Samsung Champions the Environment, Disses the Elderly

Samsung’s CSR program needs to brush up on its elderly appeal.



South Korea’s Samsung announced yesterday the results of billions of dollars in large-scale investments in eco-friendly products and business practices, thereby ensuring a healthier future for its domestic society. What did the leading company in Korea forget? Their elderly.

We all love a good story about the world becoming greener. But South Korea has a pressing “aging” problem, with scores of people entering their elderly years in the near future. A recent article in the Japan Times notes that South Korea’s baby boomers account for 14.6 percent of the total
population. They start to turn 55–the retirement age in many big
corporations–this year. Roughly 300,000 to 400,000 salaried workers in this generation are expected to leave the workforce
each year over the next nine years. That challenge goes sorely unacknowledged when the focus is frenetically on now, now, now. And investments in sustainable business primarily benefit the young, who have many years ahead of them.

By 2050, the median age in Korea is projected to be 57 years, according to an article written by Dr. Thomas R. Klassen of York University, “making it the most elderly nation in the world. In contrast, at present, Japan has the oldest median age at 43 years, while Korea’s stands at 37 years.”

The one area in which the two issues–environmental responsibility and looking after the elderly–may work together is in the area of employment, if the elderly choose to stay employed. Here’s what the company announced in the R&D and manufacturing category:

“Samsung invested a total of 1.01 trillion Korean won (about US $865 million) in environmentally friendly product development and green manufacturing sites in 2009. Of this, 570 billion won (about US $488 million) was invested in development of energy-efficient technologies, environmentally friendly materials and renewable energy projects, and 440 billion won (about US $377 million) was put into pollutant-reducing and energy-efficient manufacturing facilities. Samsung also announced plans in May to invest a total of 6 trillion won (about US $5.1 billion) through 2020 in the development of its solar cell business, as part of a new focus on renewable energy.”

South Korea and the U.S. share in their baby boomer challenges, what with everyone screaming and pulling their hair out in the U.S. over the future of Social Security. But why fret over Social Security? Let’s just keep the elderly working longer and focus on the greener tomorrow for all our little ones!

About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.