Sustainable business is a corporate priority that pursues sustainability by driving company initiatives in the social, economic and environmental fields outside of profit-seeking enterprise. In the early 21st century, as demand for corporate social responsibility in the environmental field grew, sustainable business became a paradigm essential to a company’s survival. Samsung Electronics was no exception. Samsung marks its 50th anniversary this year, and the company is continuing its best efforts to fulfill its duty as a global citizen in the areas of the environment, product responsibility, sustainable supply chains and social contribution. Samsung Newsroom is detailing the company’s sustainability-led activities in a dedicated series, beginning with the company’s environmentally friendly initiatives.
The importance of pursuing environmentally friendly activities for a company on the scale of Samsung Electronics cannot be underestimated in terms of the potential for leading the way in mitigating such global issues as climate change and resource depletion. For this reason, environment-related activities and initiatives lie at the heart of Samsung’s sustainable business practices.
Taking A Green Approach Since the 1990s
Since its Environment Declaration in 1992, Samsung Electronics has been managing its ‘green’ business in order to fulfill its environmental responsibilities understanding that any expense put towards fighting environmental issues is not an optional, but instead a necessary, corporate investment.
In 1998, the company established its own E-Waste Take-Back and Recycling Centers to promote the efficient use of waste products, pioneering this program in the domestic electronics industry. In 2004, the company advanced its development of environmentally friendly products by introducing the Eco-Design Process, an appraisal that assesses the energy efficiency, resource efficiency and environmental damage of a potential product right from the beginning of the product development cycle. In 2005, Samsung’s Environment Analysis Lab was established to put in place a system that keeps track of whether hazardous substances are included or not in a product’s development process, from specific parts and components through to completed products.
As a result of these initiatives, in 2009 Samsung was able to introduce Green Memory, a high-speed, low-power and highly reliable semiconductor solution. If all global servers were to implement the 5G Green Memory Solution as of 2014, 45 TWh of electricity would be saved overall annually, and the environmental effect would be equivalent to planting an additional 800 million 10-year-old trees. Samsung’s Quantum Dot TV, launched in 2016, was the first TV product to not use cadmium, a material found to be harmful to both the human body as well as the environment. Such competitive edges were maintained in the launch of the QLED TV in 2017 and QLED 8K in 2018, making Samsung a market leader in terms of industry innovation as well as sustainability.
Furthermore, Samsung’s Galaxy Upcycling program provides an alternative method for resource circulation by repurposing used smartphones as IoT devices with new functions. Efforts such as this that the company continues to propagate has led to global recognition, with the company winning the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘Champion Award: Cutting Edge’ in 2017 for its game-changing work in electronics sustainability.
Samsung’s Practices on Sustainable Products and Business Operations
Since 2005’s Kyoto Protocol, brought about to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, Samsung has been accelerating its environmentally friendly endeavors in order to help reduce emissions. In 2009, Samsung announced its green business vision and intermediate goals in order to lead global response to this environmental regulation with a focus on low carbon emissions and ‘green’ growth.
From 2009 to 2018, the use of high-efficiency products saw the company reduce its accumulated greenhouse gas emissions by 243.1 million tons. This is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 1.5 billion people’s refrigerator usage over the span of an entire year.1 By establishing a circular resource economy system, as of last year 54 countries participated in taking back end-of-life products from Samsung customers. About 3.55 million tons of e-waste was collected cumulatively from the take-back program between 2009 and 2018. In addition, an accumulated amount of 220,000 tons of recycled plastic went back into Samsung products in the same time period.
With 216 business bases in 74 countries, Samsung not only works on managing the environmental impact of its products, but also on developing environmentally friendly business establishments. In June 2018, Samsung announced its goal to use 100% renewable energy across all its establishments in the US, Europe and China by 2020, as well as to install 63,000 m2 of solar and geothermal power facilities in Korea. In October 2018, Samsung’s U.S. headquarters, as well as all US Device Solution manufacturing plants converted to using energy from 100% renewable sources, and the company’s Slovakian worksites have since followed suit.
Samsung Electronics’ green business achievements over the last 10 years are summarized in the infographic below.
Samsung Electronics published its 2019 Sustainability Report on June 28. The entire report can be downloaded here.
1This figure is calculated from the global sales and greenhouse gas emission per product based on the average power consumption of domestic refrigerator models sold by Samsung Electronics in 2018