Best Practices -- Conservation Music

Dec. 21, 2004
Yamaha's environmental practices benefit the bottom line.

Yamaha Music Manufacturing Inc.'s Thomaston, Ga., facility saved enough energy in 2001 and 2002 to move about 180,000 pianos from sea level to the top of Mount Everest. Pretty impressive for the maker of pianos and speakers, which knows all too well exactly how heavy one piano is -- about 510 pounds. (Yamaha figured the savings with the help of a Web site,, which makes the analogy that a kilowatt-hour is equivalent to the energy expended by a Nepalese Sherpa carrying a 90-pound pack from sea level to Mount Everest.) The Thomaston facility isn't the only one in the Yamaha family concerned about conservation. Yamaha Corp., which includes Yamaha Music Manufacturing (YMM), has made it a mission to be a good environmental citizen since 1974 when it established the Environmental Management Division. To be sure, several facilities within Yamaha have earned ISO14001 certification -- the international environmental management system standard -- and other plants are on their way toward certification. For Yamaha, not only is it respecting the earth, it is reaping the benefits that accompany recycling and reusing. Since earning certification in December 2000, YMM has reduced hazardous waste and air emissions by 26%, non-hazardous waste by 21% and scrap by 44%. Additionally, it reduced energy consumption by 15% in 2001 and another 7% in 2002. In total, it has recycled 3.8 million pounds of wood products, 360,000 pounds of metals and 485,000 pounds of cardboard. The cost savings for YMM has reached $109,000, or 1% of its total annual costs. Some of the tactics that contributed to the savings weren't that hard to come by. For example, when YMM makes pianos, it also creates a lot of sawdust. "We used to just take it to the landfill," says Michael (Mickey) Thomas, senior vice president of finance and administration, Yamaha Corp. of America. "Now we have found some companies that will take the sawdust and use it to make other kinds of material such as particleboard." Other contributors include material substitutions. "The quality of the product is a key feature for us in the marketplace, so any kind of substitutions we make are thoroughly tested so that we make sure that the product quality is not affected," says Thomas. "An example is lacquer. There are different kinds of lacquers, and we are looking at using a kind of lacquer that uses fewer coats but does as good of a job." Although the corporate initiative has been in place for nearly 30 years, getting employees involved in conservation practices wasn't easy for the YMM facility. "There was a lot of skepticism and questioning why we are doing this and what is the big deal," Thomas says. "But once people started understanding what the objectives were and [that it would] make their jobs more efficient [in addition to] having a positive effect on the environment -- people became more excited about it and got more involved in it." According to Thomas, employee involvement is part of the reason the initiative has been so successful. While some practices might not result in huge cost savings, they are a way for employees to really take responsibility for preserving the environment. For example, YMM manages coffee usage much as it manages its energy consumption. The employees brew the coffee directly into thermos pots that remain hot so they don't have to pour out burnt coffee. "Now that sounds really minor, and probably the cost savings is really minor, but it gets people in the mindset of being conservative in all areas," Thomas says. Thomas admits that the company does not emit as much hazardous waste as, for example, a petroleum or pharmaceutical company would. But there are byproducts: lacquers, plywood, scrap and cardboard. "Having the complete [environmental] system is a way for the company and all the employees to know what to do at every circumstance. "The best practice from my point of view is that it really requires employee involvement," Thomas says.

ISO 14000 Requirements
  1. Life-Cycle Assessment: The general principles, framework and methodological requirements for the life-cycle assessment of products and services.
  2. Design for the Environment: Concepts and current practices relating to integration of environmental aspects into product design and development.
  3. Environmental Labels and Declarations: General principles that serve as a basis for the development of guidelines and standards on environmental claims and declarations.
  4. Environmental Communication: Guidance on environmental communication related to an organization's environmental aspects and performance.
  5. Environmental Performance Evaluation: Guidance on the selection and use of indicators to evaluate an organization's environmental performance.
  6. Environmental Management Systems Auditing: Guidance on the principles of auditing; the management of audit programs; the conduct of management system audits as well as on the competence of auditors.
Send submissions for Best Practices to Editorial Research Director David Drickhamer at [email protected].

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