SOUTHFIELD, MI – In its continuous quest to be a good corporate citizen, Denso International America Inc. is taking a stand for the environment and promises action to prevent global warming and send less waste to landfills.

In addition, Denso says it will consume less water, recycle more goods and use fewer hazardous substances in its 24 North American manufacturing facilities.

By 2010, the company plans to eliminate four substances from Denso products and manufacturing processes: mercury (used in headlamps), cadmium (used in rubber), hexavalent chromium (used in corrosion-preventing coatings) and lead (used in solder).

Japan’s No.1 automotive supplier, which is experiencing rapid growth in North America, says its “Green Ways” campaign is part of a 5-year North American action plan and a 10-year company wide initiative that spans the globe.

“In today’s world, when environmental issues stand trial everywhere and in every industry, Denso embarks on a new era – one in which we intend to challenge ourselves with renewed responsibilities,” Matt Matsushita, president and CEO of Denso America, says this week in announcing the initiative.

Denso also will adopt an “environmental efficiency index” to rank its products based on environmental impact through their lifecycles.

“Our products will be assigned a green value,” calculated by determining a product’s performance in context to the environmental burden it creates, says Robert Townsend, Denso America’s senior manager-environmental affairs.

The company will compare those ratings from product to product and from one generation to another so improvements can be made.

Denso already supplies high-pressure diesel fuel injectors, which improve fuel economy and, by extension, reduce emissions.

As Toyota Motor Corp.’s No.1 supplier, Denso also has ridden Toyota’s success with hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs).

Toyota owns part of Denso, whose hybrid product lineup for HEVs now in production include a hybrid control computer, battery-monitoring unit, DC-DC converter and an electric compressor for air conditioning.

Other goals in the initiative include cutting North American landfill waste by 75% from 1999 levels by 2010. The company plans to promote “perfect energy” factories that minimize energy loss and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 18% from 2004 levels.

In rolling out the initiative, Denso highlights the achievements of the quality circle team at its Maryville, TN, plant, which produces instrument clusters. The plant uses screen printing to produce speedometers, tachometers and other dials.

The operation, which uses large rubber squeegees to sweep ink across the screen, wasted 98 gallons (370 L) of ink every month. Ink purchases consistently exceeded budget by a wide margin.

To stem the losses, employees designed “wings” for the ends of the squeegees to contain waste ink, which could then be filtered and reused.

The idea has been a sweeping success. Annual waste ink has plummeted from 1,173 gallons (4,440 L) to 277 gallons (1,048 L), and annual disposal costs have dropped from $1,675 to $393. And the department is well under budget for ink purchasing.

Annual savings are about $127,000. The idea has earned the screen-printing department numerous internal awards and now is employed in other Denso facilities in Takatana, Japan; Laguna, Philippines; and Guadalupe, Mexico.

“We recognize that environmentally oriented company management is the management style of the 21st century,” Townsend says. “By doing our utmost to remain a forerunner among environmentally oriented companies, Denso hopes to realize a sustainable automotive society.”

tmurphy@wardsauto.com