“Consumers want to associate with environment-friendly products”

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Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer Panasonic is one company implementing the green initiative quite seriously in India. It plans to become the No. 1 green innovation company in the electronics industry by 2018. And as part of its global campaign, it will reach out to its customers in India for recycling of electronic items.
Manish Sharma, director-marketing, Panasonic India, speaks to Uma Bansal, executive editor at EFY, about the urgency for going environment-friendly and green design practices that could be followed. Excerpts…


MANISH SHARMA, DIRECTOR-MARKETING, PANASONIC INDIA
MANISH SHARMA, DIRECTOR-MARKETING, PANASONIC INDIA

MARCH 2011: Q. For electronics manufacturers, how important is it today to become environment-friendly in their products and operations?
A. Green production is a business strategy that focuses on profitability through environment-friendly operating processes. Proponents of this management philosophy believe that green production is a sensible course to follow not only because of the benefits it bestows on the environment but also because of its fundamental strategic soundness.

Manufacturers are being motivated to go green by spiraling energy costs, growing concerns about the future of non-renewable resources, surging consumer demand for eco-friendly products and processes and environmental sustainability.

Q. As there has been a mounting pressure from green watchdogs, how successful have been companies in phasing out toxics from their products?
A. The greatest environmental challenge facing our industry today is the presence of toxic substances such as arsenic, brominated flame retardants, mercury, phthalates and polyvinyl chloride in products. Although most countries still allow use of these substances, companies are working with their manufacturing partners to eliminate them from products. We all have to understand that designing greener products means considering the environmental impact of the materials used to make them. From the glass, plastic and metal in our products to the paper and ink in our packaging, our goal is to reduce or eliminate environmentally harmful substances.

Panasonic, in general, feels that a concerted effort needs to be undertaken for drastic GHG emission reduction and innovative technological development must be achieved in a timely manner to tackle global warming and stabilise the GHG concentration.

Q. What challenges do they face while going green?
A. As the world’s population grows, the living standards improve and the economies develop, the biggest global challenge is to do all this in a sustainable manner instead of impacting the environment.

Many organisations want to turn green as an increasing number of consumers want to associate themselves with environment-friendly products. Green technology requires constant R&D and innovation. Firms cannot aspire to be flexible if they did not innovate. Continuous innovations in terms of product and marketing strategies will raise the stature of the organisation in the market.

Yet, while companies are trying to meet this need, a very serious challenge is on the consumer side, as many distrust the credibility of green products. Therefore to ensure consumer confidence, marketers of green products need to be much more transparent and refrain from breaching any law or standard relating to products or business practices. Another problem faced in developing markets is costs for such products.

Q. What are the green manufacturing techniques being followed by the companies?
A. Many firms are going in for green technologies—from techniques to generate energy to non-toxic cleaning products. Some companies are interested in technologies that eliminate lead; some others go in for those that recover material from the product during processing. To comply with social responsibility and profitability factors, companies are also developing electronic components and systems that are very low on electricity consumption and are aptly called energy-saving gadgets. Interestingly, the production of energy-efficient appliances is somehow costlier than other products.

At Panasonic, we had introduced ‘eco ideas’ Factory, model facilities. The ‘eco ideas’ Factory in Singapore will play a crucial role in achieving Panasonic’s green commitments in the Asia Pacific region to manufacture eco-friendly products and develop sustainable industry practices and, more importantly, raise the level of eco consciousness in the community.

Q. How are they managing their end-of-lifecycle products?
A. Going green may sound complicated and confusing but what all of this boils down to is that in order to make your manufacturing operation green, you need to find a way to design your products more efficiently. Many manufacturing companies accomplish this by taking what is referred to as the three lifecycle approaches to product design.

The first of the three lifecycle approaches to product design is to design a product for reuse. In some cases, this means that a product is made with recycling capabilities in mind. Other ideas include that newer models can be created not by the creation of an entirely new product but by adding to the existing product, thus eliminating waste and unnecessary product costs.

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