“We believe that innovation and sustainability are crucial not only in our products, but also in our processes”

Building a better tomorrow

Sustainable production promises to aid the global recovery


JANUARY 2021 Industry Perspectives / Text by Toby Waters

As the effects of climate change continue to batter our world, and the Covid-19 pandemic has devastated lives and the economy, many businesses in Japan and the EU are considering how they can build back better.

Different approaches
There are various ways to make production sustainable. One is reducing the amount of waste at every possible stage of a product’s lifecycle.

Axess is a leading international manufacturer of ticketing and access management systems. By working with the latest technology, our systems allow your customers to use their tickets several times by reloading them online,” says Claudia Kopetzky, chief marketing officer. “Last year we decided to stop printing our product manuals and have offered online versions since then. This saves a lot of paper.”

Advancements in technology always present new challenges for sustainability. But companies like EV Group Japan are able to help their clients keep down their consumption.

“We are a leading supplier of equipment for the manufacture of semiconductors used in high-tech products. The recent rise of data traffic related to 5G and the Internet of Things has dramatically increased energy consumption,” says Hiroshi Yamamoto, representative director. “Our equipment plays a key role in manufacturing cutting-edge devices for hyperscale data centres that consume significantly less power, benefitting the global environment.”

Today, many companies are being recognised by independent experts for their work in protecting the environment.

KEBA Industrial Automation produces control systems, drives, and handheld devices. We have our own printed circuit board production facilities, as well as production lines for the construction of electrical devices and drives,” says Martin Schwarz, CSO. “Ecological concerns play a key role in our selection of materials, and the careful handling and recyclability of raw materials is integrated into our production processes. KEBA is certified in the area of quality [EN ISO 9001] and has a certified environmental management system according to the EN ISO 14001 standard.”

Audi Japan is a prime example of a business actively expanding its own range of sustainable products.

“Last year, Audi Japan introduced its first electric vehicle (EV), the Audi e-tron Sportback — and the e-tron GT and Q4 e-tron are slated for launch within the next 12 months. We plan to introduce more than 10 electrified models by 2025, part of our global initiative to have electrified models account for one-third of our sales by that year,” explains Philipp Noack, president and CEO. “We are also partnering with a Japanese renewable energy provider to offer our customers and dealers the option to charge their EVs using renewable energy sources.”

Others in the automotive sector are working towards similar goals.

KTM is a world-leading producer of off-road and street motorcycles, including high performance bikes that meet the Euro 5 emissions standard and vehicles with electricity-powered engines. Sustainability is a priority at every stage of production,” explains spokesperson Mitsuhisa Nishi. “Today, just 2% of the emissions that one of our vehicles will create over its lifecycle comes from the production process, and between 90% and 95% of all steel and aluminium waste created during production is recycled.”

Ensuring that medical treatments stay viable in difficult times is also key to maintaining a sustainable world.

“We are working intensely to develop solutions for the safe and effective transportation of cells for cell therapy between hospitals and laboratories. This is of particular importance during the current pandemic, as patients near smaller hospitals ultimately end up having to travel long distances to a big hospital,” explains Dr Samuel Abraham, GN Corporation’s head of research and development. “If lab cultured cells can be effectively transported, this will help patients in smaller cities. Our transportation methods are effective on cartilage tissue, corneal tissue, and buccal tissue.”

Personal stakes
While long-term profitability is one reason for prioritising sustainable production, businesses also see the bigger picture.

“The world is faced with the enormous challenge of reducing greenhouse gases and preventing further climate change. Audi is fully committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement. Our vision is to become a premium sustainable mobility provider for generations to come,” Noack says. “This is not only for our vehicles, but the entire lifecycle of our products and operations — from procurement and production to logistics, vehicle operation, and recycling/disposal — will be re-engineered to be carbon neutral by 2050.”

KEBA’s Schwarz believes that ongoing improvements to make a product’s lifecycle more sustainable is a must.

