March 16, 2009


Using Ceramics Technology to Reduce CO2 Emissions 80% by 2050 -- INAX Corp.

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.78 (February 2009)
"Towards a Sustainable Japan -- Corporations at Work" (No. 76)

Japan's INAX Corporation manufactures an extensive range of bath, toilet, kitchen and sanitary fixtures and tiles as building materials. INAX's sophisticated designs for these indispensable daily-life products has attracted a lot of attention; the company has also developed environment-conscious products such as advanced water-saving toilets and air-purifying tiles.

INAX was established in 1924 in Tokoname City, Aichi Prefecture as Ina Seito Co., a tile and terra-cotta manufacturer. Its mainstay products at that time were decorative tiles designed by eminent architect Frank Lloyd Wright and used in the exterior of the former main building of the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, which opened in 1923. You can learn about the company's history and view a great variety of beautiful tiles at the INAX Museum in Tokoname, and at the INAX Gallery in Ginza, Tokyo.

INAX Museums

The company changed its name to INAX in 1985, and since then has promoted various cultural and environmental activities as well as diversity in employment opportunities. In April 2008 the company adopted a new organizational reform aimed at accelerating its environmental initiatives. We had an interview with Mr. Haruyuki Mizuno, Manager of the newly established Sustainable Innovation Division, and asked him about the company's environmental vision towards sustainability.

A Non-Cumulative Long-Term Vision

Mizuno said, "Corporate management itself is an environmental activity." This assertion reflects a major turning point the company experienced in 2008, when INAX announced in its tenth Environmental Declaration its intent to reduce total CO2 emissions 80 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2050. The company adopted this goal because it found a long-term vision extending to 2050 necessary in making decisions for its mid-term business plan up to 2010. In its bid to become a sustainable company in the next 40 years, INAX found it could not take a cumulative approach, which tends to focus on immediate quick fixes. It did, however, set a trial period to evaluate its ability to promote innovation, and is now aiming for a 19.1-percent reduction of CO2 emissions by 2010.

In June 2008, Japan's Ministry of the Environment approved INAX as an "Eco-First Corporation," recognizing its unique level of advancement and status as the industry's top runner in the field of adopting goals and implementing practical initiatives. The INAX Environmental Policy sets up five major categories of activities; building a low-carbon society, building an energy-saving society, building a recycling-oriented society, innovation in environmental management systems, and activities for conserving biodiversity.

Major Japanese Companies Make Commitments to Environment Ministry under Eco-First Program

Achieving a Low-Carbon Society through Innovation in Production, Use and Recycling INAX aims to contribute to the creation of a low-carbon, energy-efficient, and recycling-based society, and to that end it focuses on the entire life cycle of its products; that is, during their production, use, and recycling stages.

The company intends to fundamentally change its ceramic production technologies. Back in 1990, most of its CO2 emissions - 89 percent of the total - were generated during the production of ceramics such as tiles and bathroom fixtures. Producing ceramics involves heating an entire kiln using fossil fuel, although only about 10 percent of the energy actually reaches the ceramics inside the kiln - a highly inefficient process. The company is now engaged in research and development of a new production system with extremely high thermal conductivity and the ability to concentrate the heat energy on the ceramics being fired.

To achieve an 80 percent reduction in its CO2 emissions by 2050, the company estimates that it will need to cut emissions by 33 percent by introducing high-efficiency kilns and by 47 percent by using renewable energy.


Japan's CO2 emissions are still on the increase, falling far short of Japan's target commitment under the Kyoto Protocol - a 6 percent reduction compared to 1990 levels. Although emissions from the industrial sector are on a downward trend, household emissions are continuing to grow. We as consumers have to carefully select appropriate products, for example, those that conserve energy and/or resources.

In 2006, INAX released a water-saving toilet "ECO6," which uses only six liters of water per flush, a 60 percent reduction compared to previous models that use 13 liters per flush. Sales of eco-friendly products such as toilets, compact system bathroom units, etc. accounted for 86.8 ercent of INAX's total sales by the end of fiscal 2007.

For consumers, however, it is difficult to find out just how much CO2 they can avoid emitting by using such eco-friendly products. Thus, INAX will start indicating potential CO2 emission reduction figures for products in its catalogs and on its website starting in the spring of 2009 under its "Daily Life Minus CO2" campaign. The figures will be obtained by comparing CO2 emissions from the latest INAX products with comparable models popular around 1990. For example, "-127Kg/year" will be the figure for the latest bidet-type toilet with a five-liter flush, and "-134Kg/year" for a compact system bathroom equipped with a thermally insulated bathtub and an upgraded spray shower; both of these models will be released in April 2009.


In May 2007, INAX opened its own recycling facility, the INAX Eco-Center Tokoname, in Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture, which collects, sorts and recycles used fixtures and building material waste from remodeling sites.

Building fixtures consist of a variety of components and parts and are usually considered unsuitable for recycling, with many ending up in landfills. In the Eco-Center Tokoname, however, experienced workers use the expertise built up by INAX as a manufacturer to manually disassemble old fixtures and sort them into more specific subcategories, aiming to recycle as much as possible. The company plans to establish similar facilities in Mie and Ibaraki Prefectures.

Eco-Communication Serving as Basis for Society

As an example of eco-communication in the society at large, the company has been offering an environmental education program for children in Japan and overseas on the theme of "Soil and Water." This program also offers INAX employees involved in the program a chance to benefit from the creative and flexible way that children think, and the sessions often become interactive environmental education.

In Japan, the company held workshops in schools in mountainous areas and in INAX showrooms. It has held environmental education sessions on the role of water twice a year in Vietnam since April 2007 with the cooperation of an international NGO. Its employees create their own unique teaching tools, which they use when they visit elementary schools in Vietnam and talk about the water cycle. Children learn about the importance of water in a natural way.

Collaborating with Mie and Aichi Prefectures, its employees and their families have participated in volunteer activity events to preserve forests since June 2008. Every event has been highly successful, attracting as many as 60 to 100 participants. Both adults and children can learn about biodiversity through the hands-on experience of thinning out poorly-grown trees from plantation forests.

"These activities appear unconnected to business management or business plans but they are actually essential as a driving force for innovation. The changes in the consciousness of employees gained from this kind of experience, as opposed to the cold logic of technical innovation, may gradually be reflected in our business activities," said Mr. Mizuno, emphasizing the importance of environmental communication.

He also emphasized the "80 percent CO2 emission cut by 2050" goal as the top priority of the Environmental Declaration, saying, "I know that environmental issues are not limited to CO2 emissions, but this issue is symbolic of our whole Environmental Declaration. ... It delineates an ideal situation for 2050 with a specific numerical target. You may feel that 2050 is the distant future, but in 2050, today's new employees will be retiring. I asked them at their first training workshop to work together to keep our corporation sustainable even at that time."

We now live in a time when we cannot help considering the environment in all contexts, including our personal lives and corporate management. INAX has already launched a new challenge to implement a long-term vision, and its full-scale push for innovation is quickly putting down roots.

Written by Taeko Ohno