Samsung Electronics is committed to devoting human resources and technology to create superior products and services, thereby contributing to a better global society. The company that had, as of 2019, 230 worldwide operating hubs, including its, headquarter in Suwon, South Korea, manufacturing subsidiaries, sales subsidiaries, design centres and R&D Centres while operating 15 Regional Offices in South Korea, North America, Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa and other regions of the world.
In 2020, as the world was struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, it became difficult to determine the full extent of the social and economic impacts of the outbreak. As a responsible global corporate citizen, Samsung is committed to helping resolve problems faced by the communities in which it works. To this end, the company allocated KRW 2.6 trillion to maintain the safety of its supply chain. It also extended technical support and service periods to support its customers using its products and services. It provided technical support, expert personnel, knowledge, and infrastructure to the local communities, and donated USD 39 million to governments, medical, and educational facilities in areas severely affected by COVID-19.
Samsung Electronics endeavours to offer a measure of hope and assistance amidst the ongoing global health crisis. Let us look at the company’s initiatives towards sustainability in the last FY.
1. Climate Action
With the Paris Agreement, signed in Paris in December 2015, the transition to a new climate system and a low-carbon model for the world economy began. In August 2019, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the ‘Special Report on Climate Change and Land’. The report warned that climate change will impact biodiversity, human health and food systems to the extent that some regions will face a crisis at an unprecedented scale. The IPCC called for an urgent global response.
Samsung Electronics has been taking action to tackle the issues of climate change. The company identifies related issues, analyze risks, and establish and implement counter-strategies. It regularly discusses climate actions through committees and councils, and manage Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions at all worksites every month through the Global Environment, Health, and Safety System (G-EHS). Furthermore, it is working with suppliers, the Samsung institute of Safety & Environment and related departments to reduce other indirect GHG emissions.
1.1 Climate Change Action
Climate change risks and opportunities affect almost every aspect of Samsung’s business from its products and services to manufacturing processes, supply chain, research and development, and other sales activities. The company expects the impact on product development and manufacturing to be especially significant. This has led it to develop energy-efficient products while working hard to reduce GHG emissions.
1.1.1 Reduction of GHG Emission at Worksites
With the recent expansion of facilities and production volume, Samsung Electronics’ GHG emissions have gradually increased. The company continues to improve the efficiency in gas processing and to streamline its operations, thus maximizing GHG reductions compared to forecasts while minimizing the increase in emissions. Every year, each worksite to project their GHG emissions identifies GHG reduction tasks optimal for their manufacturing processes, and develop and promote suitable action plans. In 2019, it implemented a total of 498 GHG reduction projects, including enhancing the efficiency of F-gases processing facilities, upgrading to high-efficiency equipment, and streamlining the manufacturing process. As a result, it reduced GHG emissions by a total of 5,098,000 tonnes, which is an increase of 75% compared to 2018.
1.1.2 Applying IoT technologies to Infrastructure Facilities
The Yeongdeok Training Center in South Korea and Ho Chi Minh City worksite applied IoT technologies and established the foundation for a monitoring system and an energy active control environment. The company’s Smart Factory technology enables optimized control of infrastructure facilities by applying energy-saving algorithms that take into account outdoor conditions, air conditioning loads, and device performance. By applying such technologies, the Ho Chi Minh City worksite was able to reduce 12.4% of the energy consumed in air conditioning. It plans to expand the application of Smart Factory technologies to other worksites, including South Korea, the United States, and Southeast Asia in the future.
1.1.3 Expansion of Renewable Energy Use
In June 2018, Samsung committed to sourcing renewable energy for 100% of all our worksites in the United States, Europe and China by 2020. In South Korea, it also pledged to install solar and geothermal facilities in our parking lots, roofs, and new buildings in Suwon, Hwaseong, and Pyeongtaek. To support this commitment, it established and implemented optimized regional action plans, including solar power generation facility installation, renewable energy certificate purchase, power purchasing agreements, and green pricing. In South Korea, the company successfully installed solar power generation facilities at Suwon and Giheung sites at scales of 1.9 MW (2018) and 1.5 MW (2019) respectively. We are also reviewing the installation of additional solar and geothermal power facilities at other worksites including Giheung and Pyeongtaek.
Furthermore, in India, Samsung signed a renewable energy supply contract with wind and solar power suppliers and purchased renewable energy certificates in Mexico. The company’s worksites in Brazil also receive a certain percentage of renewable energy. As a result, in 2019, 92% of the electricity used in our sites in the United States, Europe, and China was generated by renewable energy, and we are on track to reach our 100% renewable energy goal in 2020. It will continue expanding the use of renewable energy in regions where renewable energy can be secured.
