Tokyo Century launched a corporate PPA service*1 in 2018 to enable customers to install solar power generation systems with no initial investment. Subsequently, it began offering the industry’s first donation-type corporate PPA service as a means of further contributing to society.
How does introducing this service benefit the company and contribute to the community and society at large? To find out, we interviewed Mr. Furuta and Mr. Fukasawa of Menicon Co., Ltd., which has already introduced the service, and the project manager, Ms. Tokoro of Tokyo Century. Their comments convey their passion to protect the environment and realize a decarbonized society.
*1 In a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA), a company or municipality purchases electricity derived from renewable energy sources from a power producer. The electricity generated by a solar power system, installed by a PPA service provider as the owner or manager of the solar power plant, is provided to and used by the customer. In principle, Tokyo Century as the PPA service provider installs the solar power generation system on a rooftop or the ground at the customer’s plant or facility. It then supplies the generated power to the customer, who can introduce renewable energy without concern about having to incur unexpected expenses, as the PPA service provider will bear the maintenance costs of the solar power generation system.
Menicon, the First Corneal Contact Lens Developer in Japan
—Would you first tell us about Menicon’s business and the Kakamigahara Plant, where solar power generation equipment has been installed?
Fukasawa: Menicon’s history dates back to 1951 when our founder and honorary chairman, Kyoichi Tanaka, successfully developed and commercialized corneal contact lenses for the first time in Japan. Since then, the company has focused on the contact lens business, including intraocular lenses and various care products. And under the corporate principles of “Contributing to society by providing superior visual correction,” we are now working on a wide range of businesses in such areas as veterinary medicine, environment and biotech, and life support.
Furuta: The Kakamigahara Plant, built in Gifu Prefecture in 2015 and its expansion completed in 2020, specializes in daily disposable contact lenses. Environmental considerations for this 30,000 m2 site include adopting a highly efficient, all-in-one air conditioning system as well as a water-saving type of pure water generator.
Introduction of a Donation-Type Corporate PPA Service to Combine In-House Power Generation with Community-Based Donations
—What led to introducing a donation-type corporate PPA service at the Kakamigahara Plant?
Furuta: Achieving a sustainable society has become a critical component of all corporate activities. With its significant impact on the environment, the manufacturing industry has been taking action with a strong sense of responsibility. Every Menicon production site has long been looking into securing an efficient power supply by conserving energy in order to continue reducing CO2 emissions from energy consumption.
While we also looked at hydroelectric, wind, and geothermal power generation, we concluded that solar power would be the best option for the Kakamigahara Plant due to sunlight conditions, the size of the site and buildings, and other factors.
The major advantages of Tokyo Century’s corporate PPA service included the performance of the solar power generation system as well as zero initial investment and maintenance costs. We were moving toward entering into an agreement with Tokyo Century when a new option was put on the table, the donation-type corporate PPA, and we decided to take it.
—How did you feel about the donation-type corporate PPA at the time?
Furuta: I was told there would be no difference in terms of cost, an added advantage for a system not yet available from any other solar power company. And I felt that Tokyo Century was proactively contributing to society.
Menicon Bears a Social Responsibility for Protecting Water Resources. What Is the Menicon Forest Reforestation Project?
—You selected Present Tree for a donation. What is this project?
Fukasawa: Since 2011, we have participated in a reforestation project called Present Tree in the Hida Takayama area, Gifu Prefecture, in cooperation with the certified NPO Environmental Relations. Through it, we are aiming to establish the Menicon Forest on a mountain as a water source recharge forest*2 by planting seedlings and then properly managing and nurturing the growth of the trees.
Furuta: The manufacturing of today’s mainstream soft contact lenses requires clean water to make the lenses soft. And of course water is also a major raw material for cleaning agents and other care products. This is why the Kakamigahara Plant and Menicon Nect’s Gujo Plant, which manufactures care products, were built in locations with clean water resources.
Fukasawa: Menicon bears a social responsibility for conserving water resources that are essential for manufacturing products and for enriching natural greenery. Given the opportunity to choose the recipient of our donation, we selected the NPO Environmental Relations, which operates the Present Tree project, because we wanted to donate to activities rooted in local communities.
*2 A forest that retains water sources from rainwater and regulates river levels.
Menicon’s Challenge to Protect the Environment and Realize a Decarbonized Society
—Please tell us what you expect from Tokyo Century.
Furuta: Although the corporate PPA service has met nearly 10 percent of the electricity needs at the Kakamigahara Plant, the amount is nevertheless significant, given the surging costs of electricity. We are now looking into introducing Tokyo Century’s donation-type corporate PPA service to other Menicon Group plants. We would be very happy if we could put our minds together on how to realize a decarbonized society.
Fukasawa: The donations associated with the corporate PPA service have been used to protect the environment. As the service is introduced to other plants, we hope to make donations that will help revitalize those communities as well.
—Thank you so much for sharing your expectations. My final question is, what challenges does Menicon plan to take on to realize a decarbonized society?
Furuta: The Kakamigahara Plant has an on-site PPA service for installing solar panels on rooftops. This involves the installation of solar power generation systems in difficult locations. Looking ahead, we will further reduce CO2 emissions by establishing an energy-saving system for the entire Menicon Group while also considering the option of an off-site PPA*3, in which power generation equipment is installed outside of the plant premises.
Fukasawa: Menicon supports the TCFD*4 and is helping to achieve Japan’s goal of decarbonization by 2050. We are focusing on upcycling*5 waste materials as well as electricity used in our plants, and several upcycling efforts have been commercialized, including My Bottle. In addition, we are also collecting donations for the Ibis Conservation Fund as a special benefit for shareholders to support the breeding and reintroduction of species to the wild. We will continue partnering with many companies across industries to actively develop initiatives for protecting the environment and realizing a decarbonized society.
