DiscussionManufacturing Industry’s Obligation to Sustainability

A deadline of 2030 has been set for the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under Sharp’s vision of “Changing the World with 8K+5G and AIoT,” the company is undertaking a range of initiatives to help make this a reality.
Here to discuss this are Hidemitsu Sasaya, an SDGs consultant and professor at the Chiba University of Commerce, and two Sharp members in charge of SDGs matters.

Note: The discussion was held under strict protection protocols for the novel virus.

The Three Principles of Business Success Via the SDGs

Hidemitsu Sasaya

Implementation of the agenda for the SDGs*1 began in 2016. All parties—industrialized and developing countries, governments and the private sector—are working together to create a sustainable society. What do the SDGs mean to Sharp?

  • *1 Adopted by the UN in 2015, the SDGs are a set of 17 development goals for the world to achieve by 2030 in order for society to realize sustainable development.
Etsuko Yamamoto

In 1973, long before the UN’s SDGs were announced, Sharp formulated a business philosophy that described the spirit it had held ever since company foundation. The aims of the SDGs are contained in this business philosophy, which states that we will “contribute to the culture, benefits and welfare of people throughout the world” and understand that “our future prosperity is directly linked to the prosperity of our customers, dealers and shareholders.”

HS

So, Sharp had the SDGs philosophy instilled in its management from early on. The aim of the SDGs is to reach the 17 goals and the 169 targets they include by 2030. What are Sharp’s concrete policies towards helping achieve the SDGs?

Sharp business philosophy, formulated in 1973

EY

Sharp set contribution to the SDGs as part of its medium- to long-term vision on sustainability starting in fiscal 2018. For example, the vision calls for the implementation of two key items: providing solutions to social issues through business and technological innovation; and reducing burdens on society and the environment through SER*2 measures. By carrying these out, we want to help achieve the SDGs promise to leave no one behind.

  • *2 A Sharp-created acronym that stands for Social and Environmental Responsibility.
HS

Working towards the SDGs connects with a long-held philosophy of Japanese merchants called sanpo-yoshi, or “three-way satisfaction”: benefits to the seller, benefits to the buyer, and benefits to the local community. The importance of evolving business with consideration not just for yourself but also for society and the environment coincides with the SDGs philosophy. The spirit of sanpo-yoshi and the SDGs is included in Sharp’s business philosophy.

EY

That’s right. Equating the words of our business philosophy to the three benefits of sanpo-yoshi, benefits to the seller is “the intention of our corporation to grow,” benefits to the buyer is “the prosperity of our customers, dealers and shareholders,” and benefits to the local community is “contribute to the culture, benefits and welfare of people throughout the world.” We have made the pursuit of continuous growth in unison with society the basic philosophy of our sustainability.

HS

That is so true. However, I don’t think the sanpo-yoshi philosophy alone is enough when tackling the SDGs.
Since long ago in Japan, there has been a saying, intoku no bi, which means “it’s good to conceal something.” This would not fly in today’s global society. If you don’t earnestly share what you’re working on with others, they will wonder if you are really doing things properly and honestly. That’s why I think it’s important to not just implement the three-way satisfaction we call sanpo-yoshi, but to publicize and share it as well.

EY

You’re absolutely right. Failure to disclose information will prevent our company from getting an improved ESG*3 assessment. Under Sharp’s business vision of “Changing the World with 8K+5G and AIoT,” we have a website with information such as how we are contributing to the attainment of a sustainable society and examples of Sharp’s efforts to contribute to the SDGs. And our annual Sustainability Report contains more and more information with each publication.

  • *3 ESG: Environment, Social, Governance
HS

The world will get a better understanding of sanpo-yoshi, a concept so important to Japanese companies, if it is put in the framework of the SDGs. This is because SDGs is a word known worldwide. I would like to see companies in the manufacturing industry use the SDGs as a shared concept and a compass to guide them, and to keep refining their business philosophy.

The Manufacturing Industry Can Change the World by Collaborating on the 17 Goals

HS

The SDG most closely related to the manufacturing industry is goal 9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure. The idea is to make manufacturing itself part of a sustainable society, which is different from conventional CSR in that the goal is to create a foundation of technical innovation, create jobs, and improve people’s lives. Therefore, manufacturing companies should declare with confidence that their business is tied to the SDGs.

