Epson's CSR and SDGs
Epson provides information to its stakeholders about its CSR activities. But Epson also listens to stakeholders’ views and suggestions to help formulate strategies and actions. Epson thus uses various means to maintain two-way communication with stakeholders as a way to improve the quality of its CSR activities.
Conversation between Hidemitsu Sasaya and Toshiya Takahata
In August 2020, Professor Hidemitsu Sasaya of Chiba University of Commerce and Seiko Epson Director Toshiya Takahata had an online conversation about environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues and about corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Mr. Sasaya started out at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, after which he joined Ito En, Ltd., where he engaged for many years in the promotion of social responsibility and was largely responsible for Ito En winning the SDGs Partnership Award. He is currently Platform for Arts & Science, Chiba University of Commerce and serves as a CSR/SDG consultant.
Takahata I read your book "SDGs Management".
I worked for many years in printer development and later in the Intellectual Property Division. The acquisition of patent, trademark, and other rights is clearly tied to business administration. How this relates to the SDGs is that patent rights are effectively utilized to foster innovation. For example, we have the most patent rights in the world for piezo inkjet technology. These rights were accumulated over many years of continuous development under former president (and now chairman) Minoru Usui, who saw that this technology could benefit the environment and the world. We have provided piezo technology as products and, as a result, have acquired intellectual property rights and built resilient company infrastructure. So I believe our intellectual property is contributing to SDG number 9 (Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation). Would you agree?
Sasaya Yes, I think so. A lot of intangible assets like patent rights, trust, technology, and networking capabilities are a product of a company's core values. Epson's uniqueness will blossom if you ensure that the core values are spoken about with one voice, embraced by all, and used as the foundation for the brand image. Once the Epson brand has blossomed, you think about how to utilize it for economic opportunities and how to capitalize on your technology. The end results is concrete products like inkjet printers and the PaperLab. I think you should use the SDGs to communicate a message about these products that resonates with people, redesign the corporate brand, increase corporate value, and communicate anew through your products the company's aspirations.
About three years ago, Epson published a matrix that shows the relationship between key CSR themes and the SDGs. Attention to this is very likely to increase.
ESG investors have begun to set benchmarks for contributions to SDGs and are now looking at targets down to the decimal point. Epson was a trailblazer in that it even announced targets, and now other companies are following suit. Epson's matrix is organized by ESG and comprehensively shows the results of analysis against all 17 goals. It is time to communicate this to the world and to see the reaction. It would be a good idea to use the ESG/SDG matrix as a tool to enhance your messaging for a redesign of the brand.
Takahata In your book you write about the merchants of Omi and the concept of "hasshin-gata sanpo yoshi", the idea that the benefits of business activities for the customer, society, and the vendor need to be communicated.
Epson has a culture that values quiet diligence and earnestness, but I want to call attention to the fact that we are doing good things. I think that we can strengthen our business by getting people to understand how products like the PaperLab and our commercial and industrial large-format printers contribute to the SDGs. By the way, we declared our support for the TCFD recommendations last October and are expanding our information disclosures. We recently provided some guidance on the direction we are headed in terms of qualitative information disclosures.
I would also like to disclose more quantitative information in the future. The TCFD is still casting about for ideas on how to disclose this information, and we haven't found any examples of quantitative disclosures in the industry, so we're not sure how to move forward.
Sasaya Participating in the initiative is an excellent start. But I want to see you more actively publicize the fact that you are engaging in initiatives like this. Japanese companies are still weak when it comes to publicizing. They need to clearly and boldly explain what they are doing. Companies can be a little hesitant to do so, but it is important to get as much carefully verified information out there as soon as possible. You need to watch comparable companies around the world and may sure that you keep up.
Those who participate in initiatives start from where they can. Conversely, it is not necessary to even participate in initiatives. Japanese companies would rather avoid participation, but they will lose ground to European companies that do. You may already be left behind by European or Californian companies, so you have to catch up with the world as soon as possible.
It is good that you started reporting qualitative information in line with TCFD recommendations. I think it's a good idea to go as far as possible in your disclosures while keeping an eye on the reaction of capital markets.
Takahata Your words are encouraging to me. I want to take another look at publicizing what it is we want to do and what we will do once the reliability of our data has been assured. Epson is a manufacturing-based company, so we tend to be rigid about guaranteeing reliability based on facts, but I do want to get the word out.
Sasaya I think it is especially important in this time of COVID-19 to communicate a message of sustainability.
The Japanese government's SDG policies focus on (1) Society 5.0, (2) involvement in regional revitalization and digital transformation, and (3) promotion of the next generation and women's advancement. I think it would be a good idea to put the main focus on these three things from a long-term strategic perspective.
Takahata I am also in charge of digital transformation (DX), so I think there are possibilities in terms of regional revitalization. Until now, Tokyo and other major metropolitan centers have been the locus of activity, but as more information becomes available with advances in areas such as web conferencing, there will be far fewer locational restrictions. When I think of it this way, I think there are still many societal issues that we can solve. When you think in terms of printer usage in education and more in terms of solving problems rather than in selling printers, you begin to see that the power of software and digital technology can be harnessed to do all kinds of things. This July, the city of Aizuwakamatsu launched a project to create a city operating system, and data is being handled from various angles. The DX Division has begun proof-of-concept testing for this. Looking at things from this angle, I would like to give traction to data-driven management, and I got a strong sense from you that this will lead to sustainability.
