A growth strategy given priority within the Ricoh Group is “value-creating CSR,” which achieves two goals at the same time: solutions to social problems as well as corporate growth. We conduct collaborative activities with stakeholders to become part of the solutions for social issues, and in doing so, we not only address global concerns but also simultaneously utilize our technologies, products and services, and human resources to build new markets, attract new customers and introduce innovation.
■ Value-Creating CSR
In India, which has the world’s largest population of children, many children either cannot attend school at all or drop out before completing the minimum level of education offered. Various factors are to blame, including low-quality educational services and a lack of necessary infrastructure and supplies. So Ricoh, which provides products and services that support learning environments, decided to draw on these strengths to help remedy the situation. In 2011, we launched a program in cooperation with Save the Children to contribute to education in India and thereby build a platform for national development.
In May that year, we began an education support program in the state of Andhra Pradesh, in southern India. We donated duplicators to schools, authorities and NGOs and conducted workshops on the use of duplicators to effectively raise the quality of lessons and to share information. Also, seeking to improve the learning environment in this region, we encouraged school management committees, teachers and communities to raise awareness regarding education and to cultivate the necessary expertise, promoted club activities for children, and developed a network of people involved in education to provide a better environment for teaching and learning. Through these activities, we laid the foundation to improve standards in an independent and consistent manner so that more children are able attend school regularly.
Looking at results achieved over the past three years, we found that the enrollment rate in the region rose to 88%, from 81%, and classroom attendance for sixth graders jumped to 90%, from 84%. The government has also recognized the value of duplicators and now allocates a budget for buying ink and other supplies to keep duplicators in running order.
In April 2014, we began a program to enhance education quality through the use of projectors and digital teaching materials in the classroom, designed to make the learning process more fun and thereby encourage greater student input. We packaged teacher training materials with the digital teaching materials and asked each local government to provide widespread teacher training on the use of projectors and digital teaching materials. This should support steady improvement in the quality of classroom education. Some aspects of this program are linked to a preliminary survey on an educational service business, which is utilized as part of a preliminary survey on prospective cooperative projects—to promote business models for Base of the Pyramid (BOP) businesses—with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The Ricoh Group hopes that this program will lead to a higher attendance ratio, improve students’ comprehension level, and enable schools and teachers to steadily enhance education quality on their own.
■ Results of the program through utilization of digital duplicators
In the local area, duplicator penetration is very low; only government offices and major private schools have them. But since teachers have evidently been able to use time more effectively and prepare more tests and teaching materials using Ricoh's duplicators donated under the program, we were able to demonstrate the benefits of the duplicators to the government.
Regarding sales activities in a region such as the district concerned, through the program, we discovered that it was important to coordinate with local bodies and the state government to create needs for our products, and to offer products which address region-specific issues including power cuts, low cost and easy availability of supplies such as ink and toner.
We also know through surveys that recent customers tend to choose products from a company that engages in CSR activities. Encouraged by these reports, we will communicate Ricoh's initiatives and achievements to our customers.
While rapid economic growth is being witnessed in many emerging and developing countries, there are still considerable population groups in these nations living in poverty, often referred to as the BOP (Base of the Pyramid). These people are suffering from a wide range of social challenges. Merely bringing products that have been developed to market in developed countries will not solve these issues. Ricoh therefore started its efforts by understanding the issues that poor people are facing. Ricoh staff stay in a local community to experience life there and build trusting relationships with local people. We believe that we can contribute to sustainable development in local communities only after understanding their culture and customs and identifying their problems and by making a concerted effort to find solutions.
Ricoh and Drishtee, a local social enterprise and partner for the project, selected a rural village in Bihar state located in the northeast of India as a target village. Employees selected from among more than 100 volunteers stayed in the village twice, for a month each time. During the first stay (October–November 2010), emphasis was placed on building relationships with villagers. Local people do not speak frankly about their problems if you suddenly turn up to conduct a survey, so we organized events including cricket, debates, singing songs and painting exhibits, with the hope of spreading information on Ricoh so that as many people as possible become familiar with our company. The staff staying there visited local people many times to talk with them and tried to understand their culture and how they think. This kind of continual face-to-face communication fosters a sense of security, making it easier to observe their living environment. After taking sufficient time to build trusting relationships with villagers, group interviews and other surveys were conducted to gather information, which was classified and organized.
