Panasonic sees strong business potential in the Middle East for its wide range of eco-friendly products designed to reduce environmental impact and support the global transition to sustainability, and empowering individuals and businesses to take meaningful steps toward a cleaner and more sustainable world, its top official says.
Hiroyuki Shibutani, Managing Director, Panasonic Marketing Middle East and Africa FZE, said more than one billion people across the world use Panasonic products every day and it puts big responsibility on the company to introduce environment-friendly products in the market.
“Panasonic spent around $3.35 billion on research and development in its 2023 fiscal year. This represents an increase compared with the previous fiscal year, when the company invested around $3.25 billion,” Shibutani said during an interview.
Excerpts from the interview:
What is Panasonic’s strategy for COP28?
Panasonic's participation in COP28 demonstrates its dedication to fostering sustainable innovation and addressing the urgent environmental challenges the world faces today. Through our latest advancements in clean energy and commitment to the Green Impact Vision, Panasonic is poised to play a vital role in shaping a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future.
Climate Tech can play an important role in addressing environmental issues. Do you see Panasonic role in this regard?
Over one billion people across the world use Panasonic products every day. That is a big number, and it comes with an even bigger responsibility. Roughly one per cent of global CO2 emissions from electricity consumption come from the use or manufacturing of our products. Addressing this issue begins with taking responsibility for our own role in the ongoing climate crisis. We call our contributions to this effort Panasonic Green Impact. Panasonic understands its obligation to act responsibly, and the Panasonic Environment Vision 2050 was established in 2017, with a focus on Sustainable Development Goals aligned with the United Nations and the Paris Agreement.
Through the development of products, technologies and solutions relating to energy creation, storage, saving and management, Panasonic will work towards creation and more efficient utilisation of energy which exceeds the amount of energy used. When Panasonic committed to reducing emissions from our business operations to net-zero by 2030, we knew that would mean rethinking how we power our manufacturing facilities. We've already hit out net-zero target at several sites, and the process has provided valuable insights into how to achieve sustainable factories.
Our approach to reaching net-zero at our manufacturing sites has been to reduce energy consumption and add on-site renewable energy sources, then off-setting what remains by purchasing renewable energy or renewable energy credits.
In 2018, Panasonic realised our first zero-CO2 factories, which included Panasonic Eco Technology Center Co, Ltd. (PETEC), a home appliance recycling company in Hyogo, Japan. The factory underwent extensive testing to identify energy-saving opportunities; results were achieved by installing renewable energy power generation systems, procuring renewable electricity and utilising carbon credits to offset CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.
The next Panasonic factories to achieve net-zero efficiency were completed in 2019 and 2020, in Brazil and Costa Rica, respectively. These factories utilise renewable energy derived from abundant hydropower. Panasonic realised our first zero-CO2 factory in China in 2021. This was achieved through the promotion of manufacturing with minimum energy (through innovations in manufacturing methods and processes), advanced energy-saving technologies and LED lighting. Also introduced were solar power generation systems, purchase of International Energy Certificates (I-RECs) and use of carbon credits that offset CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.
In May 2022, we announced that part of our manufacturing site in Kusatsu, Japan, would be converted into a demonstration sustainable power facility, designed to verify the technical and commercial viability of locally-produced, clean energy. The facility's mix of solar photovoltaic panels, hydrogen fuel cells and storage batteries can generate enough energy to run the site's fuel cell factory.
Through this demonstration, Panasonic will gain real-world know-how and data on operating a zero-emissions factory, bringing us closer to the goal of abundant clean energy generated from renewable sources. We believe this proof of concept can serve as a template for the next generation of sustainable manufacturing.
Can you please identify any three major climate issues that can be addressed by Panasonic?
Today, Earth is the warmest it has been in 1400 years. Greenhouse gases (GHG) are the main cause of global warming. Once essential for maintaining the earth’s temperature and making the planet habitable, GHG have reached a dangerous level due to human activity. CO2 (carbon dioxide), which accounts for 70-80per cent of total greenhouse gases, has the greatest impact on global warming. At Panasonic Group, we believe our most important issues are to tackle global warming and reduce our own and society’s CO2 emissions. Since founding our business more than 100 years ago, we have looked to improve the quality of people’s lives when conducting our business and we now have two main responsibilities as outlined below:
Achieve net-zero CO2 emissions of all operating companies by 2030 With our advanced manufacturing technology and clean energy solutions, we are reducing CO2 emissions from factories and committed to achieve carbon neutrality in manufacturing.