“We believe that innovation and sustainability are crucial not only in our products, but also in our processes,” he says. “It is important to us to create energy-efficient and environmentally friendly production methods, which we are continually working to improve.”

Markus Habisch, MAGROS e.U.’s agricultural consultant, can see with his own eyes the real-world consequences of global warming and the pandemic.

“If you work in the agriculture sector, you can clearly see the severe effects of climate change. Last year, when Covid-19 hit the world, we all saw how important it is to have resilient food production, stable supply chains, and sustainable land management that helps reduce CO2,” he says. “I am always thinking about how my business decisions will fit into the expectations of a changing world in relation to how we deal with the climate, natural resources, and biodiversity.”

KTM’s Nishi believes that his company can serve the public — and our descendants.

“KTM is committed to doing its part to protect the environment for future generations, so we ensure that at least 95% of our consignment companies pursue environmentally friendly initiatives,” he says. “We also create and provide renewable energy to the general public. We use a 40,000m2 photovoltaic system on the roof of our logistics centre to generate solar energy that is then delivered directly into the national grid.”

Other organisations see an opportunity to use their international links to accomplish things they couldn’t do by themselves.

NRW.Global Business Japan, the trade and investment agency of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), promotes sustainable energy, efficiency, recycling, e-mobility, and sustainable production to help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” says Georg Löer, president and representative director. “To this end, we host events and facilitate cooperation between Japanese and German partners, such as exchanges between Fukushima Prefecture and NRW, which have been held since 2012.”

Stability in unstable times
The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many businesses, including EV Group Japan, have had to make changes to keep employees safe while maintaining efficiency.

“Travel restrictions are the biggest challenge for us,” says Yamamoto. “Also, we have put comprehensive safety measures in place, including social distancing, adjusting schedules to avoid too many people in the office, eliminating in-person meetings, and managing business travel risks when employees are required to be physically present somewhere. We are continuously evaluating the situation to optimise service for our customers and business partners, while keeping everyone involved safe and healthy.”

Kopetzky has seen similar actions taken in Austria.

“We had to adapt to new measures at our headquarters in Salzburg and our factory in Innsbruck, as well. People in the office in Salzburg were asked to work from home. We supplied them with computers, and within one day, we were able to work with the same speed and efficiency as before,” she reports. “At the factory in Innsbruck, we adapted our security measures by giving out masks and disinfectant to our workers and creating new processes that guarantee new social distancing rules are observed.”

GN Corporation is conducting research on its food supplement Nichi Glucan to assess how it can potentially protect against Covid-19.

“Our beta glucan food supplement Nichi Glucan has immune system-enhancing and modulating properties that mean it has the potential to be an effective prophylactic against Covid-19,” Abraham explains. “We have started a clinical study of this product on Covid-19 patients in India after three papers on the subject were published in peer-reviewed journals, documenting the benefits of beta glucans against Covid-19. We are also researching if Nichi Glucan could be used as a vaccine adjuvant.”

Moving forward

Deciding what a post-Covid-19 world will look like is a serious matter. New ways of farming are an important part of the path ahead.

“As an agricultural consultant, I feel a special responsibility to ‘feed the world’ in a sustainable way by working with farmers all over the globe,” Habisch says. “I want to help farmers and their organisations increase organic farming and find new paths to fulfil the needs and expectations of consumers responsibly, while also giving farmers opportunities to create a stable income for themselves and their families.”

Löer sees the recovery as a chance to fight for a cleaner, more connected world.

“The world in 2021 will continue to be heavily impacted by Covid-19, digital transformation, and the climate crisis, NRW.Global Business Japan will contribute to tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, promoting digitalisation, and addressing the global climate crisis by aggressively promoting Germany’s national climate targets and the aims of the European Green Deal,” he says. “We do this through participation in the FC Expo trade fair, the EcoProfit programme, and the NRW Virtual Business and Technology Fair.”

Sustainable production is set to play a major role in the global recovery.