Toyota – Creating a Society in Harmony with Nature

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Raju B. Ketkale

Our relationship with nature defines the future of our existence. Over the years, we at Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) have consciously transformed the core of our business spirit from a carmaker into a mobility company by applying the values of sustainable business practice. Our commitment towards a sustainable future outlines our endeavours towards natural resource management and safeguarding the environment. Our interventions also thrive on community awareness, involvement, and ownership, the seeds of which are sown in our holistic engagement model. 

We have given utmost importance to the environment. All our initiatives are designed towards lowering our environmental impact and achieving the ultimate goal of living in harmony with nature.

With the threat before us, all our initiatives are not enough. We realise that to bring lasting change, we need to make a paradigm shift in the way we think and live, and so in 2015, we announced our most ambitious project, the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 which aims to establish a society in harmony with nature.

The holistic vision aims to achieve Net ZERO CO2 from our products across life cycle and manufacturing. Further, the next set of challenges aims towards creating a positive impact on the environment by water conservation, establishing a recycling-based society, and living in harmony with nature.

Water scarcity is one of the most critical issues of the 21st century. Considering this fact, and in line with the philosophy of Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD), water conservation has become our utmost priority. Multiple efforts were taken to address the environmental challenge of minimising and optimising water consumption.

Our Contribution towards Environment Sustainability 

In line with Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050, we at TKM have achieved significant progress.

Globally, we have been continuously working on developing sustainable mobility solutions and we introduced hybrid electric vehicles and hydrogen-based fuel cell electric vehicles (Mirai). In India, we have introduced hybrid electric vehicles (Camry Hybrid, Lexus, etc). The Camry Hybrid electric vehicle fuel efficiency is 48 per cent better than the conventional IC engine.

Being a leader in environmental stewardship, we started our journey towards greening our energy sources and has made substantial step-up over the years. In FY 2013, our renewable energy percentage was negligible. However, in FY 2014, we gradually increased green energy procurement and initiated activities with renewable energy plants to meet the energy requirements. We harness solar energy and purchasing renewable energy. As a result, during FY 2020-21, we could ensure 94 per cent of our total energy requirement at our plant was met through renewable sources. Cumulatively since 2014, we could reduce 2,41,000 tons of CO2 through renewable energy usage.

Water scarcity is one of the most critical issues of the 21st century. Considering this fact, and in line with the philosophy of Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD), water conservation has become our utmost priority. Multiple efforts were taken to address the environmental challenge of minimising and optimising water consumption.

We firmly believe that caring for the environment and operating in a responsible, sustainable manner is at the core of creating a sustainable business. Furthermore, companies must be actively involved in partnering with the community and governments to solve socially relevant issues. The participation of the private sector can lead to more innovation, efficiency, and scale of impact. More importantly, we firmly believe that mutual respect and collaboration is the key to enable society with a significantly improved quality of life. 

We have been at the forefront of water reduction since our inception by adopting recycling, rainwater harvesting, and promoting kaizen – the philosophy of continuous improvement – to reduce specific water consumption. Through these initiatives, we have reduced our freshwater utilisation by 90 per cent for manufacturing. During FY 2020-21, we could reduce 142,982 m3 of freshwater.

Our company established effective value (waste) management practices at our plants through which we have enhanced the recyclability of waste to 96 per cent. These initiatives also helped us in achieving good economic benefits. We are now aiming at promoting these initiatives across our value chain. Moving further, we intend to implement the concept of CRADLE to CRADLE, where waste material is put back to the manufacturing process, which thus supports the principle of a circular economy.

The sixth challenge is “Establishing a Future Society in Harmony with Nature”. We have adopted the best technologies in the globe concerning the environment by following all good practices within the boundary of the company.

We firmly believe that caring for the environment and operating in a responsible, sustainable manner is at the core of creating a sustainable business. Furthermore, companies must be actively involved in partnering with the community and governments to solve socially relevant issues. The participation of the private sector can lead to more innovation, efficiency, and scale of impact. More importantly, we firmly believe that mutual respect and collaboration is the key to enable society with a significantly improved quality of life.

Water Sustainability

Water Conservation: We prioritise water conservation and wastewater treatment. We continue our multiple efforts to deal with water scarcity to create a positive impact on the community.

Since the availability of clean drinking water remains a challenge and many villagers suffer from water-borne diseases, we took up this programme of installing community-based water purification units. Securing the active participation of the local community has been the key to ensure the sustenance of the intervention. So far, we have installed 43 water units benefitting 267 villages and more than 280,000 villagers. 