Cricket event for young people
Developing a resource map with local women
We concluded that in order to ensure sustainable business in this rural village facing many challenges, we should start the project by identifying business opportunities and finding and supporting entrepreneurs who would be able to run such businesses. After this initial phase, we intend to move on to the next phase, which will i
nvolve continuing our support for local entrepreneurs and their businesses, helping to maintain and develop them by simultaneously searching for opportunities for Ricoh's own business interests.Accordingly, in our second stay (January to February 2011), we focused on activities to identify ideas for new businesses and entrepreneur candidates with a business-oriented mindset by following the two approaches below:
In February 2011, we held a competition of business ideas to tap into local people's insights and identify future entrepreneurs. Among 31 proposed ideas (13 from female applicants, 18 from male), three were selected using the following screening criteria: entrepreneurial passion, how determined the applicant is to start a business, the possibility of developing the business, and its contribution to local employment. We provided them with training on business management, marketing and other knowledge and skills required for starting business. Since May, two of the successful applicants have started their own small businesses. While helping these entrepreneurs to make their new businesses successful, Ricoh will continue to search for more ideas to support their businesses.
Prospective entrepreneur training
Entrepreneur who started her own business
After two rounds of staying in the local village, we obtained in-depth understanding of local needs and issues and reviewed many business ideas that would benefit the local community. As a result, we selected the following two businesses and started pilot tests of them at the end of 2011:
① Photo Print Shop: A shop to support photo-loving locals through utilization of Ricoh's resources
② Women's Shop: A shop for the empowerment of women and job creation for women, operated by women:
For both businesses, we will be selecting prospective local entrepreneurs who wish to operate their shops in the village, and providing them with necessary training and support for the opening of their shops. We are planning to open 2 Print Shops and 23 Women's Shops by September of fiscal year 2014. In parallel with supporting the businesses of local entrepreneurs, we will help them grow by developing Ricoh's own businesses that will provide useful products and services toward this end.
Entrepreneur running the first Women's Shop
Training for prospective Print Shop operators
Research on problems encountered at stores regarding examination of Ricoh products and services
“My days are more rewarding since I opened the shop.”
There are three reasons why I opened the shop. First, a shop in the village would mean that the women here would not have to go shopping at the store four kilometers away. Second, I could do my own shopping right here. And third, I could bring in some money for my family.
Since the shop opened its doors for business, I’ve handled lots of products and I’ve been able to talk to a variety of people. I just love it. The village women say the shop is so convenient. They really appreciate having a shop right in the neighborhood where they can buy an item that they suddenly run out of or pick up a small gift to take if they suddenly have to pay a visit to someone.
Before I had the shop, I just whiled away my time at home, not doing anything of particular importance. But now, I spend time working, and I can chat with my customers. My days are much more rewarding. I’m now making profit of several thousand rupees a month. If I can boost sales higher, I’d like to expand the shop. Then, when the kids are older, I’d like to get qualifications to be a beauty professional and that should bring in more customers.
At Ricoh Netherlands, then known as NRG Benelux B.V., an Afghan employee expressed concern about the worsening social situation in his native country, even after the regime collapse of 2001. He suggested that the company could do something to help rebuild his country and benefit its future. Under the Taliban regime, education was a privilege granted only to elites and thus was not accessible to many Afghan people. Rebuilding educational infrastructure is a pressing issue for Afghanistan, as almost all school facilities and equipment were destroyed over many long war-torn years.
In response, the company explored various possibilities for social contributions in line with their business, and decided to help Afghanistan by improving educational opportunities for children. Accordingly, the company donated 75 recycled copiers for duplicating learning materials, most of which were lost during the war. For the next 18 months, the company made careful preparations, selecting appropriate devices for use in rugged conditions, selecting schools to receive the donated devices, and establishing a repair and maintenance system. Finally, in September 2003, Ricoh copiers started operation at schools in Kabul.
In 2005, it was decided that an additional 75 recycled copiers would be donated. Furthermore, rather than stopping at the donation of copiers, this project opened new possibilities. The establishment of a company to handle machine repair and maintenance generated employment opportunities, contributing to economic independence. This new initiative was highly evaluated by governmental agencies, the United Nations, and NGOs, which also acquired some copiers. By 2007, Ricoh's business share grew to 60% in Kabul, and the number of the company's employees increased to 36.
In 2010, Ricoh Netherlands replaced the analog copiers with digital ones as its continuous support initiative. The company also donated PCs in collaboration with an NGO in order to promote ICT education. The current focus is to promote sustainable completion of the program. In 2012, a local company became an official sales agent of Ricoh, and the project is also aiming to develop into a local, self-sustaining business — a transformation from something that started as a social contribution into a successful business endeavor.