1.1.4 Reduction of External GHG emissions
Samsung Electronics develops and launches energy-efficient products to reduce GHG emissions during the product use stage. Through 25 reduction tasks implemented in relation to the products transportation, including transportation route changes, loading efficiency improvements, and transportation management efficiency improvements it reduced total GHG emissions by 1,544 tonnes in 2019.
In addition, to reduce emissions generated by business travel, Samsung increased the use of video conferencing. In 2019, it hosted almost 187,000 video conferences that led to a reduction of 3.5% in emissions generated by employees travelling from South Korea to overseas compared to the previous year. Furthermore, it also monitors and manages GHG emissions generated by its suppliers. In 2019, it joined the CDP Supply Chain Program and surveyed the status of GHG emissions and renewable energy use of our suppliers that accounted for 80% of all our business transactions. The company provided incentives to suppliers who met the CDP standards for information disclosure and established GHG emission reduction goals. We will continue our efforts in working with our suppliers for GHG emissions reduction.
2. Circular Economy
As natural resources run out and consumers’ demand for sustainable products rise, sustainability across all stages is becoming increasingly important, from materials purchasing, development, and manufacturing to logistics, use and disposal. There is a need to make the transformation from a linear economy that consumes resources only for single-use, to a circular economy in which we can close the loop and expand the reuse and recycling of resources. Samsung has established circular economy principles to minimize social and environmental impacts and to use resources efficiently throughout the entire product life cycle.
2.1 Actions for Circular Economy
Samsung strives to carry out various circular economy activities at every stage of a product’s lifecycle, such as the use of sustainable materials, minimizing the use of resources, extending product longevity, and e-waste take-back and recycling.
2.1.1 Use of Sustainable Materials
Bioplastics: Bioplastics are produced from renewable biomass sources and have a reduced environmental impact compared to petroleum-based plastics. In cooperation with its bioplastics suppliers, Samsung Electronics is developing sustainable materials to apply to products and packaging materials. In 2019, bioplastics containing 37% of biomass were used in part of the front casing of the Galaxy S10e.
Eco-conscious Packaging Materials: Samsung is gradually replacing product packaging materials with sustainable materials such as paper instead of plastic, vinyl, and other disposable materials. It plans to fully convert paper for packaging and user manual into a sustainably-sourced paper by 2020. Plastic containers and vinyl packaging used for mobile product packaging are being replaced by pulp mould and paper, while vinyl wrappings for earphones and cables are being replaced with sustainable materials. Also, the company plans to gradually replace all vinyl packaging materials for home appliances with sustainable materials.
2.1.2 Expanding Take-back and Recycle of E-waste
Samsung has established an e-waste take-back system to expand the efficient recovery and recycling of e-waste. As a result, it globally runs various collection and recycling activities such as self-collection, consignment collection, and stakeholder collaboration, all of which are customized to regional characteristics.
The Re+ Program is Samsung’s most representative e-waste recycling program, through which end-of-life electronics products are collected through our stores and service centres across the globe. The collected e-waste is recycled using responsible methods, and recovered materials are reused as resources to reduce virgin feedstocks. Of these, mobile phone batteries are processed through the four steps of drilling, dipping in salt-water, drying, and crushing to extract rare metals such as cobalt and nickel, to increase resource recycling.
Since 2009, the company has established and operated ‘Samsung Requirements for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Managing’, which includes compliance with environmental, health and safety laws, management of suppliers, and prohibition of illegal export of waste. From 2009 to 2019 it has collected a total of 4.03 million tonnes of e-waste. In 2019, the Asan Recycling Centre, the company’s recycling facility in South Korea, collected 24,524 tonnes of valuable resources including copper, aluminium, steel and plastic. Some 1,882 tonnes of recycled plastics collected from e-waste were used in product manufacturing. Through these efforts, Samsung continues to reduce the plastic waste and the use of petrochemical raw materials needed to manufacture new products.
3. Commitment to Environment
Samsung is committed to reducing the environmental impact of its business. The company focuses on 3R activities – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – to use less and recycle more of its water resources. It also operates a management system to treat pollutants by appropriate processes and are engaged in a range of activities designed to help preserve biodiversity.
3.1 Water Management
Water resource management is an integral part of protecting the environment surrounding the company’s worksites and at the same time, an essential part of the product production process. Samsung focuses on the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – in managing water resources.
