Bill Ford gets lots of attention these days for nurturing environmental initiatives at Ford Motor Co., but the lack of spotlight hasn't deterred Toyota Motor Corp. from its goal of becoming the industry leader in environmental performance.

The No. 1 Japanese automaker, which first laid out its goal in 1992 with its Earth Charter, now is imposing the same standards upon its suppliers. Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Inc. (TMMNA) last year issued its Green Supplier Guidelines, which are not guidelines so much as they are mandates.

Toyota in North America is demanding that all suppliers develop and implement an environmental management system that conforms to ISO 14001 standards by the end of 2003. Suppliers also must obey a ban on 450 chemicals as well as comply with hazardous materials transport rules.

The list of banned chemicals was derived from environmental organizations, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as counterparts in Europe and Japan. Many of the chemicals must be banned so that North American-manufactured vehicles can meet the more stringent requirements of some export markets, says Kevin Butt, assistant general manager for environmental affairs at TMMNA. The list will change over time, and suppliers will be given flexibility to phase out the chemicals when the vehicles go through a model change.

One chemical on the ban list: lead, which was used in the rear-view mirrors of the current Toyota Camry but will not be used when the next Camry incarnation debuts as an ’02 model.

The suppliers, Mr. Butt says, have been happy to comply with the tougher standards, many even thanking Toyota for placing them at the forefront of environmental compliance.

But the program is not static, and Toyota most likely will challenge its suppliers on environmental matters in the future. “I think there will be other ways we can ask our suppliers to improve,” Mr. Butt says. The improvements will parallel those made within the automaker.

The company now wants to reduce energy and greenhouse gases, as well as cut back on waste and water use.

The loftiest long-term goal is to achieve zero landfill usage from its manufacturing facilities. One plant in Japan already has achieved that goal, but North America may prove to be a different story. “In Japan, land costs are very high. Here, land's cheap and available,” says Mr. Butt. Despite this fact, he says Toyota should meet its target within 10 years.

Toyota now is looking five years into the future and soon will establish its 10-year environmental plan. “This is real, it's substantive,” he says.

Toyota North America

Purchasing by the Numbers

Parts and Materials

1991 purchases — $1 billion
1994 purchases — $2 billion
2000 purchases — $11.2 billion

1994 suppliers — 237
2000 suppliers — 500