Samsung, one of the largest technology companies in the world, is getting an increasing amount of bad press over its reliance on fossil fuels and its refusal to prioritise renewable energy alternatives like solar and wind to power its electricity-hungry manufacturing bases.
The tech giant claims it is on a ‘journey towards a sustainable future, but its rudderless fossil fuel-driven practices show otherwise.
To achieve carbon neutrality, energy efficiency is the way forward.
Samsung Electronics is Korea Inc.
Samsung Electronics not only represents Korea Inc. through its prominent role in the national economy and its huge global presence and global operations, but it also uses up an enormous amount of the country’s electricity to power its huge manufacturing hubs and supply chain.. According to Greenpeace, in 2019, Samsung Electronics’s electricity consumption was equivalent to the needs of more than 4 million South Korean households. Coal and gas largely meet the company’s total electricity consumption.
Rely on Renewable Energy Sources Instead of Fossil Fuels
Given that South Korea has the second largest coal power emissions per capita among the world’s major economies, Samsung customers would likely want to know why they rely on old, polluting technology and why not on renewable energy sources, which are good for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and for climate change.
The recent Financial Times and Bloomberg coverage highlights how this serious emissions problem is not going unnoticed by its shareholders. The Netherlands-based pension fund, APG, is urging Samsung to step up and exert pressure on the South Korean government to expand the country’s renewable energy market, which has pitifully low amounts of solar and wind. The country’s solar and wind power only generate 4.7% of its electricity, less than half of the world’s average, and its neighbouring countries of China and Japan. Securing renewable energy sources should be a priority.
Supercharging these two clean electricity sources is vital to saving the planet/ Along with battery storage, they must create the backbone of a modern electricity system, as the United Nations Secretary-General recently stressed.
While Samsung Electronics uses more electricity than the entire country’s solar and wind sectors, it plays no positive role in helping to push its home country to go greener because it has no short or long term climate plan or renewable energy goals, as a shareholder recently pointed out in the FT.
Lee Jae-yong on Parole
The de facto leader of Samsung is Lee Jae-yong, who has been released from prison following embezzlement and bribery charges. He remains highly influential in policy-maker circles. There has reportedly been an expectation among investors that on his release, he would seek to turn the company’s fortunes around and make new bold commitments on clean energy, but this has not materialised, and rival companies are stepping into this void.
This lack of action on renewables is hard to understand as the company and country’s future depends on its ability to remain at the cutting edge of technology.
The country already suffers under blankets of air pollution and will be increasingly affected by deadly heatwaves, like in 2018, which caused dozens of deaths.
The world watches Samsung versus Apple in the global technology battle, which Samsung seems to be determined to lose. Since 2018, Apple claims it sources 100% renewable electricity, with its facilities procuring 90% of this directly from ‘Apple-created’ renewables projects. This is compared to Samsung, whose greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise.
Another rival, the Taiwanese semiconductor chipmaker TSMC has announced plans to power its operations on renewables, including offshore and onshore wind farms, showing how this manufacturing can be powered on clean energy.
Out of Step
Samsung remains out of step with its rivals, casting doubt over Lee Jae-yong’s leadership. While Samsung seems to be lost in its promised journey towards sustainability, we need to keep the pressure on.