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Updated on August 23, 2017

Managing Chemical Substances

The Sony Group has developed a group-wide approach to the management of chemical substances used at sites where the use of these chemicals is controlled by legislation, designated as having a potentially harmful impact on the environment, or used in large quantities.

Reinforcing Standards for Managing Chemical Substances

Under the Green Management 2020 environmental mid-term targets, chemical substances are categorized into four classes. Sony carefully manages and reduces the amount transferred as air, water, or soil emissions and waste. In countries where no legal reporting requirements exist for chemical management, Sony sites apply standards based on Japan's Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) as internal rules. Chemical substances are classified as follows:
Class 1 substances
  • The substances regarded as having a serious impact on the human body or environment (carcinogenity, mutagenicity, toxicity for reproduction, acute toxicity, ecotoxicity, etc.) which are prohibited to be produced or used under international treaties or individual countries' regulations
  • The substances considered to have a high risk of environmental pollution such as soil contamination
Class 2 substances
  • The substances regarded as having a serious impact on the human body or environment (carcinogenity, mutagenicity, toxicity for reproduction, acute toxicity, ecotoxicity, etc.), which are subject to regulations that require their registration or to monitor the amounts released and transferred because they are of high risk.
  • The substances recognized as needed to be eliminated because they are regarded as high risk in their management after considering the trend of regulations or the social circumstances.
Class 3 substances
  • The substances having a serious impact on the human body or environment, which are subject to regulations requiring monitoring of the amounts released and transferred.
  • The substances which are recognized as needed to be reduced in the amount of release and transfer after considering the trend of regulations or the social circumstances.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOC) other than Classes 1 and 2
Class 4 substances
  • The substances not classified as Class 1, 2, or 3.
    Note that water and air are not required to be managed as chemical substances.
Sony is working to achieve its targets for reducing the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released into the air by 50% from the fiscal 2000 level. VOC emissions into the air were approximately 661 tons in fiscal 2016, 64% lower than fiscal 2000 levels and down 16% from fiscal 2015. At its semiconductor fabrication facilities, which are the main source of VOC emissions, Sony is replacing VOCs with alternative substances and reducing VOC use in manufacturing processes. Sony has also been developing compact VOC treatment systems, and it is steadily installing them. In fiscal 2016, emissions of VOCs per unit of consolidated net sales were 0.0122 tons/million yen in Japan and 0.0013 tons/million yen outside Japan.

Example of Reduction in Chemical Substance Usage

Sony Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (SCK), a semiconductor production plant, collaborated with an equipment manufacturer to develop a proprietary volatile organic compound (VOC) treatment system as part of efforts to reduce the amount of VOCs released. Conventional VOC treatment systems are installed near ventilation duct outlets. Since such equipment is designed to treat extremely rarefied organic substances, it is very large, making space and cost constraints an issue for semiconductor plants that want to install these types of systems. SCK responded by focusing on production equipment for highly concentrated organic substance and developed a small, fixed condensing-type VOC treatment system in conjunction with an equipment manufacturer. The newly developed system can be installed near production equipment and is able to treat VOCs efficiently.

  • Small, fixed, condensing-type VOC treatment system developed by SCK in conjunction with an equipment manufacturer

Ozone-Depleting Substances

Sony succeeded in completely eliminating first-generation chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from its manufacturing processes in 1993 and banned the use of second-generation hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) at the end of fiscal 2000. Sony business sites currently prohibit the use of ozone-depleting substances stipulated under the Montreal Protocol. Sony uses CFCs as a refrigerant in some air-conditioning units only. Compliance with laws and regulations in each country is ensured, and strict care is taken to prevent leakage of CFCs from these units during maintenance.

Environmental Risk Management at Sony Sites

To carry out effective risk management of chemical substances and emergency responses, the Sony Group has enacted the Sony Group Standards for Site Environmental Risk Management, which set the management standard and give examples of improvement measures. Based on these standards, at each site Sony has implemented accident prevention measures, including prohibiting the burial of tanks for chemical substances and pipes, and various leak prevention measures. In addition, Sony rigorously works to prevent environmental accidents through ongoing improvements to its systems based on regular audits at each site, information sharing among sites and other initiatives. Sony has established a system whereby its sites are required to promptly report environmental accidents to the authorities and to take appropriate countermeasures. No such accidents were reported at any of Sony's sites in fiscal 2016.

Response to Soil and Groundwater Contamination

In the event that an incident of soil or groundwater contamination is identified at a Sony site in a voluntary check or other assessment, remediation processes are implemented in compliance with pertinent local laws and ordinances. For example, Sony Group companies in Japan deal with the occurrence of contamination of soil and groundwater at Group sites by taking steps in line with the Sony Group Standard for Assessing Soil and Groundwater, an internal document that sets out procedures that comply with Japanese laws and ordinances. This manual stipulates that issues be addressed through the following three phases:
Phase 1: Investigate past and present chemical use and confirm the existence or otherwise of used or unused underground tanks, buried piping, other similar equipment, or previous incidents, at the site. Perform an inspection of the site to ascertain whether there is any residual soil or groundwater contamination.
Phase 2: Based on the investigations undertaken in Phase 1, carry out an assessment of the areas that are potentially contaminated. Undertake measurements at these locations in line with the Soil Contamination Countermeasures Act.
Phase 3: If any contamination is identified based on these results, carry out prevention and remediation procedures.

Incidents of soil and groundwater contamination resulting from operations have been confirmed at four Sony Group sites, as shown below. In response, Sony has been remediating the contamination and submitting regular reports to authorities.
Progress of Soil and Groundwater Remediation
Site Date Contamination Confirmed Substance(s) Detected Cause Response/Current Status
Former Sony Haneda Corporation (Japan) September 2004 (Result of assessment conducted in line with Tokyo bylaws) Fluorine, boron, trichloroethylene, Cis-1, 2-dichloroethylene, lead, mercury, arsenic Leak in area where substances had previously been used Groundwater pumping has been under way since July 2005. Sony continues to monitor substances which were previously found in concentrations that exceeded legal standards, or which were within standards but detected in groundwater. Both are currently below legal standards for groundwater.
Sony Global Manufacturing & Operations Corporation Inazawa Site (Japan) June 2001 (Result of voluntary assessment) Fluorine Leak from crack in drainage pipe The site has discontinued use of the equipment that caused the contamination, removed the contamination, and is monitoring groundwater. Analysis carried out in fiscal 2016 found substances in a concentration of 1.35 mg per liter.
Former Sony EMCS Corporation's former Mizunami Site (Japan) Survey conducted in accordance with Article 3 of the Soil Contamination Countermeasures Act of Japan Lead and its compounds, fluorine and its compounds, boron and its compounds Leakages in areas where the substances had been previously used According to the results of reporting to government, the site was designated as an "area that poses no risk of damage to human health" because, despite the fact that soil contamination has been confirmed on the premises, there is no likelihood that the contamination has leaked into neighboring sites, as contamination has not been detected in the groundwater. Accordingly, measures to remove the contaminated soil are currently unnecessary.
Sony Corporation's Atsugi Technology Center (Japan) March 2015 (Result of voluntary assessment) Hexavalent chromium, fluorine Leakages in areas where the substances had been previously used According to the results of reporting to government, the site was designated as an "area that poses no risk of damage to human health" because, despite the fact that soil and groundwater contamination have been confirmed on the premises, there is no likelihood that the contamination has leaked into neighboring sites. The site continues to remove contamination from areas exceeding legal concentrations and to monitor groundwater as directed by the government in August 2016. Concentration in groundwater is currently below legal standards.
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