Reduce CO2 emissions of our customers through the use of our products. We will continue to develop more energy-efficient products and solutions to reduce CO2 emissions from customer consumption
Increase contribution to reducing society’s CO2 emissions Panasonic Group has a diverse range of businesses that span many different areas of society. We will accelerate the transition to clean energy and the reduction of CO2 emissions by expanding solutions that create and use clean energy efficiently, reduce energy consumption and improve the efficiency of business processes to our B2B and B2G customers.
Panasonic as a brand is known for its diversified products. How do you ensure the devices are eco-friendly and help in reducing carbon emissions?
As part of the efforts to create a brighter and greener tomorrow, Panasonic recently unveiled its new brand slogan: "Create Today, Enrich Tomorrow." This slogan reflects our dedication to finding answers for tomorrow’s planet. With global energy consumption rising by an average of 2.3 per cent every year, Panasonic has based its business mission on offering advancing technologies that will help people save energy, save water, reduce food wastage and shop minimally.
We developed AI Econavi, which efficiently cuts energy waste by adapting to usage patterns and using power-efficient, inverter-controlled motors. This technology also assesses clothing and conditions to minimize water usage without compromising washing performance. Using the washing machine alone conserves water.
Food wastage can be minimised now with technologies in refrigerators such as Nutri Tafreez, Lucent Shield keeping food fresh and nutritious longer as well as advanced kitchen appliances such as juicers with maximum juice extraction capability. We also introduced our latest modular personal care system ‘Multishape’ which enables people to shop minimally and buy only what they need.
Panasonic has a strong presence in the UAE and the Middle East market. What is your strategy to further strengthen presence in the region?
We have been in this region for more than six decades and have an in-depth knowledge of the market, which helps us to understand the market better and bring in the right solutions. The UAE continues to lead with its smart initiatives that also bode well for our industry, especially for our brand, as we are a leader in high-tech technology innovative solutions and products to cater to such challenging demands.
Across the region we will continue to reinforce our focus on a strong brand value, as well as strengthen our presence with a broader product portfolio in order to have a larger footprint in the region. Panasonic continues to increase our focus on our large household appliances such as washing machines, refrigerators, TVs and ACs – we will introduce new models in different categories that will have an edge over our competition and enhance inner, outer and spatial wellbeing.
Additionally, Panasonic will launch premium products that carry an uncompromising spirit of ‘Japanese Excellence’, not only in terms of technological innovations but also deeply rooted in traditional Japanese culture, which values craftmanship, cleanliness, natural beauty and functionality.
On top of Consumer Electronics, we are also targeting other business areas, such as those focusing on B2B residential solutions. Both UAE and KSA, for example, have numerous residential projects and we see opportunities in them as regards our B2B offerings.
Do you have plans to expand Panasonic footprints in the region? What are the recent product offerings?
We will continue with the execution of our primary marketing campaigns for ‘Create Today Enrich Tomorrow’ to foster stronger customer value for the brand and drive sustained growth.
We want to underscore Panasonic’s commitment to continue delivering on its century-old heritage of Japanese craftsmanship and quality innovations emphasizing inner, outer, spatial and social wellbeing. We will also support this strategy with relevant activities and focused campaigns throughout the year.
Moreover, we are keen to expand our business portfolio specifically for B2B, focusing on sustainable solutions. Panasonic recognises the net-zero goals of governments across the region and we continuously strive to support these efforts and contribute to developing a sustainable society. As a global business, Panasonic is more than just an electronics brand. We also work in the energy business, as well as provide logistics, automotive, aviation, manufacturing and housing solutions, among others. With expertise across multiple areas of technology, we are well-placed to meet the needs of the region for sustainable solutions.
How was 2023 for Panasonic and how do you see the outlook for 2024?
Panasonic has been a dominant player in the regional market for decades and our consistent innovation of product portfolio has always reflected well on our growth. We are confident that, with our wide range of products, in particular our increased focus on developing solutions tailored to the needs of the local markets, we will continue to be at the forefront of the competition.
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