Green: Get as Good as You Give

Oct. 1, 2010
Learn how to promote sustainability while keeping your eye on the bottom line.

Environmental responsibility is integral to Toyota's global environmental commitment. But the million-dollar question is: “How do you promote sustainability and keep your eye on the bottom line?” Here are a few ideas that help us.

Make Corporate Philosophy Sustainable

Be clear in your commitment to help the community and environment, and to produce products that give customers an environmental and economic edge. Employees are more committed when they believe their actions make a difference. Make it a priority in your company culture.

Toyota operates under a global earth charter that promotes environmental responsibility throughout the entire company. The priority and importance of environmental responsibility is made clear by its integration into the company's guiding principles.

Get a Green Commitment from Suppliers

Do you have an Environmental Management System (EMS)? Have you minimized waste and increased recycling efforts? Do your suppliers have an EMS? Partner with companies that have similar goals and commitments to build every part of your product with the environment in mind. This will ensure your company's environmental efforts are not inadvertently diluted.

Toyota analyzes and minimizes the environmental impact of each product at every stage of the production cycle — from design and development to raw material, parts procurement, manufacturing and product disposal. This process helped Toyota Industrial Equipment Mfg. (TIEM), Toyota's lift truck plant in Columbus, Ind., achieve a 33% reduction in VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions, 80% reduction in HAP (hazardous air pollutant) emissions, 40% reduction in energy consumption and a 65% reduction in natural gas consumption. The plant also treats the water from the production process and returns it to the local water treatment facility cleaner than government standards require.

Toyota asks all suppliers to use environmentally friendly materials and processes and requires their top 65 suppliers, who account for more than 75% of the materials purchased locally, to be ISO14001 certified or have an equivalent EMS.

Continue to Invest in R&D

As always, customers are interested in new technologies that could help the environment and save money. When the timing is right for these new technologies, it's important to be a leader in the market.

In the lift truck industry, there is great interest in alternative technologies, including fast-charging systems and fuel cell power and hybrid lift trucks. Fast charging provides just that-faster charging systems resulting in less downtime and fewer batteries making their way to landfills. Hybrids offer great potential for companies that want to save on fuel, but prefer an engine-powered lift truck. It will be the product that closes the gap between electric and engine powered lift trucks. Fuel cells also are promising, but the infrastructure cost can be prohibitive and the industry may need government support to grow market demand for fuel cell technology.

It's important to invest in research and development to maintain a competitive advantage for the eventual increase in demand for alternative technologies.

Get Everyone Involved

There are simple changes that everyone can make to help the environment and increase profitability at your company. And it's an all around win if you can do them both at the same time. Consider implementing these simple changes at your company and watch your employees' “green” enthusiasm — and your bottom line — grow:

  • Place recyclable bins throughout your company. Set goals for reduction in landfill waste. Have a contest to see which group or department can recycle the most in a week and encourage associates' participation by donating the proceeds to local charities.

  • Encourage vendors and partners to adopt “green” initiatives.

  • Print in black and white and make two-sided copies. In some instances, you can reduce copy costs by more than 80% by using black and white ink vs. color.

  • Give every employee a company mug. Ask them to use it instead of paper or plastic cups.

  • Install motion sensors on the lights in your office and plants to minimize electricity usage during non-working periods.

  • Encourage carpooling and offer incentives to do so.

Corporate culture, small ideas and individual efforts can add up to a lot when it comes to environmental sustainability and corporate profitability. And it's up to all of us to do our part to improve our communities and boost the country's economy.

Brett Wood is president of Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., Inc. (TMHU), an Irvine, Calif.-based supplier of lift trucks. For more ideas visit: