logistics process. In partnership with Lucid, Panasonic has taken on the role of supplying batteries for Lucid’s award-winning luxury vehicle, Lucid Air. Partnering with electric vehicle manufacturers such as Lucid will help grow the lithium-ion battery market and push the world towards a net-zero emissions future.
Individuals Have Taken Action, Too
Panasonic encourages its customers and employees to live more sustainably and take part in initiatives that help the Earth. Earlier this year, the Group collaborated with One Tree Planted on a program that kicked off at CES 2023 in January and lasted until Earth Day, April 22. For every social media post tagging Panasonic and using the hashtag #PlantItForward, a tree was planted on lands within Clear Creek Watershed, an area severely impacted by the 2018 Carr Fires of California. A tree would also be planted if one explored the CES website, collected four badges, and shared them on social media with the hashtag. In total, 63,810 trees were planted.
Panasonic is now preparing for CES 2024, and sustainability will be a major theme at the Panasonic booth. The Group also plans to use the event to discuss related themes such as the circular economy and better recycling.
Individual employees are also making changes to promote more sustainable lifestyles. In Newark, many Panasonic workers are doing away with paper and plastic cups and bringing their own reusable mugs. The HQ building of Panasonic North America is also conveniently located across from the local train station, so many employees have stopped driving to work and begun taking the train instead.
Murphy herself always carries a reusable bag for shopping and silicone straws that she can use at restaurants instead of the typical plastic straw. “When you make a lot of small changes, things that people can easily incorporate into their lives, those will build up and have a great impact.”
PGI Efforts in North America Going Forward
Panasonic has carefully planned its approach to cutting its carbon emissions. It may be easy for a company to say, “We’ll reduce carbon emissions,” but calculating the exact amount of emissions being generated and then making the numbers public is a clear sign that the company is committed to real change. “Our commitment is to reduce carbon emissions by more than 300 million tons, which we calculated to be 1% of the current global emissions,” said Murphy. “I believe that’s well respected by our customers.”
Panasonic believes that the most important things to focus on right now are tackling global warming and reducing CO2 emissions across its operations and in society. Every action, big or small, contributes to the Group’s ultimate goal of realizing a better life and a more sustainable global environment.
*Redwood’s recycled cathode active materials will be used in lithium-ion batteries to be manufactured at a new facility in De Soto, Kansas starting in 2025, and its recycled copper foil will be used in lithium-ion batteries to be manufactured at Panasonic Energy of North America (PENA)’s facility in Sparks, Nevada starting in 2024
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