Courtesy of Panasonic

    A quiet force behind the electric-car ­revolution.

    A few years back, Panasonic’s 200,000 employees around the world all sported lapel pins reading “eco ideas” —then the company’s latest slogan. But after taking over as president of the global giant in 2012, Kazuhiro Tsuga halted the campaign, explaining that sustainability should be understood as a core element of everything Panasonic sells and does. So it now is, in ways both profitable and symbolic.

    For starters, Panasonic has become the world’s largest maker of lithium-ion batteries for electric cars. It is Panasonic employees who will actually be churning out the power cells inside Elon Musk’s Tesla gigafactory. Panasonic also makes batteries for 11 other automakers (including Ford) in its own plants. (Overall, its lithium-ion and nickel metal hydride car batteries are expected to be a source of about $4 billion in revenue by 2019.)

    On a former industrial site west of Tokyo, Panasonic has created the Fujisawa “smart town,” the high-tech home to a thousand families, showcasing how a community can be both sustainable—and survivable. Fujisawa will get 30% of its power from solar panels, while super-efficient monitoring systems will cut C02 emissions by 70% and water use by 30%. Electric cars and scooters are available for ride-sharing. Built after Japan’s devastating 2011 earthquakes, Fujisawa has everything needed—including emergency food and stored battery power—to let residents live comfortably off the grid for three days. (Park benches flip over to serve as hibachi grills; manhole covers are removed to connect portable toliets directly to the sewage system.)

    The smart town project is providing ideas for Panasonic’s global housing and energy-management businesses, and has inspired its U.S. “CityNOW” initiative, which has launched its first development near the Denver International Airport. It includes a 400-acre solar-powered micro-grid, a “smart” LED streetlight system, and plans for a commercial and residential development clustered around a light-rail station providing service into downtown Denver.

    Company Information

    Impact SegmentEnvironmental Impact
    IndustryElectronics & Electrical Equipment
    CEOKazuhiro Tsuga
    Company TypePublic
    Revenues ($M) (Last Fiscal Year)$62,921
    Profits ($M) (Last Fiscal Year)$1,610
    Market Value ($M)$24,325