It maximizes wastewater reuse rates through everyday reduction efforts, such as optimizing our worksites, replacing old valves and improving operation standards. The company also pursues structural improvements, such as improving our manufacturing processes and establishing recycling systems. As a result, it reused 68,555,000 tonnes of water in 2019, up 10% from the preceding year.
3.2 Waste Management – Zero waste to landfill
To promote a resource circulation system with zero waste to landfill sites, Samsung strives to develop waste disposal technologies and increase waste separation. In 2019, the company developed and applied a recycling technology that extracts copper from copper sludge and produces crude copper (97% copper). In addition, it improved recycling levels by separating and disposing of waste synthetic resin that was previously incinerated. In recognition of such effort, Samsung’s Hwaseong worksite in South Korea received the Presidential Citation at Leading Companies in Resource Recirculation in September 2019 from the Korean Ministry of Environment.
As part of its effort to reduce emissions of air pollutants, Samsung introduced a nitrogen oxide (NOx) reduction system, a catalytic oxidation process, and electric dust collector facilities. In accordance with the Montreal Protocol, all of the company’s worksites are also expanding the use of refrigerants that have less impact on ozone depletion in freezers, air conditioners and other appliances.
Additionally, the company increased its efforts to reduce nitrogen oxides, a major component of fine dust, through new technology development and high-efficiency treatment facilities.
4. Biodiversity Conservation
4.1 River Biodiversity Improvement
Samsung’s worksites in South Korea periodically measures water quality indicators, such as chemical oxygen demand (COD), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), and acidity (PH), to monitor ecological effects in surrounding streams. It also promotes habitat protection activities to save endangered species nearby. Furthermore, the company carries out river ecosystem conservation activities with environmental organizations, as well as family members of our employees and local students.
4.1.1 Improving the Ecological Environment – Reviving Osan Stream
Osan Stream, a 15km-long national river that flows from Yongin to Pyeongtaek used to be known as one of the most deteriorated streams with a lack of water. Local communities, environmental groups, and Samsung Electronics have gathered to save Osan Stream, and since 2007, it has purified water used in the semiconductor manufacturing process more strictly than the water quality standards guided by the government. It has released an average of 45,000 tonnes of water into Osan Stream per day, and as a result, the ecological environment of Osan Stream was greatly improved to the extent that rare otters, wild animals that only inhabits clean rivers, were found.
5. Enabling the Communities
In 2019, Samsung celebrated its 50th anniversary by announcing a new global vision for its corporate citizenship: Together for Tomorrow! Enabling People. The new vision draws on the company’s core values, People, Co-prosperity, and Change, and encompasses its promise to cultivate talented individuals for shared growth while pursuing innovations that will help make the world a better place.
Samsung’s global citizenship programs harness the power of its collective expertise, technology, experience, and resources. Its programs around the world are customized according to the country’s characteristics to achieve maximum effect.
5.1 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow
Samsung Solve for Tomorrow, designed to raise awareness of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), is a creativity contest that encourages students to address local societal issues through creative solutions based on STEM that began in 2010. Over the past 10 years, more than 1.69 million students from more than 20 countries participated in Samsung Solve for Tomorrow, spreading the culture of innovation and creativity among schools and the community. Following are some of the outcomes of the program:
5.1.1 Smart Bicycle Helmets in the United States
Students at the Gregorio Luperon High School for Science and Math in New York, the United States developed a smart bicycle helmet that provides real-time information to cyclists about their immediate surroundings using sensors. The school was shortlisted to be one of the national finalists and the team plans to continue to work on this project and test different materials for the helmet.
5.1.2 High Efficiency Wind and Solar Power Generator Solution in Argentina
In 2019, five students from the northern Argentinian province of Salta won the top prize for developing a high-efficiency wind and solar energy generator solution for underprivileged students in underdeveloped areas deprived of electricity. The project aimed to improve the educational environment of indigenous children of Salta and will be reviewed for application to homes and public facilities in energy-deprived regions.
5.1.3 Special-use Vests for Outdoor Workers in the UAE
The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition was held for the first time in the UAE in 2019. Two students developed a special vest filled with an ethylene glycol mixture that lowers body temperature. In the UAE, there are many casualties each year of outdoor workers including construction sites due to the continuous heatwaves and temperatures of more than 50 degrees Celsius and humidity of 80% in summer. The idea of making a special vest to lower body temperature is expected to be used for the safety of low-income outdoor workers in the future.
5.1.4 AI Reading Helper for the Visually Impaired in China
Students in Beijing, China, designed an artificial intelligence (AI) reading helper for the visually impaired, based on their personal experiences of volunteer work helping the visually impaired. The device, which prints braille by combining AI software technology with open-source hardware and auxiliary circuits, helps blind people read traditional paper books.