Two other SDGs—goal 12: Responsible consumption and production, and goal 13: Climate action—are inseparable from the manufacturing industry. For example, when procuring raw materials, a company must consider whether it is taking into account environmental impact and human rights, and whether its manufacturing is contributing to a carbon-neutral society.
However, it is difficult for one company to achieve these on its own. That’s why it’s crucial for companies to cooperate across industries as stated in goal 17: Partnerships for the goals.

An ideal cycle would be for companies to energize their partnerships and combine their technological strengths to solve issues regarding climate change and resource recycling. In other words, the goals 9, 12, 13, and 17 are leverage points for the manufacturing industry.

Katsushi Wada

These are exactly what Sharp is working towards. In 2019, we formulated the SHARP Eco Vision 2050 long-term environmental vision, under which we set goals in three fields of action: climate change, resource recycling, and safety and security.

In the field of climate change, we work to reduce the greenhouse gases generated by our business activities, products, and services by remaining conscious of the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to no more than 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels.
In resource recycling, we are pursuing the achievement of a circular economy*4 by, for example, reducing waste generated.
In the field of safety and security, we aim to strictly manage and reduce the consumption of chemicals that can have a negative effect on the natural environment and ecosystems.

  • *4 An economic system aimed at eliminating wastes and circulating resources. Waste products and raw materials are considered new resources and are thus recycled.
HS

What is marvelous about SHARP Eco Vision 2050 is that it takes a fresh and comprehensive approach to all social issues while at the same time promoting economic growth. I really feel that it integrates the environment, society, and the economy. It also stresses the importance of the relationships and linkages between the 17 SDGs as opposed to simply approaching each one separately.

I think that if Sharp takes the initiative with the SDGs and provides a platform through which all suppliers and other partner companies can participate, other companies in the industry will follow suit.

Saving and Creating Energy for All of Society, Not Just Sharp

KW

The first field of action of SHARP Eco Vision 2050, climate change, consists of two approaches: save energy and create energy.

To save energy, Sharp developed Airest, a home-use air conditioner that incorporates an air purifying function. Airest prevents dust from entering it and limits the amount of humidity inside it, both of which keep air volume from decreasing due to accumulated dust. The result is consistent energy efficiency. Airest is both an air conditioner and an air purifier, meaning you don’t need separate units for these functions and can thus save on electricity bills. These points were lauded when Airest received the METI Minister’s Prize in Japan’s 2020 Energy Conservation Grand Prize program. Airest contributes to solving what Mr. Sasaya points out is a pressing issue, goal 13: Climate action.

Airest combines an air conditioner and air purifier in one

HS

Airest is an example of using technological strength to achieve goal 9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure. It can also be said to contribute to goal 3: Good health and well-being. A clean air environment allows people to live in good health, and reduced electricity bills can ease household living costs.

This one product therefore helps reach multiple SDGs. This perspective of making products is something the manufacturing industry should strive for.

KW

Yes. The PPA service*5 that Sharp is offering reflects this perspective. This is a service for corporate customers that allows them to incorporate solar power systems with no initial investment. A system is installed on a factory roof or other location of a customer’s site, and this provides them with electricity at a fixed price.

This PPA service helps customers reduce their CO2 emissions and lowers the risk of fluctuating electricity prices, and it gives them an easy way to start using renewable energy. This contributes to the two SDGs of 13: Climate action, and 7: Affordable and clean energy.

  • *5 Power Purchase Agreement. A solar power company installs solar power generation equipment on a building roof or other location of a customer’s site to provide the customer with electricity.
HS

I agree. This also relates to goal 9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure, because the development of clean energy requires a very high level of technological strength.

KW

In 2021, we launched a service in Japan called COCORO POWER for newly built houses to help spread PPA to general households. We hope this will allow us to join with customers in contributing to goal 7: Affordable and clean energy.

From Used Products to New Products: A Continuous, Virtuous Cycle of Reuse

KW

Sharp is contributing to resource recycling by applying its closed-loop plastic material recycling technology in Japan. This involves collecting used home appliances and reusing the plastic in them in parts for new Sharp home appliances.

To recycle plastic, we need to recover high-purity plastic from used home appliances. This is achieved through a technology for recovering high-purity plastic. Next, by using a technology for improving the properties of recovered materials so that their quality is on a par with that of virgin materials, we can increase the amount of plastic that can be recycled. And quality-control technology ensures optimal quality. Sharp is thus recycling thanks to the development and introduction of these technologies that integrate everything from material recovery to quality control.

HS

Plastics are made from fossil fuels, a limited resource. They also severely harm the environment when they are disposed of. That’s why it’s crucial to take used material and, rather than throw it away into the natural environment, keep recycling it over and over in a closed loop. This equates to the “responsible consumption” part of goal 12: Responsible consumption and production.

Ocean plastic has become a serious issue. Recycling plastic will help solve this problem and contribute to goal 14: Life below water.
Ocean plastic was a major item on the agenda at the 2019 G20 Osaka summit*6 in Japan. As the summit’s host, Japan must take the lead in tackling this issue.

  • *6 The G20 is a forum of 19 countries and the EU. It was held in 2019 in Osaka, Japan.
KW

Sharp launched its closed-loop material recycling technology almost 20 years ago. Washing machine tubs are now in their third generation of recycling but the washing machines using the recycled material have proven to operate as well as products using virgin raw materials.

HS

Sharp efforts like this material recycling have been made possible by the company’s acute recognition of social issues, and the cooperation and teamwork among company departments in manufacturing, quality control, and technologies. It’s also marvelous how Sharp has pursued technical innovation while evolving various processes. I urge Sharp to publicize this to the world as a cutting-edge example of goal 12: Responsible consumption and production.

A technologically advanced country like Japan must aim for higher level goals than those of the SDGs. This is because the SDGs are only basic goals that were agreed upon by both industrialized and developing countries. I want all companies in the manufacturing industry to apply their business to the 17 SDGs and confirm that they are achieving these basic goals.

The Manufacturing Industry Must Manage Chemicals

KW

The products Sharp manufactures contain numerous chemicals, and a wide variety of chemicals are used in production processes in factories.
The chemicals needed to manufacture products should not harm the environment or people’s health. We do not use harmful chemicals in products and services, and we are thorough in our compliance with laws, regulations, and international standards related to chemicals.

HS

Humans have had bad experiences with chemicals over the years: industrial pollution and health damage, to name a few. Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production, talks about things like disposal and management of chemicals.
Consumer electronics are an integral part of people’s everyday lives. In that sense, managing chemicals is an absolute must. I hope Sharp will strive to be an example for the rest of the world.

KW

The measures Sharp currently takes are obvious ones that go without saying. We also obligate our suppliers to carry out the same high level of chemical management, and we aim to boost this management level in future.

Corporate Branding through the SDGs

EY

We believe human rights are another crucial part of contributing to the achievement of the SDGs. Essentially, the social and environmental issues taken up in the 17 SDGs focus on protecting the rights of the people around the world who are affected by these issues.
I think it’s important for Sharp employees working towards the SDGs to consider themselves citizens of the world, and for us to create an awareness of exactly how the work we do every day is connected to the SDGs.

HS

Listening to you speak makes me realize that Sharp is a company with an acute recognition of, and sensitivity to, social issues. Because Sharp began working to solve society’s problems long before the SDGs came into being, it is now time for the company to connect the SDGs to its branding and its appeal.
I urge Sharp to reposition the relationship between its business and the SDGs and to take on challenges in new fields. The clues to what these challenges should be can be found in the SDGs.

Hidemitsu SasayaProfessor, Chiba University of Commerce CSR/SDGs Consultant

Graduated from the University of Tokyo Faculty of Law. Joined what is now the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 1977. Retired from government service in 2008 after working in positions including deputy director-general of the Environment Minister’s Secretariat, deputy director-general of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister’s Secretariat, and Bureau Chief of the Kanto Regional Forest Office. Joined Ito En, Ltd. in 2008. Until 2019, worked to promote CSR in that company in positions including director and managing executive officer. Joined Chiba University of Commerce in April 2020 as a professor in the Platform for Arts and Science. Ph.D. in policy research. Main published works: Q&A About SDGs Management (2019, Nikkei Business Publications, Inc.), Learn Local Government SDGs in 3 Steps (three-volume set) (2020, Gyosei Corporation), etc.

Hidemitsu Sasaya website: https://csrsdg.com/

Etsuko YamamotoSenior Manager of Social and Environmental Responsibility Promotion Team, Internal Control Group, Internal Control Planning Division, Finance and Administration Office, Sharp Corporation

Worked in cooking systems sales, product planning, and HR before being appointed to current position in April 2011 in what is now the Internal Control Planning Division. Has worked on policies, measures, and information disclosure related to company-wide SER.

Katsushi WadaDeputy General Manager, Quality and Environmental Promotion Office & Division Manager of Environmental Promotion Department, Sharp Corporation

After conducting technological development into biomass energy and other areas at a plant engineering company, joined Sharp in 2008. Worked formulating and implementing environmental policies in head office environmental departments before being appointed to his current position in October 2021.