Toyota plant’s good works rightly honored

Toyota Material Handling set out to make positive change for the environment several years ago, and the effort has been a success. Not only did the Columbus forklift plant cut its carbon footprint, its efforts were recognized recently with a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.

Gov. Eric Holcomb recently presented the award to company officials in the five-year continuous improvement category. The local Toyota plant received one of eight Environmental Excellence Awards as selected by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

It was probably an easy choice because Toyota’s commitments and accomplishments have been nothing short of extraordinary. The manufacturer at the Woodside Industrial Park on the south side of Columbus has made these strides since 2018:

n Reduced carbon dioxide emissions 37%.

n Decreased natural gas consumption 23%.

n Cut electricity consumption 22%.

All of these reductions are part of an effort by parent Toyota to curb greenhouse gas emissions company-wide by 32 percent.

Toyota and the other companies the state recognized for taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints are “paving the way for other organizations to learn how to increase environmental protection efforts in the state,” IDEM Commissioner Bruno Pigott said.

Toyota installed motion-sensor lighting, weld fume collection systems and about 1,300 LED lightbulbs, among other things. By themselves, each of these changes would help a little. But collectively, the efforts are impressive: They reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1,000 tons per year. That’s roughly the equivalent of taking 217 passenger vehicles off the road each year, according to the EPA.

For the roughly 1,200 people who work at Toyota Material Handling, the recognition is a well-deserved feather in the cap. Or more fittingly, a jewel in the crown.

Already viewed as a premiere manufacturing employer in the region, Toyota Material Handling enjoys the reputational prestige of its parent namesake. Surveys show that among vehicle manufacturers, Toyota far and away surpasses other nameplates in brand reputation.

That rubs off on Toyota Material Handling, whose forklifts are top-sellers worldwide. Unsurpassed quality is expected, as is cutting-edge innovation. Naturally, that extends to the company’s ongoing program to reduce its carbon footprint.

So from that standpoint, the award recognizes business as usual at Toyota, though the recognition is welcome.

“It’s exciting for us,” Toyota Material Handling spokesman Justin Albers said. “… Our culture at Toyota is very much driven in the idea of constantly improving.”

The purpose of the Environmental Excellence Awards is to showcase companies whose initiatives serve as examples for others to follow. Toyota Material Handling was a clear choice for the honor, and its exemplary efforts also show how a commitment to forward-thinking and continuous improvement keep the company ahead of the pack.

The rest of us have a long way to go to catch up, but at least we have a model to look to.