Kevin Butt
Director, Environmental Sustainability
Toyota Motor North America, Inc.

Feature: The Real Challenge in Challenge 2050


In 2015, the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 was announced. Challenge 2050 has six goals – three on reducing the CO2 emissions that cause climate change, one on conserving water, one on improving material flows, and one on protecting biodiversity – that seek to go beyond eliminating environmental impacts to creating net positive impacts on the planet and society. These six goals are the most demanding and most inspiring environmental commitments Toyota has ever made.

On the surface, the goals sound simple enough. The first three goals on Carbon call for drastically reducing or eliminating CO2 emissions. But when you look at the challenges more closely, you’ll see how complicated they really are.

Take Challenge 3, which calls for eliminating CO2 emissions from our manufacturing and logistics activities. CO2 is emitted from burning fuels. This means we need to eliminate CO2 emissions from burning natural gas to heat our buildings and from combusting diesel in our logistics fleet. It also means we need to generate or purchase 100 percent renewable electricity.

We use the equivalent of more than 4 million megawatt-hours of fuel and electricity in our operations. We are using solar at some of our facilities, like our headquarters in Plano, but so far, only a small percentage of our electricity is from renewable sources. We have to find a way to scale up our renewable electricity use to meet this challenge.

But it’s more than electricity. We also use natural gas and must come up with ways to heat our facilities that doesn’t result in CO2 emissions. We need to come up with unique and creative ways of generating and using thermal energy. There are a few small-scale options out there, but we need options that will work at all of our manufacturing facilities and every other location.

And in the case of our trucking fleet, we need to replace diesel as the fuel of choice. Our Project Portal hydrogen fuel cell electric truck is a step in that direction, but so far, it’s only two trucks. Some of our third-party logistics carriers have begun to transition away from diesel, but we have a lot of trucks between our owned fleet and our third-party fleet.

Then we have Challenges 4, 5 and 6. These three are still being refined because the issues they address – water, materials and biodiversity – are more dependent on regional circumstances. Take Challenge 4 as an example. We know we need to conserve water and protect water resources, but water is such a local issue that each region must come up with its own way of conserving and protecting. We can’t just use less water. We must use less water where water isn’t so abundant.

At our headquarters in Plano, we installed a rainwater collection system so that we wouldn’t need to purchase as much water from the city. Here in North America, we are focusing on water-stressed areas, particularly those areas where water scarcity is an issue. Some of our sites in California, Texas and Mexico are in areas where having enough water to operate isn’t always a given.

Nothing about Challenge 2050 is simple, except the reasoning behind it. Toyota considers sustainable development to be a key driver of the company’s global strategy. We know that our future – our health and well-being – depends on clean air, clean water and diversity in nature to provide us with medicines and other ecosystem services.

Challenge 2050 will not be achieved through continuous improvement alone. It will take new ideas and new technology. It will take creativity and thinking outside the box. It will take working with partners who will help us find success along the way.

Toyota’s “Start Your Impossible” global campaign was rolled out during the Olympic Games in early 2018, but it’s also applicable to Challenge 2050. Challenge 2050 on the surface sounds impossible – the whole idea of creating a net positive impact on the planet and society seems unattainable. But we have started our impossible. We have been reducing environmental impacts for years, and we are starting to see how we can turn that into net positive. We did it when we donated so many assets – furniture, computers, books and an entire building – when we vacated offices in Kentucky and California. We’re doing it in Plano by selling renewable energy generated on weekends back to the grid and when we help our communities recycle household waste like old television sets.

And we’ll keep doing it, step by step, until we achieve our goals. I look forward to sharing more examples of creating net positive in future reports. In the meantime, we’ll continue doing the impossible and doing our part to build a better future.

'Start Your Impossible' global campaign

Toyota’s “Start Your Impossible” global campaign was rolled out during the Olympic Games in early 2018, but it’s also applicable to Challenge 2050.

Back to the Report