We strive to reduce water consumption year on year by encouraging robust daily water management practices in both the domestic and industrial sectors of our plant. In doing so, we can consistently reduce water.

  • We have constructed rainwater harvesting systems with a capacity of 51,000m3
  • The average groundwater level at TKM is 45 ft
  • We have installed RO and MBR technologies for recycling wastewater
  • We have reduced our freshwater consumption by 90 per cent
  • We are a Zero Liquid Discharge company

Lake Rejuvenation

As a part of water conservation and providing safe drinking water, we adopted a lake (Abbanakuppe) in Bangalore Rural, to rejuvenate the natural resource. This project is planned to run in collaboration with the local community to ensure the sustainability of the lake. Five neighbouring villages with a population of 8,000 are currently benefitting from the initiative. The water table has risen with an improvement in the water quality in the region, which has further boosted the agriculture in the vicinity and shown a positive impact on the flora and fauna.

Sanitation – Health and Hygiene 

Water Purification Units

Since the availability of clean drinking water remains a challenge and many villagers suffer from water-borne diseases, we took up this programme of installing community-based water purification units. Securing the active participation of the local community has been the key to ensure the sustenance of the intervention. So far, we have installed 43 water units benefitting 267 villages and more than 280,000 villagers.

ABCD (ABCD – A Behavioural Change Demonstration) Programme

Project ABCD was conceived not only with the aim of achieving 100 per cent school sanitation by increasing awareness, but it also promotes dignity and privacy for the girl child by upgrading existing unhygienic school toilets to usable conditions and to promote learning and retention among school children, teachers as well as community members.

  • 58855 students covered from 1004 government schools from 2015-16 to 2019-20
  • 31,604 girl students benefitted
  • 33 incinerators installed in government schools
  • 13,518 household toilets constructed with the child-to-community approach
  • 890 school toilets in 293 schools constructed across Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar
  • Seven public Sanitation Units constructed in Haliyala, Dandeli, Joida and Ramanagara in Uttar Kannada District of Karnataka

Our commitment towards a sustainable future outlines our endeavours towards natural resource management and safeguarding the environment. Our interventions thrive on community awareness, involvement and ownership, the seeds of which are sown in our holistic engagement model.

Fighting for Safety and Dignity

Sinchana and Deekshita

Twelve-year-old Sinchana is one of the many students struggling for good hygiene facilities. She lives with her grandmother and sister as her mother is away working. She aspires to be a doctor and help sick people in the community. And there are many within her community who are suffering from various ailments; one of the main reasons being sanitation.

Rural areas face multiple challenges, and one of them is the glaring lack of sanitation facilities at home. This is mainly due to socio-cultural taboos that have been handed down through generations. They consider having a toilet at home as religiously impure, and the refore tarnishes the sanctity of the home.

As Sinchana is at that stage where awareness about her dignity and safety are as vital as her education. She longed for that day when her school and her family could afford to have a toilet. A big change finally came to her school. As a part of the project that was implemented in Bidadi, Ramanagara (near Bangalore), Toyota Kirloskar Motor worked with an NGO to start the ABCD Programme. The initiative helps schools to upgrade existing toilets or construct new ones when there is none. Sinchana’s school was going to get a new toilet. The big day finally arrived, and it will be etched in Sichana’s memory when she and her fellow students were able to utilise the toilet. The students were also taught how to use the toilet and how to practise good sanitation practices.

The students who joined the ABCD Programme took action to initiate the construction of sanitation facilities in their homes. Sichana’s friend, Deekshita, started a hunger strike, while other children joined her. Sinchana helped her lead the movement. They persuaded their parents, other villagers, and the local government, to provide better sanitation facilities.

Sinchana’s joy knew no bounds when her family decided to construct a toilet at home. She expressed her relief about how she and her sister will now be safer, and free from shame.

These young children are indeed on a path that will lead to a better future.

Environment

Our commitment towards a sustainable future outlines our endeavours towards natural resource management and safeguarding the environment. Our interventions thrive on community awareness, involvement and ownership, the seeds of which are sown in our holistic engagement model.