Sasaya I'm currently writing a book about the SDGs of local government. There are super-cities. Super cities are developing along the lines of the SDGs. ICT will be used to connect super cities as regulations are relaxed. For example, there will be deregulation in areas such as remote medical care and remote learning, data will be seamlessly connected, it will be rapidly deployed in city operating systems and will be utilized for future urban development. There is a lot of room for Epson to play an active role in this scheme. I am the executive committee chairman of the Future Town Development Forum, and I want to make super cities a theme, so if you would like to attend the forum in February next year, I hope you will use it as a chance to publicize what Epson is doing.
Takahata I would love a chance to get that kind of exposure while taking action to familiarize people with Epson and what we are doing.
Sasaya We hope that you will continue to make use of today's discussions for the further development of your company.
Mr. Hidemitsu Sasaya
Professor at Platform for Arts & Science, Chiba University of Commerce; CSR / SDGs consultant; Director of the Japan Society for Business Ethics; Director of the Global Business Society. Director of the Sustainability Japan Forum, "Kobayashi PR Ambassador", Kobayashi City, Miyazaki Prefecture; Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Youth Experience Activity Promotion Company Award Examination Committee member; Chairman of the Future Town Development Forum Executive Committee
Graduate of Tokyo University, where he studied Law
1977: Joined what is now Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Studied abroad in France. Assigned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (where he served as First Secretary of the Japanese Embassy in the US). Deputy Director-General, Japanese Ministry of Environment. Deputy Director-General, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Bureau Chief, Kanto Regional Forest Office. Left civil service in 2008.
2008: Joined Ito En.
2010-2014: Director at Ito En.
2014-4/2018: Managing Executive Officer and Manager of the CSR Promotion Department.
5/2018-4/2019: Advisor to Ito En.
4/2019: Visiting professor at the Gradual School of Information & Communications
4/2020: Professor at Platform for Arts & Science, Chiba University of Commerce
Event Sponsorship and Exhibition
Co-Sponsor and Exhibitor at the 2020 Sustainable Brands International Forum in Yokohama*1
Epson, which co-sponsored the 2019 Sustainable Brands International Forum in Tokyo, this year served as a co-sponsor of the 2020 Sustainable Brands International Forum in Yokohama, which ran from February 19-20.
At a plenary session at the event, President Yasunori Ogawa (then Managing Executive Officer, CTO), took the stage for a panel discussion on innovating to solve social issues. Ogawa said, “We are a technology company, and there was a time when we made technology development a priority and pursued a product-out approach. Those days are gone. Today, we first develop a clear vision of the world as we wish it to be and then work backwards to develop technology to achieve that vision. With this approach, it is extremely important to identify how to solve social issues.” In wrapping up the panel discussion, he stated that there is a limit to what one company can do and that open innovation with outside partners will become even more important in the future.
At the Epson booth, we showcased Epson’s value proposition for solving social issues by demonstrating the operation of a PaperLab, which can reproduce new paper on the spot from used copy paper, and the use of projectors to create a remote office and remote classroom.
*1 Sustainable Brands conferences are among the world’s largest conferences on the subject of sustainability. Sustainable Brands was launched in 2006 in the United States under the shared recognition that embedding the idea of sustainability in business strategies is essential for enhancing corporate competitiveness and brand value. In the 2019 fiscal year, SB conferences were held in 14 cities in 13 nations.
Co-sponsor and Exhibitor at the 2019 Sustainable Brands International Forum in Seoul
Epson is conducting global CSR communications through the Sustainable Brands International Forum network to help achieve social sustainability. As part of this effort, Epson Korea Co., Ltd. (EKL) served as a sponsor and exhibitor at the 2019 Sustainable Brands International Conference in Seoul that was held on October 18, 2019.
EKL CEO Yasuo Shibusawa, who took the platform as a speaker and panel member at the Good Supply session of the Forum, spoke passionately about the value that Epson's environmental programs, products, and services contribute to the solution of societal problems and to the achievement of the SDGs. EKL received valuable feedback and raised expectations during a spirited debate about achieving that value proposition among the panel members and audience.
Taiwan-Japan Trade and Economic Sustainability Forum
The 2019 Taiwan-Japan Trade and Economic Sustainability Forum was held in Taipei in September 2019. Attended by 390 students and representatives of Taiwanese and Japanese economic groups and enterprise, the forum offered an opportunity for individuals from both sides to share their experiences and ideas for achieving the SDGs along with sustainable trade and economic growth.
Following keynote addresses by representatives from Taiwanese and Japanese economic groups, Seiko Epson Director Masayuki Kawana, director of the CSR Management Office, took the stage to present a case study about new opportunities that the green trend is bringing. Kawana, in a presentation titled “Green Innovation: Achieving a Sustainability Society with Epson’s Efficient, Compact and Precision Technologies,” provided examples of how inkjet innovation and a dry process office papermaking system can help achieve SDGs by transforming any office into an eco-conscious office. In addition, Epson handed out notebooks made from paper produced by a PaperLab dry-process office papermaking system and announced that a PaperLab would be exhibited at the Circular Economy Taiwan held at the Taipei World Trade Center from September 26-28. Forum participants expressed keen interest in Epson products that contribute to the SDGs.
Discussions with Local Citizens
Seiko Epson and Epson Group companies engage members of the communities in which they operate. We are working to build trust with these communities by explaining our business, environmental activities, and risk management system as well as by actively listening to their needs and issues.
In June 2019, we created an opportunity to meet and talk with local officials, including the mayor of Fujimi, Nagano Prefecture, home to the Suwa Minami Plant and the Fujimi Plant. They came to our plant to see how we make 3LCD panels and to discuss actions that could benefit both the community and the company. Topics ranged from the traffic and streetlights around the business sites to events to promote the town, invite charitable contributions via a hometown tax system, and attract new residents.