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The Lean Green Wastes : CO2


Lean companies understand the harm of muda, muri, and mura waste and rally as an organization to continuously remove it from operations.  By default, removing operational waste is also good for the environment — it results in less energy, transportation, water use, and landfill waste to name a few.  However, lean can be harnessed to do so much more for the environment.

A company who has demonstrated this for years — long before the first Hybrid car – is (no surprize) Toyota.  Their environmental challenges are very unique to their business, culture, and location. But just as they defined operational wastes for the Toyota Production System, lean companies can look to their definition of environmental waste as well.

They’ve focused their efforts on eliminating three of the biggest offenders: carbon dioxide (CO2), water waste, and non-recyclable materials and products.  CO2  is their largest initiative and responsible for 64% of man-made global warming.

Toyota has three challenges to remove CO₂ from operations and products:

New Vehicle Zero CO₂ Challenge

Reduce vehicle CO₂ emissions by 90 percent in comparison with 2010 levels, by 2050. To realize this, in addition to mileage improvement of engine-driven vehicles, Toyota will promote the development of next-generation vehicles with low or zero CO₂ emissions—hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric, and fuel cell vehicles and further accelerate the spread of these vehicles.

Lifecycle Zero CO₂ Emissions Challenge

Eliminate CO₂ emissions produced in traveling and manufacturing, and all CO₂ emissions from the processes of materials production, and disposal and recycling of vehicles.  Promote environmentally friendly design by choosing appropriate materials with lower CO₂ emissions during production and by reducing the quantity of materials and number of parts used in a vehicle. More recycling and biological materials will be used for vehicle production and the initiative aimed at easy to dismantle design will expand.

Plant Zero CO₂ Emissions Challenge

The two main pillars of the strategy to achieve zero CO₂ emissions at Toyota plants are improvement of manufacturing technology and switching to different forms of energy. Taking first the manufacturing technology, it will be simplified and shortened to reduce time, thus cutting CO₂ emissions. There will be a growth of Improved energy efficiency and energy-free mechanisms in operations. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, and hydrogen energy will be in wide use.

These goals are impressive and should inspire more lean companies to create products and processes that are CO₂ free.  Before blasting away CO₂ like a ghostbuster though, it’s important to take a step back and remember that “improving without understanding” will only result in more waste.  We have to understand what the waste is, where it lurks, the downstream and upstream effects, and it’s true root cause.

The place to start your Lean and Green journey is the same as your Lean Journey: the gemba.  Real, specific gemba facts will help you identify the activities that result in CO₂  emissions.  Then you can carefully define your unique challenge to measure it and eliminate it from your operations.      


Some quick facts on CO2 :

It’s the greenhouse gas most commonly produced by human activities. Its concentration in the atmosphere is currently 40% higher than pre-industrial times.   The top five activities that cause worldwide CO2 emissions include:

Energy (66.5%)

– Electricity & heat (24.9%)

– Industry (14.7%)

– Transportation (14.3%)

– Other fuel combustion (8.6%)

– Fugitive emissions (4%)

Agriculture (13.8%)

Land use change (12.2%)

Industrial processes (4.3%)

Waste (3.2%)

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