From left to right, Mitsuharu Kiwada, Chief of the Corporate Administration Division, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Shinji Harada, Managing Executive Officer, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Takeshi Sugiyama, President & CEO, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Mariko Kawaguchi, Senior Principal Research Division, Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd., Co-CEO, Japan Sustainable Investment Forum (JSIF), Takeshi Shimotaya, Managing Director, Sustainavision Ltd. (March, 2019)
In March 2019, two experts were invited to the head office to provide opinions about how the Mitsubishi Electric Group is promoting CSR. This was the fourth such dialogue this year. These dialogues are valuable opportunities to hear the latest ESG and SDG trends from experts’ perspectives and understand what society is expecting from the Mitsubishi Electric Group from an external perspective. Expert opinions have been reflected in the formation of a CSR promotion system and actual efforts in order to develop the activities further through successive dialogues. The Mitsubishi Electric Group is organizing its thoughts on the "ideal company we strive to be" toward fiscal 2021, the 100th anniversary of our foundation. This dialogue also plays an important role as a step in this thought process. In-depth discussion was carried out from an outside-in perspective to consider what our long-term aims should be and what kind of company we should be, starting with social issues.
Senior Principal Research Division, Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd.;
Co-CEO, Japan Sustainable Investment Forum (JSIF)
This is my fourth participation in the dialogue. Mitsubishi Electric Group always makes sure to address what was discussed in the previous fiscal year, thereby developing your initiatives. This helps me sense sincerity in your corporate culture and feel a sense of trust.
As can be seen in the motto "balanced management," your company practices a balanced business model. However, going forward, your company must determine what should be incorporated into the axis of that balance. International society is increasingly emphasizing the sustainability of organizations and business models rather than just growth in profit. Your company should start by identifying "what is optimal from customers’, society’s and stakeholders’ perspectives" on a mid- to long-term basis, instead of developing products and services that emphasize short-term profitability and efficiency.
Even though the interests of stakeholders such as customers, employees, and business partners, do not always match those of the company in the short term, finding a balance between both sides is important for sustainable business. The SDGs aim at realizing a world that "leaves no one behind." Companies are required to achieve the extremely high standards of creating their values while coexisting with diverse stakeholders, rather than just winning in the market. In other words, companies and business activities that can harmonize and coexist with society and the environment are sustainable.
In working toward the resolution of environmental and social issues, it is important to discuss SDG issues in both top-down and bottom-up manners. In a top-down approach, corporate executives must convincingly display what the company should do based on its resources. Even if goals appear at a glance too high to achieve, employees’ hard work to find a way to achieve them sometimes results in technological breakthrough. Conversely in a bottom-up approach, it is necessary to develop a system that enables employees to realize that the SDGs have something to do with them and provide opinions. Through workshops that discuss individual SDGs or other activities, this approach triggers employees to think about how to harness their technological capabilities in order to solve environmental and social issues and then take action.
Managing Director, Sustainavision Ltd.
Businesses have up till now brought economic affluence. In recent years however, they have been regarded increasingly as entities that have a negative impact on the environment and society. Corporate contributions to achieving the SDGs must be recognized as the bare minimum to return such a negative situation to a zero base and action must be taken with the understanding that the SDGs must be achieved. In addition, the concept of "net positive," which refers to business activities that have a positive impact on the environment and society, have emerged recently. Some companies have set the long-term vision of becoming a net-positive company by 2050. Going forward, companies are expected to set long-term visions and build ideal images into those visions in order to set milestones and advance in a back-casting manner. In general, Japanese companies tend to consider "goals" to be something that must be achieved and avoid commitment. By contrast, international society, especially Europe, emphasizes how companies clarify their directions by setting challenging and ambitious goals, not achievable and realistic goals. Under such goals, companies also aim at creating innovations in possible collaboration with other companies and related organizations. Also companies disclose any progress made toward their goals to stakeholders and if they fail to achieve, they explain the reasons and the measures that will be taken in the future. This leads to a positive relationship with its stakeholders.
Regarding human rights compliance, respect for human rights has been growing worldwide since the United Nations published "Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights" in 2011. In undertaking various efforts including Mitsubishi Electric Group’s "Policies on Respect for Human Rights" established in 2017, your company should facilitate the idea of respecting human rights throughout the organization and the Group and proceed to the next step while publishing information about activities. Business activities may have a profound impact on stakeholders’ human rights; failure to address them poses a huge risk to the company. Human rights risks across the supply chains besides those in the company also need to be prioritized and addressed.
Regarding the environment, understanding the essence of the circular economy and gaining competitive advantage are needed. There is a growing risk that battles for resources may occur due to a striking increase in the global population, which will inevitably necessitate both departing from conventional ideas and recycling waste as resources. In Europe, efforts on ocean plastic issues are being accelerated. I hope your company will start by addressing problems at hand, such as reducing single-use plastics, raise in-house awareness about effects on the global environment, and seek ideas from engineers, or unique initiatives that only a manufacturer can take.
Mitsubishi Electric Corporation
The Mitsubishi Electric Group’s mission is to "enhance the quality of life in our society" and practicing it is our CSR and role that every employee should fulfill through their jobs.
In today's dialogue, we received a variety of propositions about the SDGs, on which the Mitsubishi Electric Group also places a great deal of importance as a tool to connect CSR and business activities. We aim to contribute to meeting the 17 SDGs, that range from the global environment to human rights, in a way that only the Mitsubishi Electric Group can do.
The top priority is for each and every employee to gain a better understanding of CSR and SDGs. We will improve employee training further so that they can be involved in concrete actions in their daily routines. Thank you very much for joining us today.