The history of Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) which is a Japan based-company begins when it is established at 1937 by the founder, Kiichiro Toyoda. (Toyota Motor Corporation n.d.) Since then, the company has started to emerge into the industry of automobile manufacturing until now. As of today, Toyota is one of the world’s leading company manufacturing vehicles and parts. In order to move fast to keep pace with other competitors and to maintain its position and reputation in the business, Toyota has practiced the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy which is “Contribution towards Sustainable Development”. (Toyota Motor Corporation n.d.) With this policy, Toyota does not only concentrate in maximizing its profit as they also contribute in taking care of the welfare of the society and the environment. Nowadays, most of the consumers are highly educated and environmentally conscious as they are demanding for more than just a high quality or a reasonable price product. Therefore, Toyota has to make sure that they can balance up the needs of the society and consumers. Besides producing high quality vehicles, Toyota also has to respond to the environmental issues which have been occurred.
In this new era, Toyota is taking every steps and precautions to protect the environment. They may proclaim that they have done good to the society by implementing some policies or concepts such as the introduction to the hybrid cars. But how far could they go? One of the good examples is when Toyota Prius was first launched in 1997. Many has criticized and questioned about the Prius’s green concept which uses the hybrid system. Production of hybrid cars is one of the responses of Toyota towards the issue of global warming and the limits of fossil fuel. (Toyota Motor Corporation n.d.) In producing this car especially the battery itself, it actually causes more harm to the environment. One of the biggest concerns about this car is that Prius battery contains nickel metal hydride. (Prius Outdoes Hummer in Environmental Damage 2007) Based on the newswire, the nickel is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Ontario which leads to environmental damage to the surrounding area. This has further leads the NASA’s astronaut trainees to practice moon rovers around the Sudbury plant which is badly destructed. (Prius Outdoes Hummer in Environmental Damage 2007) Also, there are many critics who comment on the shipping footprint of the nickel battery. The smelted nickel from Sudbury is shipped to Wales for refinery and to be made into nickel foam at China. The completed batteries which are made in Japan would be then shipped to United States when the car is ready. (Hodges 2009) This has creates doubt about Toyota’s environmental aspect as the production process of the battery is not helping in reducing emissions but in fact, the shipping process has already consumed a lot of fossil fuels which would lead to air pollution.
Back in 2003, Toyota is questioned about its philosophies towards green environment. Toyota is facing a lawsuit from The Department of Justice and the Environment Protection Agency for violating Clean Air Act. (BJS, 2003) Upon Toyota’s application for Certificates of Conformity, it has claimed that Toyota has sold 2.2 million vehicles which were different from the statements in the application. According to the United States government, Toyota has failed to disclose limitation in the operation of the on-board diagnostic system that checks for leaks in vehicles. (BJS, 2003) Because of the leakage problem, Toyota is involved in causing pollution as fuel that vapors into the air would lead to the ozone pollution. Due to this matter, the consumers of Toyota vehicles do not know that they are actually indirectly involved in polluting the environment. Another case which leads to a doubtful thought about Toyota’s environmental friendly principles is when Toyota is sued by California at year 2006. (Glaister 2006) Toyota and several other automakers are to take the blame for producing large amount of vehicles that releases huge quantities of carbon dioxide which contributes to global warming. According to the state’s Democratic attorney general, global warming is bringing harm to California’s economy, environment, public health and agriculture. (Glaister 2006) Though Toyota is making revolution by producing hybrid cars and building more fuel-efficient vehicles, Toyota’s image and reputation are blemished by the lawsuits that it faced before.
