Our sustainable future together is essential business

by Jill Rick

Tagged Under: Innovation and Technology Social Responsibility Sustainability

Komatsu executives planting trees in Appalachia

This January, the CEO of the world’s largest investment firm, BlackRock, announced he was putting sustainability at the heart of the organization’s investing decisions. Significant, considering the company oversees a reported $6.8 trillion worth of investments. CEO Larry Fink’s annual letter to other corporate leaders stated: “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance. … because capital markets pull future risk forward, we will see changes in capital allocation more quickly than we see changes to the climate itself.”

BlackRock also announced it was signing on to the Climate Action 100+ initiative to drive companies to reduce their carbon emissions. These moves follow action taken last summer by 181 CEOs representing the largest U.S. companies as the Business Roundtable. In August 2019, the roundtable’s members signed a manifesto stating that corporations have a responsibility to focus on more than just the needs of their shareholders and promote “an economy that serves all.” They vowed to “protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses.”

If you work in the construction and mining industries, you’ve probably been aware of the need to prioritize sustainable business practices for longer than most. Both industries – particularly mining – require a “social license to operate.” Meaning, if the communities where minerals are found or projects are to be built don’t support the work or the companies responsible for it, the required approvals will not be granted. As a result, many of the leading mining and construction companies have built out robust sustainability programs over the years, finding ways to balance the need for societal growth and environmental responsibility.

Commitment to “an economy that serves all” is part of the reason Komatsu was founded, and has driven our corporate social responsibility efforts for decades. We are honored to have been working alongside our customers for almost a century now to understand and provide sustainable solutions that help address the changing needs of the mining and construction industries. Our commitment to creating a sustainable future together is reflected in our actions internally and externally, and something we seek to strengthen with each opportunity to do more.

Did you know?

Komatsu was founded in 1921 to create a new source of jobs and support the economy of Komatsu City, Japan, when the city’s largest employer – a copper mine – was depleted. Offering training to his fellow residents to build a new skilled workforce, our founder, Meitaro Takeuchi, started Komatsu to provide sustainable growth for his area. That founding spirit lives on today in our commitments to growing with society, developing people and enhancing quality of life.

Our commitment to the environment

Following the lead of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) set forth by the United Nations, we’ve focused on three distinct areas of corporate social responsibility: 1) enhancing quality of life, 2) developing people and 3) growing with society. Full detail on which SDGs we target can be found on page 14 of this report. When it comes to the environment, and specifically SDG 13 to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact,” we’ve committed to working toward reducing carbon emissions and environmental impact throughout our value chain. With a focus on innovating to bring sustainable change, we are working to increase efficiency and reduce energy use.

Specifically, Komatsu has set a goal of reducing our CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030 (in comparison to 2010 figures). That goal encompasses twin aims to reduce CO2 emissions from production by 50 percent and reduce emissions from product use by 50 percent. We’ve also set the goal of sourcing 50 percent of the electricity used at major production sites worldwide from renewable energy.

Sustainability within our operations and products

Our operational commitment to sustainability starts with our facilities. We are committed to working toward the creation of net zero facilities that advance our operations sustainably. Several of our facilities utilize solar panels, and we thoroughly research our electricity suppliers to ensure alignment on commitments to clean energy goals. Within facilities, we reuse materials and eliminate waste whenever possible; work that includes rebuilding pallets to reduce deforestation and recycling empty drums to convert them into useable steel.

Komatsu manufacturing facility in Awazu 

Built in 2014, our Awazu manufacturing plant in Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture utilizes a combination of solar panels and biomass power generation system to reduce electrical power consumption by 90 percent. 

When designing the products that we manufacture in our facilities, we focus on creating equipment that helps our customers reduce fuel consumption and lower carbon emissions. For example, our switched reluctance (SR) technology captures and utilizes regenerated energy, reducing a machine's overall fuel consumption by up to 45 percent. Our new PC30E-5 electric mini excavator in Japan offers excavation performance on par with the internal combustion model of the same power output, while achieving zero emissions.

Biofuels are another area of focus. In Indonesia, we’re engaged in a joint venture to develop biofueled dump trucks. The biofuel is derived from a plant, Jatropha, which grows faster than alternative biofuel sources and can be cultivated in less fertile soil. We estimate that 1,000 biofuel-powered dump trucks will cut 200,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

Partnerships and community action

Globally and locally, Komatsu partners with a number of non-profit organizations dedicated to specific environmental causes. On Earth Day 2019 we launched our signature environmental initiative, Growing Forward, which promotes reforestation of previously mined lands. In partnership with Green Forests Work (GFW), we’re working to restore 1,000 acres of national forest in West Virginia, USA, by 2021. That work includes loaning equipment, employees volunteering and capital investment in annual site preparation and planting, along with shared advocacy of the need for enhancing mine reclamation methods to support the restoration of native ecosystems. We were honored to receive the 2019 Mining Magazine award for Environmental Excellence in recognition of this project.

Komatsu employees planting trees in Appalachia 

Leaders of Komatsu’s North American subsidiaries joined GFW, the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service and others last year to plant thousands of trees as part of a project to restore 1,000 acres in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, U.S.

We also partner with groups at a local and regional level. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we support the Urban Ecology Center’s mission to help heal the urban natural world, neighborhood by neighborhood. Komatsu employees volunteer and as a company we support funding projects such as the recent creation of Three Bridges Park, built on 24 acres of previously vacant and neglected land along the Milwaukee River.

And we encourage our employees to take action on their own, as well. In the past year we launched our Growing Forward contest that recognized and supported environmental initiatives spearheaded by individual employees and small teams across Komatsu’s North American operations. The winners will join Komatsu leadership on a visit to the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia to support the next phase of planting there.

Growing forward together

Together with our customers, community partners, suppliers and employees we are intent on continuing to grow these efforts. Now more than ever, we are proud to be part of essential industries that demonstrate a commitment to environmental action while working to support societal growth. As the focus on essential business grows, we hope you’ll join us in supporting and enhancing environmental action at all levels – from individual actions to corporate initiatives.  Maintaining high environmental standards is more than a good business practice – it is a fundamental responsibility owed to our employees, customers, communities and the environment we all share.

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