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YKK’s Sustainable Products See Sales Gains

Less is more for YKK, which reduced its carbon emissions, landfill waste and water intake this year. 

The Japanese fastening company’s annual report details its environmental savings during fiscal year 2021 based on the YKK Sustainability Vision 2050, its roadmap for achieving climate neutrality by 2050. 

“YKK searches constantly for ways to meet the changing needs of customers and society and continues to create innovative and high-quality products. We are strengthening, on a global scale, product development processes that integrate sales and development, accurately identifying customer requirements, rapidly actualizing solutions, and linking all this to new product development,” the report said. 

The company is inching toward its goal of having its fastening products made with 100 percent recycled or naturally occurring materials by 2030—and clients are responding positively. 

In 2021, 13 percent of the materials used in YKK’s zipper textiles were sustainable. Natulon, the company’s recycled zipper series, emerged as the hero product driving this shift. Sales for Natulon jumped 224 percent year-on-year, or the waste recycling equivalent of 170 million plastic bottles, according to the report.

YKK aims to build on this success by switching to Natulon for more core zipper products in 2022 and promoting Natulon Plus, which has a higher ratio of recycled materials. It will also ramp up marketing for Natulon Ocean Sourced made from ocean bound plastic and partially plant-derived Green Rise zippers. For buttons, YKK said it will promote a switch to the Sofix Natulon snap button. 

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In terms of new manufacturing technology to eliminate hazardous substances, YKK has expanded its lineup of products made with AcroPlating technology, a plating process for brass that eliminates 100 percent of hazardous substances such as cyanide, chromium, and selenium. YKK said the sales volume of products made with this technology was up 148 percent in 2021 for snap and button products and 175 percent for zippers, year-over-year.

Though production volume increased year-over-year, YKK surpassed the GHG emissions target of a 12.6 percent reduction. Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions fell 18.2 percent, while Scope 3 was down 15.1 percent.

At the same time, YKK said it promoted energy conservation activities by introducing new production methods, updating production facilities, and introducing high-efficiency equipment. The company also added one plant powered by 100 percent renewable energy, bringing its total to 11. 

To better inform further investments to reduce GHG emissions, the company introduced internal carbon pricing (ICP). “By using ICP to convert carbon emissions from new facilities into costs, and using them as a factor in investment decisions, we can encourage low-carbon investment, such as introducing low-energy facilities and renewable energy, and thereby promote GHG emission reductions in our business activities,” YKK said. 

The company is back on track to reduce its waste after 2020 saw higher than usual production volume. It produced 272 fewer tons of landfill waste, thanks to improvements in waste treatment technology in the Asia region and increased waste recycling, the report said. 

YKK saw a 7.5 percent reduction in total water intake across all its manufacturing sites. To reduce water intake and wastewater volumes, the company said it began designing dedicated wastewater recycling facilities optimized for its manufacturing processes. 

However, progress needs to be maintained. Going forward YKK named three issues it will address: promoting sustainability at the core of its management, thoroughly reinforcing the cost competitiveness of its core products, and promoting digitalization to support these efforts including internal operations and product design planning. 

Through these measures, YKK aims to sell 10.73 billion zippers in fiscal year 2022.