*3 A scheme in which a PPA service provider installs solar power generation equipment outside of the customer’s premises and supplies electricity to the customer through a transmission line.
*4 Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures established by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) at the request of the G20 to consider the appropriate disclosure of climate-related information and how financial institutions should respond.
*5 Repurposing waste or unused products, which would otherwise be discarded, into new products.
After interviewing Mr. Furuta and Mr. Fukasawa of Menicon about the introduction of our donation-type corporate PPA service, we talked with Yuta Tokoro, Tokyo Century’s manager of this service.
New Form of Social Contribution with the Added Value of Donations
—How did you develop the standard corporate PPA service?
Tokoro: We launched our corporate PPA service in 2018 so that customers could install solar power generation systems with no initial investment. The Japanese government subsequently declared its commitment to carbon neutrality, which rapidly accelerated the number of companies committed to reducing CO2 emissions. And our PPA service attracted attention as a means for resolving customer issues, such as the high capital investment to introduce solar power generation and achieving RE100*6 and SBT certification*7.
In addition, the recent global surge in electricity prices has also spurred demand for our corporate PPA service, which requires no initial investment and is maintenance-free. It has been introduced to more than 30 companies thus far.
*6 An international initiative in which companies commit to procuring 100 percent of the electricity used for their operations from renewable energy sources.
*7 Science Based Targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with standards required by the Paris Agreement.
—Would you explain the background for developing your donation-type corporate PPA service in the face of growing demand?
Tokoro: When we asked customers why they wanted to introduce a solar power generation system, many said they were looking to increase corporate value by introducing renewable energy.
So, we thought through how we could help them contribute to society by providing renewable energy and achieving the SDGs while enhancing their corporate value. We came up with the idea of adding value through donations. After six months of planning, we released the donation-type corporate PPA service.
Further Exploring Possibilities for Corporate PPA Service While Expanding the Circle of Donations
—What is your impression of the NPO Environmental Relations Present Tree, selected to receive a donation from Menicon?
Tokoro: Menicon was the first to introduce our donation-type corporate PPA service. When we met with representatives from NPO Environmental Relations, which we had selected to receive our donation, we were impressed by the sincerity of their project.
The cost, amount of work, and years required to plant and nurture a single tree are very clear, as well as how our donation would be used, so I believe we’ll be able to perceive the contribution we are making through our donation. I really look forward to following the progress of the Menicon Forest.
—What kind of contribution do you expect to make to society through the donation-type corporate PPA service?
Tokoro: Apart from Menicon, the service has been used to make donations to NPOs involved in forestation and to activities that support the everyday lives and education of children impacted by the severe economic circumstances following the Great East Japan Earthquake. We would be more than happy to support activities to achieve the SDGs through our donations.
—Do you have any suggestions or concerns that need to be addressed to further encourage the use of the donation-type corporate PPA service?
I feel that Japan’s donation culture lags behind those of Europe and North America. As business becomes more global, the range of stakeholders is spreading across the world, and the importance and necessity of donations will increase for achieving the SDGs. We will therefore continue to foster momentum throughout Japanese society.
—Finally, please tell us about your business prospects for the future.
Tokoro: I was able to transfer to my current division through the Career Challenge Program, our in-house recruitment system. In my former division, I was in charge of leasing for PCs, plant equipment, and construction machinery. I applied for my current position because I had felt a growing need for services that contribute to addressing environmental issues and wanted to enhance my expertise.
For customers who may be unable to introduce our on-site corporate PPA service, we will propose and consider an off-site PPA scheme through which power generation equipment is installed on the roofs of their buildings and outside their premises. We will work closely with our real estate-related divisions to continue exploring all possibilities so that we leave a solid record of our efforts to realize a decarbonized society.
Further Promoting Renewable Energy and Achieving the SDGs
Tokyo Century led the way in launching a corporate PPA scheme as an in-house power generation service in 2018, and we are pleased that the donation-type corporate PPA service created from the new perspective of Mr. Tokoro has added value to our original concept. I hope that it will not only help improve the corporate value of our customers and resolve environmental issues but also stimulate the interest of as many people as possible in the activities of the organizations to which we donate. We will continue to focus on promoting our corporate PPA services for creating meaningful projects that contribute to the SDGs while flexibly adapting to location-specific installation conditions of solar power generation systems.
Message from Mitsuo Matsuda, Deputy General Manager, Corporate Business Division I, Corporate Business Unit I
General Manager, Planning & Administrations Dept., Menicon Co., Ltd.
Joined the company in 1996 and was engaged in manufacturing contact lenses at the Seki Plant. He has also worked in wholesale sales and corporate planning as well as a subsidiary before joining his current department, where he is now engaged in planning and management of production and logistics and striving every day to realize sustainable management.
Team Leader, Liaison & Public Relations Dept., Menicon Co., Ltd.
Joined the company in 2003 and was involved in sales of contact lenses and other products at a directly managed retail store. He then worked in the Marketing Department and Human Resources Department. He is now engaged in daily operations to realize a sustainable society as the lead person for promoting sustainability.
Corporate Business Division I, Corporate Business Unit I, Tokyo Century Corporation
Joined the company in 2013 and was engaged in leasing PCs, plant equipment, construction machinery, and related products in the Corporate Business Unit II. In 2021, he moved to his current division through the Career Challenge Program and has worked across Japan to help realize a decarbonized society as the lead person in charge of corporate PPA services.