CEO Column

Our own ESG



Our own ESG

I usually leave for work around 6 am, walk to the office and arrive around 7 o’clock. At that hour, there is usually no one else there yet. Until very recently, the 24-hour call center was located on the same floor, and since there was always someone in the office from the night shift, I never had to do things like turn on the lights myself.

However, the other day that call center moved to a different floor, so I had to learn how to turn on the lights in the office when no one else is there yet. One day when I went to work, I got to the office and all the lights were on even though no one should have been there yet. I just assumed someone had forgotten to turn off the lights the night before and I thought nothing further of it. But then the same thing continued to happen day after day. I figured there was probably an issue with setting rules about turning off the lights, so I asked the staff in General Affairs. I was told that the rule in place is that the lights are turned off once at 8pm, and anyone staying later doing overtime uses what lights they need and turns them off when they leave. So the issue seems to be that the last person out appears to be forgetting to turn off the lights, or perhaps they think there are other people still working.

My point is not that we’re wasting money on our electricity bill. In this era of LEDs, electricity bills aren’t all that expensive. In other words, if it were a matter of cost, there would be no major problem. That’s not the issue. What I want to point out is that the lack of awareness is in fact a big problem. That’s why I decided to nitpick about such a seemingly miniscule topic. 75% of the electricity generated in Japan is thermal power. That means it is energy produced by burning fossil fuels and emitting more carbon dioxide. I am completely serious when I say that in the era that lies ahead it is crucial that our team members are deeply aware of that fact.

The ESG acronym is now being taken up all over the place. It stands for “Environment,” “Social,” and “Governance.” Engagement in ESG is rapidly gaining ground around the world as a crucial means for companies to achieve long-term sustainable growth. We as well, as corporate management, have a fiduciary duty to our investors, and as such we have collected information on these keywords. However, they did not initially strike home.

Naturally, I am sure that such undertakings will help companies contribute to society, but that requires investing a fair amount of labor and costs. And there is also no end to what can be done in terms of the questions of how wide do those undertakings spread? Or how deep do they go? Above all, business entails competition, and companies constantly face the possibility of winning customers or earnings away from their competitors, or have their customers or earnings taken away from them by their competitors. Those circumstances raise the risk that, having put more energy into its ESG undertakings, a company may lose competitiveness. Most customers are not interested in ESG undertakings. They just want products and services at decent cost and quality.

However, that sort of thinking has gradually changed with the passage of time. And now that thinking is coming around 180 degrees. That means establishing one’s own stance on ESG, and I consider these initiatives to be more important than any other we undertake. And I’m not talking about the kind of ESG found in a textbook. I’m talking about implementing our company’s own ESG. I’m not talking about “we’re doing this and that for the environment,” or “we’re doing such and such to promote diversity.” I’m talking about ongoing actions to raise awareness among our workers. That is what ESG means for us.

Our mission is to contribute to the elevation of feelings of gratitude by senior citizens and their families in Japan’s aging population, and help people live daily lives free of regret, and we have a vision and code of conduct in synch with that mission. Innocently appealing to those ideals is certain to lead through to an overhaul of awareness. And if our team members gain a keener awareness of ESG, they will no doubt spread that awareness to their families, side businesses, and neighborhoods. There is no reason why the ESG mindset needs to be confined within the company. I believe we should aspire to be not an “ESG pursuing company,” but an “ESG instilling company.”

Hirotaka Shimizu
Chairman and CEO
Kamakura Shinsho, Ltd.