Gallery: INTERVIEW: Inhabitat Talks to Panasonic’s Katsumi Tomita About...

 

Inhabitat: Panasonic already has a rather robust recycling center and seems to be contemplating using more recycled material in its products. In terms of accounting, does recycling materials actually save your company money or is it currently more expensive?

Tomita: Right now, it is not evident that there is any particular financial advantage coming from cost reduction by utilizing recycled materials. PETEC (Panasonic's recycling factory) was established is be in accordance with the respective Japanese laws on the recycling of home electronics appliances. PETEC is mainly run by recycling fees consumers pay when their electronics products reach the end of their useful lives, and by design it makes neither profit nor loss - it just breaks even. PETEC’s recycled materials are sold to outside companies by a Panasonic Group company. We cannot say that materials recycled in this way are always relatively cheaper than virgin materials.

Inhabitat: Can you tell us a little bit about your role at Panasonic?

Tomita: My title is Manager of the Communication Team in Corporate Environmental Affairs Division, Environmental Planning Group. My role in this organization is to communicate about Panasonic’s corporate environmental affairs initiatives outside the company through trade shows and other public forums, the Internet, environmental reports and more.

Inhabitat: Last month, you outlined for us Panasonic’s 100th anniversary vision to become the number 1 green innovation company in the electronics industry by 2018. When and why did your company decide to make that its #1 goal?

Tomita: This company vision was decided and announced officially by our president, Mr. Fumio Ohtsubo in January 2010. Global environmental issues, including global warming, are problems of great urgency. As a responsible corporate member of society, Panasonic regards these matters as extremely important. The company’s future growth will be achieved in line with what we can contribute to the environment.

Inhabitat: Panasonic is a gigantic company with many resources available to it. However, shifting the entire focus of a corporation and the mindsets of 366,937 employees is a humongous undertaking. Was there some kind of financial analysis done assessing what kinds of future benefits turning the company towards a greener focus would have before it was decided or was it obvious to management that green products were the wave of the future and therefore the best possible decision?

Tomita: In the effort to achieve a sustainable society, any company that is not prioritizing environmental initiatives will not survive. Panasonic decided to place environmental factors at the core of all of our corporate activities. My division, Corporate Environmental Affairs Division, has not been directly involved in the financial analyses; such analyses would be the function of our corporate planners. However, the decision to pursue this vision was made at the very highest levels by Mr. Ohtsubo.

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