Interview with Vincent Lin Environmental Protection and Sustainability: The Future of Enterprise

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TCI Co., Ltd. has long paid attention to climate change issues and is the first company in Taiwan invited to join the RE100 global renewable energy initiative. It is also the first company in Taiwan to complete renewable energy procurement in 2020, and will achieve the goal of 100% renewable energy utilization by 2030. TCI Chairman Vincent Lin sat for an exclusive interview with the MOST Center for Global Affairs and Science Engagement and shared how he leads more than a thousand employees to incorporate sustainability and recycling into the blueprint of the company’s development.

Supported by 12 major laboratories; creating sustainable economic value

TCI is one of Taiwan’s leading manufacturers in dietary supplements and skincare products. With their excellent R&D technology and product design, the company integrates environmental protection, sustainability, and green manufacturing to create a zero-carbon emission enterprise. As Lin puts it, if humanity continues to consume the environment, we will eventually be living on a rubbish heap. If a company wants to become a sustainable enterprise, it needs to make environmental protection a fundamental consideration; that means adopting technologies to find economic value in “waste,” to promote a circular economy.

Lin uses the example of bananas. In the past, banana peels and banana flowers had no economic value and could only be treated as agricultural waste. In fact, these by-products have many beneficial ingredients. For instance, the serotonin that TCI extracts from banana peels has sleep-aid and anti-depression effects; and banana flower extract has also been proven to inhibit hair loss. As Lin says, “Suddenly, banana peels are a valuable by-product. The products we develop at TCI, using banana flowers and banana peels as the raw materials, are being sold in 62 countries around the world. We’ve even obtained a New Dietary Ingredient (NDI) registration from the US FDA.”

100% renewable energy in 2030

One of TCI’s most talked-about achievements in promoting environmental protection and sustainability was becoming an RE100 member in 2018. At the time, they were the first and only organization in Taiwan to join RE100. In doing so, they joined the ranks of well-known international companies such as Apple, Starbucks, and IKEA. RE100 is a global renewable energy initiative jointly launched by the Climate Group and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) in 2014. Members of RE100 must make the commitment to achieve 100% utilization of renewable energy by 2050. Currently, there are more than 300 corporate members.

Green beauty is a global trend. TCI has installed 1MW of roof-top solar panels at their green Pingtung mask factory; the panels’ annual electricity generation accounts for 11.5% of electricity consumption, with an annual carbon emission reduction of 528 tons. The factory has also received the LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). TCI has also collaborated with the Council of Agriculture’s Forestry Bureau in afforestation in Taiwan; the amount of land replanted with trees has already reached 17.28 hectares, offsetting 472 tons of carbon dioxide emission every year.

In addition to actively reducing carbon emissions at the factory, TCI also collaborated with the “Mr. Watt” system to purchase renewable electricity. The goal is to achieve carbon neutrality for all factories by 2030 and use 100% renewable energy. Lin believes that in the future, people will prefer to buy products that are environmentally friendly, and indicators such as “RE100 certification” or “Manufactured with green energy” will become one of the ways consumers evaluate products. For this reason, businesses need to start preparing a decade in advance if they want to create sustainable products manufactured in green ways.

To produce environmentally-friendly masks, TCI not only uses solar energy in the manufacturing process, but has also moved from the original polyethylene terephthalate (PET) packaging material to recycled PET (rPET) packaging that degrades in the ocean. This implies that for every one of these masks sold, the beach is slightly cleaner, and a bit of ocean waste treated. Lin explains: Although rPET costs more than PET, TCI has completely absorbed the extra costs, and has not passed on the higher prices to customers. Gradually, customers realize our value and care. Lin says, “In fact, having environmentally friendly products has increased our sales in the West. We are doing the right thing and our employees are proud of that.”

Embracing both welfare and financial performance 

TCI is not only a leading manufacturer of dietary supplements and skin care products. They are also targeting the "precision healthcare" market and have had a foothold in the biomedicine field for many years. In addition, TCI GENE Inc. (a TCI subsidiary) has become the most competitive genetic testing company in Asia. With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world, TCI GENE has also developed a fully automatic virus testing device. This device can complete testing on 96 samples in 50 minutes, ten times faster than regular tests, and making for a huge leap in virus testing capacity. The rPCR rapid test kit recently developed by TCI GENE can detect the COVID-19 virus in just 30 minutes from the saliva sample collected.

Lin points out that precision healthcare is no longer just a slogan. Through genetic testing, it is possible to understand a person’s physique, health risks, and disease probabilities; thereby, strengthening disease preventive measures, avoiding wrong treatments, and reducing the waste of medical resources. All of this constitutes to a form of sustainability.

TCI’s core beliefs are the 3P's: "Profit," “People,”and“Planet.”As Vincent Lin sees it, an enterprise must “embrace both welfare and financial performance.” This means that social responsibility and corporate competitiveness must go hand in hand; only then can sustainable value be created for the enterprise, the environment, and society in realizing coexistence and common prosperity.

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