A fundamental belief within the international Toyota organisation, which employs around 247 000 people in selling six million vehicles annually, is respect for people and the environment.
"Our parent company in Japan has led the way by establishing what is known as the 2010 Global Vision," Johan van Zyl, president and CEO of Toyota South Africa, explained.
"It sets ambitious goals for meeting the mobility needs of society in a way that respects the earth and all people."
"Toyota South Africa has been involved in a wide range of environmental initiatives for many years, but now we are taking a more formalised approach," commented Dr van Zyl.
During November 2000 Toyota South Africa initiated its own five-year environmental plan, called the Toyota Eco Project, which was expanded last year to broaden the range of actions.
"This vision extends to the partnerships we enjoy with our key stakeholders, including suppliers to our manufacturing plant at Prospecton, near Durban, and our national dealer network.
"It is critical that we work closely together to reduce impacts on the environment at every stage of a vehicle's lifecycle, from manufacturing through daily use to eventual disposal and recycling."
Apart from meeting important social responsibilities, Toyota has seen that sound environmental management translates to improved business performance, with one example being the success of the Toyota Prius, a petrol-electric hybrid passenger car, which has fired the public imagination, showing the way ahead.
Toyota?s long-term objectives are zero emissions and zero waste.
As part of the company?s commitment to continuous improvement, every existing and new project is examined to see how the use of raw materials can be minimised, waste eliminated, and energy usage reduced. All employees are encouraged to practise the three R concept - Reduce, Re-use and Recycle.
Recognising the need to provide clear information on environmental performance, Toyota Motor Corporation of Japan has published an annual Environmental and Social Report since 1998. Toyota South Africa is following that lead and is busy compiling its second report for the year 2003-4.
Highlights of the past year have included:
- Energy usage at the Prospecton plant was reduced by more than 10% for each vehicle produced in South Africa.
- Potentially harmful emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) from the paint process were reduced by more than 30%.
- A 97% reduction was achieved in the use of substances classified by Toyota as Substances of Concern (SOC) in production operations.
- All of Toyota South Africa?s production operations met international standards for environmental management systems, achieving ISO 14 001 certification.
- The manufacturing and assembly plant was awarded a ?clean bill of health? with no fines imposed by local authorities for environmental transgressions.
- Parts suppliers were mobilised to adopt Toyota SA?s guidelines on Substances of Concern, which ban the use of lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium in parts.
- The number of lost working days improved by more than 30% over the previous year.
- Toyota dealers were issued with comprehensive environmental guidelines and urged to support the initiatives of Toyota Motor Corporation and Toyota SA. Full compliance will be mandatory from 2006 as part of the dealer certification programme.
Toyota SA has also extended its social investment programme through The Toyota Academy of Learning, which assumes responsibility for all training and development activities involving employees, as well as dealers and distributors within the entire African region.
Having established education as the number one priority for the programme, Toyota introduced the Toyota Teach Primary School Project, which is active in the Durban area in more than 40 schools, impacting on the lives of more than
1 000 teachers and 45 000 learners.
Three high schools have also been converted into technical comprehensive high schools, with the company providing technical workshops and a high level of involvement.
The safety, health and well-being of employees are another priority that is handled by the trained staff at the in-house clinic in Prospecton, where counsellors deal with issues as wide-ranging as HIV-Aids advice and substance abuse.
A number of community activities are also focussed in the key areas in which Toyota operates, being Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
This includes the Gardens for Africa project involving unemployed people in the Folweni area (where many Toyota employees live) in creating community gardens. Participants share vegetables they have grown with their families, selling the surplus.
Traditionally the company has played a pioneering role in the annual beach clean-up operation, removing many tons of litter from beaches, although recently this has been on hold because of the Beach Ban.
More recently Cape Town dealer Market Toyota, service supplier to the Robben Island Museum, launched an urgent clean-up on the island, removing old oil, tyres, batteries and vehicle wrecks that were an eyesore and posed a serious pollution hazard.
In the Free State Toyota SA has introduced the Toyota Enviro-Club of the Year competition for schools and out-of-school youth. It recognises voluntary work and motives clubs to start projects to improve their local environment.
Working with the Free State department of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Toyota has trained more than 200 urban rangers who are involved in projects such as cleaning the townships, planting trees, running community gardens and establishing parks.
The urban rangers also collect refuse items ? tins, bottles, cardboard boxes and plastics for recycling, and waste paper for compressed fire blocks. In this way jobs are created and funds generated.
The challenge ahead, according to Van Zyl, is to continue developing a culture that recognises the importance of environmental responsibility and the need to contribute to the economy and society in which Toyota SA operates.
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