TOKYO -- Perhaps Honda Motor Co. set the bar too low.
In its annual environmental report, Honda says it already has exceeded nearly all of its main emissions and recycling goals for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014.
It is ahead in cutting carbon dioxide emissions from corporate activities and logistics. It has beaten its goal of slashing waste per unit of revenue and of achieving zero landfill waste.
Waste conservation is above trajectory. So is the campaign to cut emissions of volatile organic compounds, the stinky solvents, glues and paints used throughout a vehicle.
Auto recycling, too, already has exceeded Honda's target, leaving only motorcycle recycling with work left to do.
Further ahead, Honda has loftier targets. By the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, it wants to cut CO2 emissions from its automobiles, motorbikes and power products 30 percent from 2001 levels.
Automobiles are only halfway there. Honda has cut emissions, measured in grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer driven, from its automobile fleet just 15 percent.
Therein lies the biggest hurdle to going green.
Despite the progress, Honda's overall carbon footprint is increasing. Last year, Honda began calculating its global greenhouse gas emissions -- including that of its manufacturing, its suppliers' manufacturing, its procurement of raw materials, its logistical and transportation needs and the output of all Honda products currently in use worldwide.
The estimate shows that emissions from Honda's entire value chain rose to 275.9 million tons of equivalent CO2 in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2013, up from 226.1 million tons a year earlier. Equivalent CO2 is an expression of all greenhouse gas emissions in a way that equates them to CO2.
Honda is simply producing more cars. Emissions from Honda products account for a whopping 82 percent of its total annual greenhouse gas emissions footprint.
"This means that figuring out how to reduce emissions from the use of Honda products poses the greatest challenge to reducing total emissions," Honda's report said.
Because of increasing sales, Honda expects its total emissions footprint to keep expanding until at least the 2020s. Honda says reversing the increase will require ever-more fuel-efficient vehicles and an increasing reliance on renewable energy. As the report says, "At some point, we need to turn this growth curve around."