August 31, 2006


Software and Hardware for Reducing the Environmental Burden - The Fujitsu Group

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.48 (August 2006)
Toward a Sustainable Japan--Corporations at Work Article Series No.49

How can IT contribute to building a sustainable society? One Japanese IT company, Fujitsu, seems to be providing some answers to this question through their services. In 2004, the company developed an information system for Japan's leading transport company, Nippon Express, which included in-vehicle terminals that collect and manage real-time driving information of a huge number of vehicles. This system has been installed in all the company's approx. 14,000 vehicles and one result was an improvement in their total fuel efficiency of about 10%, a major business benefit in terms of lower fuel costs. This example shows that, even in a situation where a vast volume of data are intertwined in a complex and seemingly uncontrollable manner, by utilizing IT that can grasp and manage these volumes of data, it becomes possible to reduce environmental impacts and make businesses more efficient.

The Fujitsu Group

Since its founding in 1935, the Fujitsu Group has provided customers with reliable, high-performance products and services based on leading-edge technology in the IT and communications field. Its wide client base includes government and industry as well as retail consumers. Currently it has about 140,000 employees and net sales in fiscal 2004 amounted to approx. US$ 41 billion, with an operating income of US$ 1.4 billion. It has three major business areas - Software & Services, including IT consulting, an Internet data center and systems integration (44%); Platforms, including servers, mobile communication infrastructure personal computers (PCs) and mobile phones (36%); and Electronic Devices, including semiconductors (15%). About 70% of sales are in Japan, but sales in Europe and the Americas (about 20%) and in Asia, Australia and other countries (10%) are expanding.

This company's various products and services make up part of our daily lives at home and at work; what are their life-cycle environmental impacts? Fujitsu strives to gain a correct and thorough understanding of these impacts, hoping to reduce not just impacts arising directly from their own business operations but also impacts arising indirectly from the activities of suppliers and customers.
Material Balance

Hardware products such as PCs and mobile phones have a lifecycle that runs through development & design, procurement, manufacturing, distribution & sales, use, and collection/reuse/recycling. In the case of hardware, it is important to minimize resource, energy and water use while reducing emissions at the manufacturing stage. It is also important to minimize the environmental impacts of customer use, mainly in the form of energy consumption, and deal with the used products at the collection/reuse/recycling stage.
Environmental considerations in the PC life cycle

What about the impacts of software & solutions? Here it is critical to procure software and services from suppliers who give proper consideration to the environment, as well as to provide systems and services that contribute to reducing the burdens placed on the environment by customers and society.

In this context, the company's targets are to reduce annual CO2 emissions from their own energy consumption to lower than their fiscal 1990 level (about 1 million tons) by fiscal 2010, and to reduce the amount of waste generated by 3% compared to their fiscal 2003 level (50,873 tons) by the end of fiscal 2006.

Software Innovations

Let's look at what kind of innovations in the field of software Fujitsu is working on to achieve these targets. To assist any large organization, such as company or government department, in reducing its environmental impacts, an information infrastructure that can grasp a vast amount of data in a precise and timely manner is a critical tool that can help in making all kinds of difficult judgments. For example, there is the challenge of green procurement from suppliers. At the manufacturing stage, there are issues of how to manage eco-design, energy efficiency, waste reduction, chemical substance management and so on. At the distribution/sales stage, the challenges include information disclosure, measures to mitigate global warming, modal shift, and packaging. At the collection stage, green logistics is an issue, and at the recycling stage, energy efficiency and waste reduction again become a challenge. It is clear that reliable software can make a major difference in dealing with all of these challenges.

Understanding software's potential in helping meet these challenges, Fujitsu has developed a method to quantitatively evaluate the benefits of adopting IT solutions. This method involves evaluating carbon dioxide emissions in relation to various factors that impact the environment, such as "material consumption" and "transportation of people." When IT solutions result in a reduction in environmental impacts calculated as 15% or greater (in terms of carbon dioxide), they are certified as "Environmentally Conscious Solutions." Fujitsu began full-scale use of this certification system starting in June 2004, and as of the end of March 2006, 54 of their solutions have been certified as Environmentally Conscious Solutions. Environmental Solutions

One example was the service provided to Mitsukoshi, one of Japan's most popular department stores. In Sept. 2004, Mitukoshi introduced 3,400 small point-of-service (POS) terminals developed by Fujitsu, in order to streamline its product order forms and transaction records for both business and environmental reasons. The effect was a reduction of 1.8 million order forms and 1.4 million rolls of record paper per year; energy consumption was also reduced due to centralization of servers. "We could make a precise calculation of the reduction in the environmental burden only when Mitsukoshi generously provided us with all kinds of data," says Mitsugu Sato, General Manager, Sustainable Development Planning Division at Fujitsu. Their calculations showed that 1,300 tons of CO2 were cut, equivalent to about 55% of Mitsukoshi's annual CO2 emissions. "Cases like this can help us clarify exactly how IT can contribute to reducing environmental impacts," says Sato.

Hardware Innovations

These kinds of innovations are being made in software; how about hardware? Fujitsu has been working on an Eco-Design base for life-cycle analysis in new product development. It introduced an original product environmental assessment process in 1993, and in 1998 reinforced this process and started marketing products certified through this internal system as "Green Products." From fiscal 2004, the company launched "Super Green Products" that meet Green Product criteria and are in the top of their class on the market in terms of low energy consumption, 3R design and technology, non-use of hazardous substances, and use of materials and technology that contribute to protecting the environment. In fiscal 2005, 25 product lines were certified as Super Green Products, bringing the total up to 33 product lines.

All Super Green Products incorporate at least one innovative feature that allows Fujitsu to lead the industry. One example is their PC, the "FMV-BIBLO NB80K," the first Notebook PC in the world to use bio-based plastic for its housing. This plastic is about 50% bio-based in content (polylactic acid primarily from corn starch) and is used for "plastic" parts, excluding the key board, mouse, and one-touch button. Using it for the housing results in 15% less CO2 emissions than when conventional petrochemical plastics are used. Sato says, "You can see that the Information and Communications industry is heavily dependent on petrochemicals, in terms of materials, logistics and product use. For both environmental and cost reasons, we recognize the need to experiment with a post-petrochemical era in mind."

The company plans to expand and adapt this bio-plastic technology to a wider range of product parts. Some other R &D topics include concentrated fuel for long-term operation of micro fuel cells, development of photocatalysts, titanium apatite, etc.
Research and Development

Fujitsu is innovating in both software and hardware fields, but what are the challenges it faces in moving toward a sustainable future? The main challenge is that the ratio of environmental impacts arising from group companies is increasing as the company expands its operations worldwide. Fujitsu recognizes its responsibility for all companies in its group. It worked to acquire an integrated global ISO14001 certification in fiscal 2005 and established an environmental management system covering all group companies worldwide. This is a large-scale management system in which about 117,000 employees participate. Fujitsu is now expected to operate this system and reduce its environmental burden on a global basis.

As we look around, we notice that the information and communications revolution is impacting every aspect of our lifestyles. Whether it can, or cannot, fit into a sustainable future remains to be seen. As a company that is expanding globally, Fujitsu is tackling this issue head-on. We look forward to the further innovations in technology and systems that Fujitsu is dedicated to developing.

(Staff Writer Kazunori Kobayashi)