EcoZone 

We also consider the efforts we make to conserve the earth’s complex and diverse ecosystem equally important. Therefore, to realise the vision of Environmental Challenge 2050, we established EcoZone, a state-of-the-art experiential environmental learning centre spread across 25 acres of land inside our Bidadi Plant (Karnataka), in 2017-18. EcoZone is a unique concept having 17 educational theme parks designed to create a sense of consciousness and participation among children and other stakeholders.

Ecozone is an ambitious project with a distinctive concept that takes children on a learning journey beyond the confines of their classrooms. We aim to connect them with nature, promote environmental awareness, get them to observe, learn concepts and relate them with experiences amidst nature. This helps in inculcating healthy behaviour towards environmental conservation. A visit to the park can help them learn to save water and energy and be good recyclers, making them responsible citizens.

What is also outstanding is the fact EcoZone has four types of forests, wetland ecosystem, grasslands, biodiversity pavilion, pollination meadow, rainwater harvesting ponds, orchards, medicinal garden, and sacred groves. It currently consists of about 65,000 plants spanning across more than 650 plant species. Our recent biodiversity survey reveals that EcoZone caters as a habitat to about 198 faunal species that includes birds, insects, butterflies, reptiles and a few mammals.

Thus far, 12,675 students and 1,000 schoolteachers have been a part of this training at the EcoZone. We intend to expand our reach by training 10,000 students per annum and utilise this learning centre to further connect with various stakeholders such as suppliers, dealers, employees and their families, government officials, NGOs and other corporates, and work towards building an eco-sustainable future.

We have been progressively and rapidly shifting from non-renewable to renewable sources of energy across its business operations with one of the main focuses being electricity consumption. To aid our journey towards carbon-neutral manufacturing, we collaborated with various stakeholders to identify the aspects in our production process that needed to reduce CO2 emissions.

Highlights 

Toyota Plaza: It showcases our efforts towards zero-carbon or green mobility, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric, and fuel cell vehicles.  

Underground Ecology: It is a newly built theme park that focuses on the importance of soil and life below the land. The detailed structures of earthworms, pangolin, honey badger, red harvester ants, subterranean termites, dung beetles, and cicadas are carefully moulded on the walls for a fascinating experience.

Value-theme Park: The park sensitise visitors to the 5Rs  – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Regenerate. It, therefore, stresses that “Waste is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting”.

Education Building: Based on the concept of ‘Native Earth Building’, this building is known for its sustainable architecture, natural lighting, and proper air circulation.

Timeline Walk: An outdoor learning area with a combination of different stones and paintings, Timeline Walk is the highlight of Ecozone. It takes the visitors through the journey of Earth’s formation, and the emergence of all organisms on earth, including human beings.

Climate Change Theme Park: This theme park, situated at the highest point of Ecozone, throws light upon how, because of our activities, the earth is facing climate change, and what everybody can do individually to lower their impact on the environment.

Feedback
Manushree, Std IX, GHS Hebbakodi: “This is my second visit to Ecozone, yet it feels like a new experience. I have not seen anything like this. They taught us about global warming and the greenhouse effect. Thank you for teaching us. Please conduct more sessions like this.”

Bhoomika, Std IX, GHS Sannahalli: “We have seen many plants in our villages, but we never knew their benefits. The trainers here taught us very well about medicinal plants. We also learnt about wet and dry waste, their segregation. We learnt not to waste paper and avoid plastic. We have benefitted greatly by this visit.”

A teacher from Ramanagara Taluk: “They have taught us about different forests, plants, including medicinal ones, and their benefits. Our children learned how to save the environment. They also covered the topics of water and waste management. Students got hands-on experience in everything. We also think we can implement most of the measures at our schools. This visit was very beneficial.”

Clean Energy 

We have been progressively and rapidly shifting from non-renewable to renewable sources of energy across its business operations with one of the main focuses being electricity consumption. To aid our journey towards carbon-neutral manufacturing, we collaborated with various stakeholders to identify the aspects in our production process that needed to reduce CO2 emissions.

  • 3 per cent of electricity sourced from renewable sources, resulting in an offset of 2,41,000 tons of CO2 (cum)
  • Renewable energy used: 272.8 Mil units

Over the years, through our sustainable and eco-friendly initiatives, we are moving towards achieving our 2050 Environmental Challenges of Carbon Neutrality and Net Positive impact on the environment. With the support of all our stakeholders and business partners, we intend to build a future society in harmony with nature.

Raju B Ketkale is the Deputy Managing Director at Toyota Kirloskar Motor.