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The past and present of NEC's environmental initiatives: From the prevention of environmental pollution to nature conservation and ESG management

In Japan, June is Environment Month—a time for reflecting on the global environment. The decarbonization movement, including the shift away from fossil fuels and the expansion of renewable energy generation, is becoming a major global trend. NEC is striving to fulfill its vision of "Living harmoniously with the earth to secure the future" under the theme of Environment—one of the key visions of society set forth in the NEC 2030VISION. In 2024, NEC is celebrating its 125th anniversary, and the company's history simply cannot be told without discussing global environmental issues. Looking back on the environmental initiatives NEC has engaged in thus far as a business and as part of its corporate culture, it becomes clear what the company has always valued—then and now.

The utilization of wastewater treatment technology developed by NEC at external facilities

NEC was an exhibitor at the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) held in the winter of 2023 in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. Takayuki Morita, President and CEO of NEC, attended the event to participate in a panel discussion and communicate to the world NEC's dedication to addressing environmental issues.

NEC first began asserting its presence in this area more than half a century ago. Japanese companies started addressing environmental issues in earnest during Japan's postwar high-growth period. At the time, pollution stemming from industrial development was becoming a serious international issue.

In 1970, NEC established a specialized organization dedicated to the prevention of environmental pollution, followed by the formation of a company-wide project team for the development of a zero liquid discharge (ZLD) system for its own plating factory in 1972. The project team later went on to successfully complete a fully closed wastewater treatment facility. In addition, NEC Central Research Laboratories developed a technology for treating wastewater generated during the manufacturing process for ferrite, a material necessary for telecommunications equipment, thereby successfully reducing the environmental impact. This wastewater treatment system based on the ferrite method would go on to be installed at 20 facilities, including those at universities, government agencies, and other research institutions.

A fully closed wastewater treatment facility (1973, NEC Shizuoka)

NEC remains committed to initiatives aimed at contributing to the resolution of environmental issues through facility management and new technologies.

Acquisition of ISO certification and the development of new materials

From the 1980s onward, the focus of environmental initiatives began shifting from the prevention of environmental pollution to environmental conservation and environmental management. Since 1985, NEC has promoted environmental conservation activities as a company, including the Zero Waste Movement and Environmental Improvement Month.

Then, in the 1990s, the ISO14000 Series of international standards (environmental ISO) was established with the goal of minimizing the impact of corporate activities, products, and services on the environment. NEC embarked on company-wide efforts to acquire ISO certification, and by March 1998, all of NEC's domestic affiliates had successfully acquired certification. Through these actions, the NEC Group as a whole was clearly defining its stance on addressing environmental issues.

NEC was also promoting research and development aimed at reducing environmental impacts. In 2003, NEC developed a bioplastic made with corn, kenaf, and other raw materials. Due to its outstanding heat resistance and durability compared to conventional bioplastics, it was used for mobile phones and other electronic devices. The research and development of bioplastics has continued ever since, and NeCycle®, a biomaterial combining superior durability and beauty, has also drawn a great deal of attention.

A mobile phone made with bioplastic

Technologies, strategies, and environmental management as part of corporate culture

In addition to R&D and business initiatives, NEC has been expanding the scope of its activities worldwide, including environmental education and nature conservation efforts, through the participation of employees in corporate citizenship activities since around the 2000s.

A prime example of this is the NEC Group Paddy Making Project, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2024. This project started out as an environmental education program through which employees were given the opportunity to experience activities ranging from planting rice to brewing sake, but has now been expanded to include field trials for technologies aimed at preserving ecosystems. The rice paddy where this project is carried out has even been certified as a site for monitoring biodiversity under the Ministry of the Environment's Monitoring Sites 1000 program.

The history of the NEC Group Paddy Making Project dates back 20 years

In the twenty-first century and beyond, the question will be how companies can contribute to the realization of a sustainable society. NEC will continue to define and develop its own medium-term environmental management approach while keeping pace with international trends. Recently, NEC has set targets for 2030 and 2040, accelerated activities aimed at reducing CO2 emissions, and committed to developing new businesses for resolving environmental issues.

Underlying these initiatives is NEC's Purpose of "creating the social values of safety, security, fairness and efficiency to promote a more sustainable world where everyone has the chance to reach their full potential." To fulfill its vision of living harmoniously with the earth to secure the future, NEC has set its sights on addressing environmental issues through not only "strategies and projects" aimed at the realization of a carbon neutral society but also "people and culture" driven by the aspirations and efforts of each and every one of its employees.

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