Sales companies also have a major role to play in reducing CO2 emissions throughout the vehicle life cycle. "Given the choice between a company that is actively engaged in reducing its environmental burden and disposes of waste materials appropriately and another company that does not, the answer is clear as to which company customers will trust and from which they will purchase products." So says Sumio Nakazawa, responsible for environmental management at Koushin Mazda Co., Ltd., which obtained certification under the EcoAction 21 (EA21) framework — a system based on the environmental management system and guidelines for environmental reporting set out by the Ministry of the Environment — for all 30 of its outlets in May 2010.
Koushin Mazda first became involved with EA21 in 2008. "As we moved forward with EA21, we became aware that engagement with environmental issues led directly to solutions for business-related issues," says Nakazawa. EA21 was always discussed at meetings of outlet managers and management staff, and through establishing environmental promotion committees consisting of representatives from all outlets, a range of measures were developed. For example, digital timers were installed at all outlets to regulate lighting to a precise schedule, significantly reducing electricity consumption. To reduce gasoline consumption, not only was a car-pool rule rigorously implemented whereby neighboring outlet managers worked together to ensure that cars transporting people to meetings all held at least three people, but employees were also recommended to become qualified eco-advisors in order to implement the eco-driving certified by the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF). The eco-advisor qualification is also helpful for advising customers on eco-driving.
As a result of these initiatives, the company achieved a significant success in reducing its CO2 emissions in FY2010 — approximately 2.89 million kg of CO2, or around a 16% reduction compared with FY2007 levels. However, Nakazawa says that the benefits of these activities go beyond what the figures show. "Engaging in EA21 not only reduced our environmental burden, but also enabled us to streamline our operations, reduce costs, and improve customer service. In other words, EA21 activities also help our profitability, leading to increased satisfaction for all stakeholders."
Since EA21 was introduced the company has achieved significant successes in terms of reducing consumption of electricity, water, gasoline, and other resources. However, many employees were hesitant at the beginning.
Miho Yumoto, who is currently responsible for managing data from all sales outlets and producing documentation as a member of the EA21 secretariat, recalls how she felt when she was transferred from a sales position, "The environment and CO2 are things that are invisible, and unlike sales work, I had no idea how they were connected with the business and profit, so I felt at a loss."
As she worked on managing data from all the outlets and producing documentation for reporting, however, what had been invisible to her now became visible. "Looking at the data, it became clear that this initiative was getting results. Sharing such results led to a gradual change in everyone's awareness," she says, describing the fruits of conveying results in a visible form.
In FY2010, the third year since the system's introduction, these results showed that some locations and categories had not exhibited any improvement in figures over the previous year.
Nakazawa, however, had half-expected this situation and emphasizes, "This is our real starting point."
"We have already begun to make changes."
At the same time as requesting each outlet to submit EA21 improvement proposals, in April 2011 the company also set up a system for checking EA21 by the Auditing Department. According to Yumoto, "To ensure continuous improvement, I think it will be vital for us to create a system to exploit comments and tentative ideas voiced by employees onsite." Remembering past hardships, Nakazawa confides, "The secret to continuing long-term is enabling individual staff to take part at their own pace."
Koushin Mazda is continuing to take its EA21 activities to new levels in the quest for further improvement and growth.