The Nakatsugawa Works' Iida Factory, which began operations in 1974 as a ventilator factory, established a production floor for home photovoltaic systems in 1998. Together with the Nakatsugawa Works, the plant has made many products that benefit the environment.
The Iida Factory reduces its environmental impact through such initiatives as Environmental JIT (just in time), which involves saving energy resources (electric power, gas and fuel oil), protecting river ecosystems by purifying wastewater and recycling coolant water, and promoting zero emissions by reducing waste volume and recycling.
The Iida Factory converts all the resources it uses, not just electricity and gas, but also iron, copper, aluminum and plastics, to carbon dioxide emissions so that each and every employee maintains a strong awareness of the environment during the course of their day-to-day work. For example, saving one ton of iron is equivalent to reducing carbon dioxide by 1.5 tons. Efforts are made to raise awareness of the fact that all improvement activities not only reduce costs but also are directly linked to environmental benefits. This serves to encourage all employees to participate in improvement activities (efforts to eliminate waste of all kinds).
Packing before improvements
Packing after improvements
Iida, located in Japan's Central Alps, is involved in initiatives based on its own Environmental Plan in an effort to bring sustainability to the region. A leading initiative is using more photovoltaic power systems. Since fiscal 1997, Iida has carried out measures to encourage greater use of these systems, offering financial intermediation and interest payment subsidies to citizens who install them. Iida has been selected as an "Environmental Cultural City" for its efforts to become a low-carbon city that produces energy from the sun and forest. The city's efforts are expected to significantly expand Mitsubishi Electric's photovoltaic power system business. Mitsubishi Electric participates in the Research Group for Regional Environmental ISO launched in Iida in 2000. This group has developed into an organization that is critical to the region's environmental and cultural progress. Its members are 29 local businesses, including the Iida Factory. As the deputy representative of the research group, factory employees give lectures at environmental forums held by local administrative bodies and participates in local environmental activities conducted by the private and public sectors and private citizens.
The Iida Factory has 78 apple trees near its entrance that symbolize its environmental activities with the community. The trees were planted 35 years ago when the factory was established and express its basic stance of being open to the community, as the trees contribute to the environment by providing green space and replace other types of fences.
Many employees have painstakingly cared for the trees. In the fall, they produce 35,000 apples, a local specialty of Iida. Every red apple is stenciled with the Mitsubishi logo, and these apples are one of the factory's celebrated products. They are given as souvenirs to people who tour the factory and are donated to local senior citizen centers and care facilities. In December, children from local care facilities are invited for an apple-picking event. The children express their appreciation in letters, often commenting on the great-tasting apples.
The Iida Factory has a row of apple trees instead of a traditional fence. The apples have the Mitsubishi Electric logo. There was a special version in 2008 to commemorate 40 years of producing duct ventilators.
A poster received from children who participated in the apple-picking event. The factory receives letters from children expressing their thoughts about the day.
These days, business must be discussed along with the environment. However, if environmental contributions are separated as a special activity, then progress becomes difficult. What is important is not letting anything go to waste. When every person is dedicated to avoiding waste—whether of energy resources like electricity and gas, materials like iron and copper, or things used at the office like paper—this will lead to everyday environmental activities. Based on this idea, the Nakatsugawa Works promotes its environmental activities as a "war against waste" with full employee participation. Reducing costs and expenses are essential, but it is also important that we use natural resources wisely.
Companies must also conduct activities with their communities. Environmental activities do not make much of an impact when conducted by a single company. I give lectures on the regional activities being promoted by Iida, and in my talks with people with a variety of local perspectives I have learned many things. I hope to deepen ties to the community and promote environmental contributions at the regional level based on a spirit of letting nothing go to waste.