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Viewpoint: Panasonic’s unusual climate target

Viewpoint: Panasonic’s unusual climate target

By Jeremy Williams

Lots of companies and corporations have set themselves climate targets of one kind or another. Most focus on their own immediate impact – the emissions from their own operations. Some stretch a bit further and tackle the emissions in their supply chain, or that result from people using their products.

The Japanese electronics company Panasonic include these elements in their carbon targets, what’s often known as Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. But they also include a ‘contribution’ target, and it’s not something I’ve seen elsewhere.

The idea of the contribution target is that rather than just get their own house in order, Panasonic wants to quantify the role it will play in the global transition to net zero: “By 2050,” they announced last year, “Panasonic Group aims to create an impact that reduces CO2 emissions by more than 300 million tons, or about 1% of the current total global emissions.”

Panasonic wants to take on 1% of global emissions.

Why? Because when the corporation calculated its overall impact on the environment, it established that its products “use around 1% of the electricity on earth.” That’s not electricity that Panasonic is using – it’s the energy that their customers are using. But the company still wants to take responsibility for it in some way.

They plan to do that through products that reduce emissions – things like hydrogen fuel cells, solar cells, heat pumps, or EV batteries. They also include retail fridges with automatic doors to save energy and vacuum-insulated glass that is part of their portfolio of products. Altogether, these products will contribute to a 1% decrease in global emissions – not huge in the overall scale of things, but massive for one company to attempt.

I think this ambition is worth noting in itself, but it’s also important when viewed alongside other corporate pledges on the environment. Contrast Panasonic’s ‘contribution’ target to those of companies like Shell or BP, who insist that they can reduce their own immediate impact and be net zero oil companies – as if an oil rig powered by wind turbines is now environmentally benign. This knowing blindness to overall impact is worthy of a Joseph Heller satire, and gives the whole idea of net zero a bad name.

We will have to wait and see if Panasonic can achieve the 1% contribution they’re going for, but for now, it’s a good example of what it might look like when a company looks at their overall impact, rather than looking at the minimum they can get away with.

First published in The Earthbound Report.

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