The green alternative

European firms help to improve sustainability in Japan


April 2022 Industry Perspectives / Text by Alexandra Ziminski 

The world is growing increasingly concerned about climate change and energy security. So, considerations such as the use of alternative fuels, renewable energy, and green technology are becoming incredibly important for a wide spectrum of Japanese businesses. Many European firms that are established in the Japan market are working to minimise their carbon footprint and help their clients do the same.

Clean choices
One of Spain’s largest confectionery manufacturers, Vidal Candies, is committed to using renewable energy.

“In order to reduce Vidal’s carbon footprint, we have installed photovoltaic panels in our facilities,” says Joaquín Vigueras Miralles, managing director. “This prevented a total of 9,645 tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere in 2021. Additionally, all the electricity we use comes from 100% renewable energy sources. That means we also avoid any indirect greenhouse gas emissions associated with our energy consumption.”

Andreu World, a Spanish furniture company, has created their own eco-friendly technology.

“We have developed a series of our own sustainable materials that will help to advance sustainability in the design sector and reduce our environmental impact,” says CEO Jesús Llinares. “One is a novel polymer of natural origin obtained from industrial recycling called Pure ECO and another is CIRCULAR ONE, which is fabric from yarn manufactured with plastics from PET bottles and waste textiles. Both are 100% recycled and 100% recyclable.”

Schunk Carbon Technology is focused on innovating for the green transition.

“With our expertise in materials, we create solutions that help make electric vehicles more efficient, safer, and more environmentally friendly,” states Dr Thomas Wittek, director. “Schunk Smart Charging systems for reliable, automated charging of electric buses are already being used around the world. We also offer a wide range of components for the e-powertrain and for safe thermal management.”

Green guidance
Some European firms, such as IX Wind, are well equipped to advise Japanese companies on their renewable energy projects.

“We use our expertise and experience in offshore wind to support our clients in Japan and Asia with successfully developing, financing, constructing, and operating offshore wind farms,” says Rob van Veen, senior project manager of IX Renewables Japan, the umbrella organisation of IX Wind. “We offer package management on interface, operations, maintenance, transport, and installation, as well as strategic project management, procurement, and overall contract management.”

Titan GreenTech, a Tokyo-based recruiting firm, exists to provide businesses committed to sustainability with the talent and support they need.

“We recruit exclusively for companies in the renewable and cleantech space. This ranges from large, global manufacturers of wind turbines to venture capital-backed next-generation battery startups,” says Andrew Statter, partner, head of GreenTech at Titan Consulting. “Aside from manufacturers, we support investment firms focused on renewable projects, as well as consulting firms that are advising corporations to holistically reduce their carbon footprints.”

German consulting and project development firm ECOS GmbH is dedicated to strengthening ties between Germany and Japan in the area of sustainability.

“We support technology transfer between Germany and Japan by providing platforms for cooperation and information exchange on environment and energy-related technologies,” says Johanna Schilling, managing director. “For example, we have organised the German–Japanese Environment and Energy Dialogue Forum since 2007 and the German–Japanese Energy Transition Council since 2016. We also give direct support to experts from industry, academia, and administration in both countries.”

A helping hand
Technology company ABB K.K. uses its expertise in automation to help customers minimise their environmental impact.

“At ABB, we aim to help our customers reduce their annual CO2-equivalent emissions by a total of more than 100 megatons by 2030,” says Shuichiro Nakajima, president and representative director, local business area manager of the Robotics and Discrete Automation Business Area. “We believe that technology holds the key to a sustainable future and to tackling climate change. With our technology, our customers can get closer to carbon neutrality faster and more efficiently.”

Helping clients to create effective strategies is key to more sustainable operations, according to IX Wind.

“By implementing the lessons learned from European offshore wind projects, IX Wind can maximise our clients’ green energy production and minimise their costs and carbon footprint,” explains van Veen. “We can do this by, for example, designing an effective operations and maintenance strategy during the design phase and using effective strategic project management.”

Titan GreenTech offers advice to organisations looking to adopt renewable energy sources.

“Procuring clean energy applies to all businesses,” says Statter. “Major corporate players tend to make direct agreements with renewable companies, however, there are some service providers that help small to mid-size companies purchase clean power at a fair price. Also, electric vehicle fleets and onsite solar installations are becoming more economically viable.”

Vidal’s Vigueras Miralles knows that his firm’s use of clean technology is making a positive impact on the environment.

“The use of green technology has helped us to save money and resources. In short, it is a guarantee of operational efficiency,” he says. “It is also important for us to know that we are contributing to the planet’s health. Vidal’s improvements are reducing the amount of polluting gases in the atmosphere, helping to combat global warming, reducing energy dependence, and promoting self-consumption.”

Next steps
Research and development in the sustainability field is something ABB is dedicated to pursuing.
“We continue to promote R&D with a focus on digital technology,” says ABB’s Nakajima. “For example, here in Japan, ABB developed PixelPaint — a robotic painting system that has achieved 100% coating efficiency — at our technical centre in Shizuoka. Also, we are supporting the development of EV charging infrastructure across Japan. In both cases, digital technology is the key, and technological advancements in this area continue to be important.”

Schunk’s Wittek hopes to boost the adoption of electric vehicles.

“We want to help e-mobility become the standard,” he says. “That’s why we are working on solutions that will make electric vehicles even more attractive. For example, we are working to establish Schunk Smart Charging for automobiles, which will allow us to offer an autonomous charging solution that makes manual charging superfluous.”

Although problems will arise during the energy transition in Japan, ECOS is aware that it will also bring great opportunities.

“One of the main challenges to decarbonising the energy sector in Japan is increasing the domestic supply of wind and solar power, then integrating these volatile energy sources into the grid,” says Schilling. “However, we see potential in flexible and decentralised energy storage options that can connect these renewable sources to electricity, heating and cooling, and the mobility sector. There are also opportunities for cooperation in geothermal energy; waste heat; and carbon capture, usage, and storage technologies.”

Andreu World is focused on the goal of company-wide, and even industry-wide, sustainability.

“We intend to continue leading the sustainability charge in the furniture sector,” says Llinares. “For example, we only use sustainable wood with a 100% FSC certified offering, obtained from reforested forests, and we take care of it throughout the chain of custody. By 2025, all the products in the Andreu World catalogue will be in the circular economy. We are opening up a new and comfortable path towards sustainability.”

There is no longer any reason for firms in Japan to put off the start of their sustainability journey.