Environment & Climate

How is the electronics industry combating its environmental impact?

By October 15, 2019 No Comments

Amongst the protests seen in London & other major cities last week by the climate action group Extinction Rebellion; more & more of the worlds eyes were drawn to the need for action.

Policy makers & Governments are still being sought out & made accountable for a seemingly inactive stance when it comes to climate change & the people are demanding that something be done.

Many of the climate deniers feeds in social media streams cited that the protestors should “get a job & build a future for your children” & of course the reality of the situation was that people from all walks of life took to the streets to show their fear & concerns for what some are calling an “uninhabitable future” Farhana Yamin, an Environmental Lawyer who was arrested for gluing her hands to the Shell offices in April this year, has been so moved by the inaction that she felt the need to protest. Farhana is not a “crustie” or is “jobless”, but she is a woman who has worked on many international treaties, including the Paris Agreement & who has worked on the:

  • Children’s Investment Fund Foundation from 2009 to 2012 leading on work relating to development of low emissions development strategies in developing countries and the development of progressive coalitions in the international negotiations.
  • Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex from 2003 to 2009 and published numerous books and articles on the climate/development nexus.
  • Director of the Climate Change and Energy Programme of the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development from 1992 to 2002.
  • Lead Author for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for three assessment reports.
  • Director of the Basic Project which brought together experts and government representatives from Brazil, South Africa, India and China for the very first time in 2004 to 2008 to discuss climate policy issues. (1)

Therefore, if a professional Lawyer is willing to risk a criminal record for what she believes in, what is everyone else doing?

Last week we took a look at what the mobile phone sector is doing to support ethical & environmental changes in manufacturing & supply chain. However, despite the companies we looked at having taken a more recent stand to “stop” climate change, there have been some giants of the electronics industries who have been acting sensitively towards the needs of planet Earth, since the 1970’s.

Panasonic is one of the most well know manufacturers of electronics in the world & this Japanese corporate giant has been actively mindful of it’s pollution status since the 1970’s.

Despite having been founded in 1918, right in the middle of the Industrial Revolution; this giant of the electronics world has become more & more mindful of it’s environmental impact, as more & more global evidence has come to light.

Ironically, despite being such a vast corporate electronics manufacturer, a 2014 Fortune report found that ‘Panasonic suffered the largest perception gap between the actions the company’s taken and what people think it’s done.’ (2) with their environmental responsibilities being completely missed by a global perception of their manufacturing activities.

Since 1991, Panasonic have cited in their Environmental Statement that they were:

“clarifying our approaches to address global environmental issues as a public entity of society. Since then we have been carrying out initiatives including matters on global warming prevention and resources recycling corporate-wide, aiming to attain a sustainable, safe, and secure society.” (3)

Sustainability is a key part of the Panasonic’s corporate citizenship activities & in more recent years & most notably in 2013 when the company moved it’s US headquarters to Newark. ‘The state-of-the-art, 340,000-square-foot, 12-story Class A office tower was awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for Commercial Interiors. Earlier this year, the building earned LEED Gold Certification for its Core and Shell architecture.’ (4)

‘The move was hailed as a key way to revitalize the struggling city, but for Panasonic, it fulfilled a sustainability mission.

The company built a new LEED certified tower (gold exteriors, platinum interiors) just blocks from Newark Penn Station, a key transit node for both local and regional transit. This connectivity and transit accessibility has led to a nearly 50 percent drop in the number of workers commuting to work by car alone from 88 to 36 percent. Panasonic’s VP for corporate communications estimates that the move has taken 500 cars off the road every day.’ (2)

Therefore, if Panasonic are making such a global environmental impact, who else is publicly reassuring consumers & likewise climate activists & concerned citizens that they are acting on behalf of the needs of this planet we inhabit?

Most of us own & use some kind of computer device, whether it be a palm pad, laptop or desktop computer. The two most notable providers of hardware & software in the world are of course Microsoft & Apple. We have already looked at what Apple are striving to undertake in relation to climate change & their role in preserving planet Earth, so what about Microsoft?

Microsoft’s Environmental Policy headlines stipulates that they are striving to:

·         Conserve, reuse, and recycle

·         Reduction and disposal of wastes

·         Sustainable products

·         Continually improve our performance

·         Responsible sourcing of raw materials

·         Demonstrate responsibility to our stakeholders

·         Life cycle thinking

  • We perform life cycle assessments (LCA) to calculate the environmental impact of our hardware products. These assessments help us identify the key stages in the product life cycle — for example, where the largest environmental impacts take place over the device life cycle — enabling us to minimize these impacts. We publish greenhouse gas emissions, primary energy consumption and material composition data for our products through our eco profiles. (5)

However, it is actually the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, who is making the most impact in the climate change stakes. Bill Gates is part of the Breakthrough Energy Ventures group which have thus far generated $1 billion to help fund innovators & startups with sustainable energy solutions “helping promising companies take great ideas from the lab to market at scale.” Bill Gates (6)

Bill Gates breaks down the 5 main areas for combating climate change into these sub categories:

“Where do greenhouse gas emissions come from? I like to break it down into five main categories—what I call the grand challenges in stopping climate change:

  • Electricity(25%). Although there’s been progress in the renewable energy market, we still need more breakthroughs.
  • Agriculture(24%). Cattle are a huge source of methane; in fact, if they were a country, they would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases! In addition, deforestation and when the trees are burned, they release all their carbon back into the atmosphere.
  • Manufacturing(21%). Making cement and steel requires lots of energy from fossil fuels, and it involves chemical reactions that release carbon as a byproduct. So even if we could make all the stuff we need with zero-carbon energy, we’d still need to deal with the by-products.
  • Transportation(14%). More emissions come from airplanes, cargo ships, and trucks. Right now we don’t have practical zero-carbon options for any of these.
  • Buildings(6%). This area will be more important over the next few decades as the global population moves to cities. The world’s building stock will double in area by 2060. That’s like adding another New York City every month for 40 years.

(The final 10% is a sixth, miscellaneous category that includes things like the energy it takes to extract oil and gas.) Bill Gates (6)

With his investments being enabled by his corporations  immense turnover & net worth; Bill Gates is able to make a huge impact on the misgivings of climate change & help make meaningful & practical investments into future technologies which will not only help to repair planet Earth, but also help humans to continue to develop a technological & yet sustainable future.

Written by Katy-Jane Mason on behalf of Dolphin N2

  1. (1)  https://unfccc.int/climate-action/momentum-for-change/advisory-panel/farhana-yamin
  2. https://www.allbusiness.com/10-big-companies-setting-great-environmental-examples-102601-1.html
  3. https://www.panasonic.com/global/corporate/sustainability/eco.html
  4. https://news.panasonic.com/global/topics/2014/30184.html
  5. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/corporate-responsibility/sustainability
  6. https://www.gatesnotes.com/Energy/My-plan-for-fighting-climate-change?WT.mc_id=10_17_2018_06_EnergyClimateChangePlan_BE-WEB_&WT.tsrc=BEWEB