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Panasonic Sees Shift to Green Tech as Survival Tactic

For the second time in as many months, an established but struggling technology company has unveiled plans to embrace green technology as a way of capturing new market share and returning to profitability.

The president of Panasonic last week unveiled a new three-year plan, called the "Green Transformation 2012" (GT12) plan, that will lay the groundwork for Panasonic to become the world's leading "Green Innovation Company" by 2018, the 100th anniversary of the company's founding.

In filing the GT12 plan, Panasonic president Fumio Ohtsubo acknowledged that the company's previous three-year plan, GP3, had achieved just one of three of its targets: By 2010, Panasonic had cut its CO2 emissions by more than 300,000 tons compared to a 2007 baseline.

However, global sales and its return on equity fell far short of goals, leading the company to reevaluate its strategy. Panasonic's new focus will be on becoming a globally focused company working on energy systems rather than a Japan-focused company in the consumer electronics market.

Panasonic hopes to achieve its goals by focusing on six key businesses: Energy systems, HVAC, networked audio-visual technologies, healthcare, security and LED lighting.

Its energy systems will get a boost in part through the technologies it acquired late last year from Sanyo, which is a world leader in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles. Panasonic also plans to focus on solar cells, fuel cells and the building management systems that can connect facilities to the ability to generate and store energy.

A key part of Panasonic's green strategy is to reduce the company's own impacts while also enabling the technologies to help individuals and businesses use fewer resources. To that end, Panasonic has stated a goal of steadily reducing the CO2 emissions from its factories and work toward zero waste by 2019, and has been touting the energy efficiency of its current and future models of LCD and LED television displays.

Panasonic's announcement comes less than a month after another hundred-year-old Japanese electronics firm, Hitachi, announced a plan to shift to green technologies to stay afloat.

As Hiroshi Sakai, an electronics industry analyst at Tokyo-based SMBC Friend Research Center, told the Wall Street Journal, "This is the right direction for Panasonic but then again it's the only direction with any potential.... This is pretty much the only way that Panasonic can differentiate itself from its rivals."

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