Leading Hitachi Chemical to Integrate and Expand on SEMI EHS and Global Care

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Leading Hitachi Chemical to Integrate and Expand on SEMI EHS and Global Care

By Kiyoshi (Tom) Togawa, senior vice president and executive officer, Hitachi Chemical Co. Ltd., and member, SEMI International Board of Directors

Some time ago, we decided that too few Japanese materials companies participate in the various SEMI global initiatives. As a first step to changing this, Hitachi Chemical decided to get involved in SEMI’s Global Care program promoting EHS. Since July, 2007, I have had the honor to be one of the SEMI Board Members and this summer I was appointed as a SEMI EHS Executive Committee member. Hitachi Chemical is also a member of the WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development). I should add that what spurred us into getting so actively involved was because of our previous chairman, Isao Uchigasaki, and his winning the SEMI Akira Inoue Award in 2004 for Outstanding Achievement in EHS activities.

I have spent the last several months informing our Group companies as well as the other Hitachi group companies of my appointment to the SEMI EHS Executive Committee. Since then I have been working more closely with the people in charge of the Corporate Social Responsibility function and collecting the reports on the EHS activities in our Group companies. I hope my activities in our company will be of some help to contribute in depth to the SEMI EHS activities in the near future.

What I can say now is that the major focus of Hitachi Chemical is on producing green products. We have already registered 85% of our products as green with our Green Product Development Promotion Committee that has been set up to review such products according to the standards and regulations set for Hitachi Group companies; this is up from 65% in 2003. And of course we are aiming to further increase this number as time goes on.

By “green,” I mean that we are producing products that have a significantly reduced impact on the environment and are free of hazardous materials such as halogen and lead. For instance, our epoxy molding compounds—the black plastic material you see encapsulating chips to protect them from damage caused by shock, heat and water—are now shifting to halogen-free and antimony-free flame retardants, which can also harm the environment. Another example is our anisotropic conductive film, or ACF, as a replacement of soldering for conductive interconnections. This is used to interconnect circuitries such as rigid PCBs and flexible circuits, and also used to connect devices and circuitry in the mobile phones and PCs. ACF is lead-free and environmentally friendly.

Global Warming is very much on people’s minds these days, and we have come up with our own carbon emissions management strategy. As you may know, Japan’s goal, as stipulated by the Kyoto Protocol, is to cut CO2 emissions by 6% from its 1990 levels. The Hitachi Chemical Group has set its own target of 7%. That means we are working to reduce emissions to 93% of the levels in the last decade by 2010.

To achieve this, we are looking at every stage of the supply chain to see where we can downsize our carbon footprint. At the Research and Development level, researchers are creating more environmentally-friendly products and are working to develop recycling technologies, as well as finding ways to reuse scrap materials. We are also trying out different ideas to cut energy use in our plants and are improving our logistics. So in loading and transportation activities, for instance, we have already managed to cut the number of back-and-forth truck deliveries to and from our plants.

We don’t intend to stop there. We have already announced an ambitious target of reducing CO2 emissions by an overall 15% in 2015, compared to 1990 levels. How are we going to do this? Well, we’ve come up with a carbon management strategy that covers four types of activity: plant infrastructure, innovative production methods and new products, environmental preservation and lastly emission trading credits, though trading would be a sort of a last resort.

Regarding plant infrastructure, Hitachi Chemical Group is making big strides with its energy conversion plan. This entails switching from using heavy oil to cleaner natural gas, and we are installing natural gas equipment in plants wherever possible. In addition, we are investing in CO2 reduction countermeasures such as in-house clean development equipment.

Innovative production processes is another area we are looking at to help us minimize consumption of both materials and energy. Production design, too, will play a big part in helping us realize energy-saving efforts. At the same time, we are making employees throughout the Hitachi Chemical Group more aware of the need to preserve the environment. We help them see what they can do to reduce CO2 levels, by such efforts as reducing electricity use in offices and plants and through special initiatives.

An example of one such special initiative is the “Green Curtain Project.” This encourages the growing of twine-climbing plants like bitter gourd and sponge cucumbers to cover windows and walls of our plant buildings. The greenery effectively blocks out the sunshine and so helps reduce temperatures inside the buildings during the hot Japanese summer months. Namie Hitachi Chemical in northeast Japan first started this practice in 2005 and achieved a 20% cut in electricity use compared to the previous year. We expanded the green curtain to nine (9) sites in 2007, and twenty-five (25) sites in 2008. So well has the project succeeded that now we plan to extend its use further and to include our employees’ homes and elementary schools near our plant sites.

In this regard, I can say that an unexpected benefit from all these efforts in EHS has been the positive reaction of our employees. They take pride in working on EHS activities and the fact that the company is taking such a strong stance. Motivation has been further boosted by the number of press reports on Hitachi Chemical concerning its eco care activities.

In dealing with the changes in world-wide regulations concerning chemicals, particularly the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) and more recently the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical substances) directives in the EU, we have set up a special group of experts to ensure we handle and meet all the requirements of the regulations. One of these experts is stationed in Düsseldorf, Germany to complete the mission to pre-register our products by the end of November this year and to monitor the changing regulations and collect information from the different EU countries, in order for us to obtain the necessary information in timely fashion and comply accordingly.

These new regulations have caused us to review and revise the kinds of materials we use and purchase, to make certain we are in compliance. In this regard, we request our suppliers to provide detailed material data sheets and we inform them what substances we want to avoid using, as well as supply them with the criteria for the base materials we want to purchase. As a result, after four years of working to meet RoHS, I would say we are now more than 99% in compliance with these regulations.

In the area of occupational safety and health (OSH) we have established an OSH team that works under an executive officer responsible for CSR: corporate social responsibility. At the same time, each plant and each office building has a person responsible for conducting OSH training programs.

Breaking this down further, in our plants, for example, we have traditionally had what we call “Small Group Activities” formed up by various section teams that are responsible for their own area of production and quality control, and to these activities we have added the responsibility of carrying out occupational health and safety programs. So now during each group’s weekly meeting, the section leaders will conduct not only weekly review on their findings on the floor, but also promulgate the OHS mind in their job. The leaders then produce reports for the plant manager, and the plant manager reports to the executive officer of CSR who uses them to compile a company-wide OHS report.

So far, the results have been encouraging. Our aim now is to obtain OHSAS 18001 (international standards for occupational safety and health) certification. To date, two business sites have been awarded certification and we want to increase this number.

As for our place in society, this year we devised the Hitachi Chemical Group Social Contribution Policy to guide our activities and responsibilities on being a good corporate citizen. These activities cover a wide area including protecting the environment in Japan and other countries, culture and sports, disaster relief and local community assistance. One specific example I have already mentioned is our Green Curtain Project. Another would be our support for “I Love Chemistry Club” operated by the Chemical Society of Japan, which promotes a love of chemistry in children through various events and publications. In particular, we help with funding, factory tours and assigning engineers to help with the events put on by the Club.

Jan 21, 2009