Environmental Hazard

Sanyo's ousted boss learned the hard way that it's not easy--or always profitable--being green

Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP / Getty

An employee for Sanyo displays the company's new washing machine "Aqua AWD-AQ2000", which has the world's first "Air Wash" function to disinfect and deodorize temperature sensitive materials by using air (ozone) instead of water.

When Tomoyo Nonaka took over Sanyo, the struggling Japanese electronics maker, in June 2005, she already had one strike against her. Nonaka was a female CEO in a business culture that is overwhelmingly male. A more timid executive would have charted a cautious course, focusing on slashing costs at a company that lost $1.6 billion in its 2005 fiscal year. But Nonaka, a former TV journalist, instead announced a bold plan to transform Sanyo into a leader in environmentally friendly products. "The 21st century is about turning away from oil to alternate forms of energy," Nonaka, 52, told TIME shortly after...

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