5.2 Samsung Smart School
Samsung Smart School is a series of educational initiatives that use the company’s digital devices and contents. In 2019, it offered quality digital education to more than 3.8 million students around the world who have limited access to education resources. The company intends to provide digital education to elementary and middle school students and contribute to bridge the educational gap.
5.2.1 Cheontae Elementary School in South Korea
Cheontae Elementary School is a small school of just 24 students in a rural area. In 2019, it was selected as a Smart School and we provided digital devices so that students could produce their own video content to express their ideas and communicate with the world through digital technology.
5.2.2 Energy in Schools Initiative in the United Kingdom
Samsung Electronics UK and Samsung R&D Institute UK developed energy monitoring software based on our SmartThings platform. We provided the software to 23 elementary, middle, and high schools across the country to educate students on the importance of reducing energy consumption and carbon emission. Through IoT coding classes, students also learned how the SmartThings platform is programmed and used for energy and environmental data management.
5.3 Samsung Innovation Campus
Samsung Innovation Campus, launched in October 2019, is a technological education program created for the youth entering the job market for the first time. It builds on the success of the Samsung Junior Software Academy, Samsung Software Academy for Youth, and Samsung Tech Institute, which together educated more than 200,000 in around 30 countries from 2013 to 2019. Samsung Innovation Campus provides classroom education as well as hands-on training in skills that technology-related job positions require, such as AI, IoT, and data analysis.
5.3.1 Coding and Programming Education in Thailand
In Thailand, we held coding and programming training with the Thai government’s future generation education policy, ‘Thailand 4.0’. The program provided students with 60 hours of intensive training for 10 days, giving them basic to intermediate coursework.
5.4 Samsung OneWeek
Samsung OneWeek is an international employee volunteer program, during which the company works collaboratively with local communities to support young people by providing education programs that address their unique needs. Since it was launched in 2010, more than 2,000 employees of 59 teams have volunteered to help 10,000 participants in over 30 countries. In 2019, around 200 employees participated in customized education programs in Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Thailand, Nepal, and Hungary for one week.
5.5 Local Programs
Samsung also operates tailored country-level programs and collaborate with governments, policymakers and institutions to provide a wide variety of engaging learning opportunities.
5.5.1 Samsung Dream Class in South Korea
Launched in 2012, the Samsung Dream Class is a program where undergraduate mentors teach English, math, and computer software to middle school students who lack access to educational resources. The aim is to improve academic performance through three types of programs, including weekday, weekend classes and camps during the vacation. So far more than 80,000 students and 22,000 undergraduate students participated in the Samsung Dream Class. Since the launch of the program, more than 100 participating students have returned to the program as mentors to middle school students, creating a virtuous cycle. In 2019, 7,900 middle school students, 2,300 undergraduate mentors and 44 employees participated.
5.5.2 Samsung Software Academy for Youth in South Korea
The company launched the Samsung Software Academy for Youth together with the Ministry of Employment and Labour in 2018. To increase the competitiveness in job seeking, it provides training on theories and practices for one year to those who wish to become a software developer. Trainees can strengthen basic software skills such as algorithms, coding programming languages and databases, and develop their software skills by using technologies such as AI and IoT as part of an advanced curriculum. More than 350 of the first 500 trainees were employed by IT companies and financial companies. As of 2020, 1,250 people are attending the academy.
5.5.3 Samsung Technical School in India
Samsung operates 35 technical schools in collaboration with the Indian Ministry of SMEs and Startups (MSME) and the Ministry of Education in 11 states of India. It helps low-income youth in India learn the technology of repairing Samsung Electronics’ IT devices and gain practical experience to succeed in finding jobs. Samsung Technical School also operates scholarship funds to young women and people with disabilities, so that all youth with various disadvantages receive equal learning opportunities. From 2013 to 2019, 7,400 students graduated from the program and 45% found jobs at the Samsung Service Centers.
5.5.4 Samsung Hope for Children in Russia
The Samsung Hope for Children provides a digital education for children in long-term hospital care to enable them to continue formal education. Using digital devices, children can participate in regular curricula online and interact freely with their parents, teachers and friends. More than 10,000 children have benefited annually since it was launched in 2014. Building on the success of the program, we plan to expand the initiative to all regions in Russia as well as neighbouring countries such as Kazakhstan.
Disclaimer: This article contains excerpts from the Samsung Sustainability Report 2020.