In spite of the criticism of the nickel battery and the lawsuit cases against Toyota, the company has actually poured a lot of effort in protecting the environment. Based on Toyota’s sustainability concept, it has focused on three areas comprise of technology, manufacturing and social contribution. (Toyota Motor Corporation n.d.) Research and Development (R&D) is categorized in the area of technology and one of the R&D that Toyota has created is that they have engineered its own flower species. (Merchant 2009) The carbon dioxide released by its Prius assembly operations is offset by this new plant species. The flowers are derived from the cherry sage and gardenia which helps to absorb nitrogen oxides and to reduce the heat of the atmosphere. (Merchant 2009) Toyota should be praised because it has discovered something special in those flowers. Both the flowers have unique characteristics as the sage’s leaves can absorb harmful gases whereas gardenia’s leaves can reduce the temperature of the factory’s surroundings by creating water vapor in the air. (Blackburn 2009) With this, Toyota can concentrate in finding and doing research in advanced technology to produce hybrid cars as they have found a greener way to reduce the emissions of the manufacturing process. This also has shown that Toyota has gone beyond their industry area to look for alternatives and new innovations to preserve the environment. Their action would definitely build up its reputation and image among the stakeholders especially the consumers.
In committing towards sustainable development, Toyota is also taking initiatives to develop the manufacturing process through a greener way. It cannot be denied that Toyota is actually polluting the environment during the process of manufacturing and producing the vehicles and car batteries. Hence, Toyota is designing and manufacturing its vehicles based on the concept of three R’s which consists of reduce, reuse and recycle. (Toyota Europe n.d.) Toyota has been manufacturing vehicles with recyclable materials as cars are actually built by plastics that are difficult to be recycled. Therefore, Toyota has created Toyota Super Olefin Polymer which is a special recyclable plastic to make car bumpers and other parts. It can then be recycled and used for many times. (Toyota Europe n.d) Besides, Toyota also has indirectly encouraged the consumers and dealers to be involved in recycling program. For example, each of the battery of the Prius car has a phone number on it to ensure every battery goes back to Toyota for the purpose of recycling it and dealers are to be paid $200 for each battery. (Richard 2005) Other than that, Toyota has also stepped in further in the area of recycling. For instance, Toyota has built up a waste collection systems. It is for the purpose of retrieving used parts such as tyres, batteries and oil filters from European dealers to send them back for recovery. (Toyota Europe n.d.)
In order to contribute to the society, Toyota has involved in various environmental activities. One of them is shown by Toyota’s support of Planet Ark’s National Tree Day. National Tree Day is one of the Australia’s biggest community tree planting events which falls on August 1, 2010. (Tree Day n.d.) It is a special day where all the Australians would gather around to join this event. All of them are working towards the same motive which is to lending a helping hand to plant and to care for native trees and shrub to improve the environment they live in. (Tree Day n.d.) Toyota has demonstrated its concern and care for the environment by joining this event. Toyota has been supporting Planet Ark and National Tree Day since 11 years ago. (Toyota Motor Corporation Australia Limited n.d.) Ever since Toyota joins this event, its partnership with Planet Ark and National Tree Day are being appreciated and they are working in a collaborative way. All Toyota’s dealers, staffs and brand ambassadors are being encouraged to participate and to support this special day. Their supports can be shown by Toyota’s contribution of planting almost 15 millions of trees to reduce the effect of global warming. . (Toyota Motor Corporation Australia Limited n.d.) This action is a good example and role model for society as Toyota would influence the society to contribute to National Tree Day as well.
As an automobile manufacturer, Toyota is facing challenges and obligations everyday throughout the whole process of a vehicle starting from the development until the disposal stage. In my opinion, it is not easy to be one of the largest companies. For instance, Toyota has to face pressures given by the government, stakeholders and the society to fulfill and to respond towards their needs for a better product and a better environment. It has been a tough and long journey for Toyota to achieve what they have now because throughout its company’s history, they have been criticized and many comments have been given which are against their every action. Though they might not be a hundred percent environmental friendly company, they are actually giving a large proportion of contributions in helping the society to achieve a healthier environment. Which automobile company can be a fully hundred percent based environmental friendly company? I doubt there are any companies who can successfully do so. All in all, every company including Toyota needs to fulfill their responsibilities towards the society and environment in order to have a better life and world. Our future generations are very much depending on their actions which are taken today.
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Blackburn, R. 2009. Car maker develops its own flower species. Drive. http://www.drive.com.au/Editorial/ArticleDetail.aspx?ArticleID=66761&vf=1 (accessed August 10,2010)
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