Feature Article Value-Creating CSR
Ricoh is helping achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of goals adopted by the United Nations in 2000 that aim to resolve a variety of issues being faced by today's world. Among such activities, this Feature Article highlights the next installment of our social contribution activities in Afghanistan that were initiated in 2003, the exploration of new possibilities for our social contribution programs, employee awareness promotion, the recent launch of a cross-functional project, and others.
After seven years of reconstruction assistance, the social contribution program has grown as a business
Progress of our activities in Afghanistan
In our Sustainability Report (Corporate Social Responsibility) 2007, we reported on how we were supporting Afghanistan's reconstruction efforts. This social contribution activity was initiated by Ricoh Netherlands, then NRG Benelux B.V., in response to its Afghan employees' wish to help reconstruct their home country. Since 2003 the company has donated 150 copiers to schools in Kabul for duplicating learning materials, most of which had been destroyed in the war. In order to guarantee maintenance service and supply deliveries for the school machines, Ricoh Netherlands supported an Afghan national with founding his own copier sales and service company in Kabul in 2007. This also contributed to the economic independence of the area through the creation of employment opportunities.
The project is widely recognized by the Afghan government and local communities, also helping our business growth in the region. Our support for Afghan reconstruction will continue and evolve; Ricoh Netherlands is currently working with NGOs and Kabul University toward possible implementation of projects designed to help bridge the digital divide*.
- *"Digital divide" refers to the gap in educational and employment opportunities, economic status and so forth, between those who have access to information technology (e.g., computers and the Internet, and who are literate in their use) and those who do not.
|2003||Donated 75 recycled copiers to schools in Kabul. Launched a local sales and service unit (hired four engineers). Sold 60 copiers.|
|2005||Donated another 75 recycled copiers to schools and the Kabul University. Increased the market share in the businesses with governmental organizations, the United Nations, and NGOs, thanks to the enhanced reputation through our donations and other support programs.|
|2007||Nashuatec Kabul became an official sales agent of Ricoh with 17 employees. Sold 450 copiers and represented 60% of the sales in the Kabul market.|
|2008||Implementation of reprographic site (with 14 employees) at the Afghan Ministry of Education. Started to market in other regions.|
|2009||Workforce increased to 36 employees.|
"It's my great pride to work for a corporation highly trusted by society."
Senior Provincial Engineer, Nashuatec Kabul
I joined Nashuatec Kabul in January 2006. Originating from a copier donation project for schools, this is the only copier maintenance service provider operating across Afghanistan, and has earned and maintained trust from the public. The level of confidence is manifested in the fact that governmental and UN organizations are among key customers of the company and that we can fly with the UN's airplanes to visit our customers in rural areas to provide maintenance services. We go to great lengths to ensure that all our customers, including those who work in less secure areas, can receive our service to the fullest extent possible, although we face many challenges—such as timely delivery of maintenance parts. All in all, working for Nashatec Kabul gives me a great sense of pride.
Exploring new possibilities for our social contribution programs
Stakeholder dialogue on bridging the digital divide
Ricoh intends to strengthen its global activities leading to both social issue solutions and business opportunity creation, one example being the Afghan project mentioned above. As stated in its management philosophy, Ricoh will "continue providing new value at the interface of people and information." In accordance with this philosophy, we are planning to launch a program to help those affected by the digital divide as an extension of our business. To obtain broad perspectives and insight for developing Ricoh's quintessential programs, we hosted a dialogue meeting, inviting representatives from among our stakeholders, including NGOs and international organizations that work on social issues in developing countries and corporations that lead the efforts to alleviate digital divide issues. Ricoh's participants comprised management strategists, technology developers, and CSR people, among others. The meeting adopted the "World Cafe*" model, under which participants moved between small discussion groups and engaged in active discussions.
- *The World Cafe is a meeting and discussion technique where participants are divided into smaller clusters, and reshuffled several times after a certain period. It is designed to enhance participants' knowledge and awareness through multiple processes of sharing opinions with different members.
New program ideas emerged through opinion sharing among specialists with diverse backgrounds
During the discussion, which lasted about three hours, stakeholders and Ricoh employees developed a short list of issues that Ricoh could help resolve using its core business strengths, and discussed specific program ideas for implementing those issues. As a result, three ideas were developed, which intend to provide: (i) support for teachers, (ii) marketing and logistic support in "One-Village-One-Product" campaigns, and (iii) support for small and middle-sized companies. Through continued communication with meeting participants, we will finetune these ideas further, with a view to making them happen.Comments from dialogue participants
When the literacy rates in developing countries improve, the number of digital equipment users will also increase. Ricoh could explore the field of education for more opportunities within the social contribution program.
I thought that incorporating NGO perspectives from the initial stages of the program was a very novel approach. From now on, I hope we can debate specific ways to cooperate on-site and other issues.
My understanding of Ricoh deepened through the dialogue.
Some of the program ideas that came up this time were unique ideas for accurately meeting local needs and effectively using Ricoh's resources. I would love to see these ideas being implemented.
The method of emphasizing dialogue with various stakeholders and sharing experience and opinions with them was very interesting. This process is what will help implement programs meeting local needs.
There are many countries that actually need the programs that were proposed during this dialogue. I would like these programs to be implemented as soon as possible with the motto of, "Small but Quick Start."
Because of the many participants involved, I feel that programs need to be multifaceted and maximize the uniqueness of each participant. From now on, I look forward to programs that further examine the issue of the digital divide and utilize Ricoh's individuality.
It was a great opportunity to think about how to utilize Ricoh products, networks and technology, and how NGOs can cooperate and implement these programs. I would like Ricoh to report back on how these program proposals develop.
There are not many opportunities for NGOs and companies to debate subjects on an equal footing. I thought the approach of sharing expertise with each other, learning from exchanging opinions, and considering specific programs was very innovative.
If it is difficult to immediately implement these proposed ideas on a full-scale basis, it might be good to start with a pilot program. The dialogue was a great opportunity for participants to learn as well. I gained many insights that will help efforts at my own firm.
- I think there would have been more depth to the debates and ideas if people from a wider variety of NPOs and NGOs had participated.
- I wanted more clarity on what kind of know-how Ricoh could provide to bridge the digital divide.
- I felt that the expected outcome of the dialogue was not pinpointed clearly enough. I wasn't sure whether the goal of hosting the event was "to identify issues on-site at countries targeted for social contribution (extracting agendas)" or "to propose specific programs."
- *These comments will be reflected in future dialogue and debates.
Employees look to the future
Roughly 4 billion of the world's 6.8 billion people live on less than 3,000 US dollars in annual income. In a bid to eliminate poverty among this so-called BOP (Base of the Pyramid), or the socially disadvantaged living in developing nations, many businesses aiming for a sustainable society are being set up in various regions. The Ricoh Group, a multinational firm employing over 110,000 employees worldwide, aims to harness its comprehensive strengths to help solve social issues. As the first step in such efforts, we have taken specific measures such as the "CSR workshop," "Consideration of BOP businesses by the Kokorozashi team" and "Research activities in India" in fiscal 2009.
CSR workshop for enlightening people on social issues
Our employees' awareness is essential to resolving social issues through business. For employees who already have a strong sense of awareness, we regularly conduct study sessions for BOP volunteers to learn about the plight of developing countries and the true nature of social issues. To raise the awareness of all our employees, we actively offer CSR study sessions in various divisions around the company. At the CSR workshops conducted at the study sessions, we ensure that employees gain personal insight and work on issues by considering ways to solve social problems. We also participate in the Stand Up and Take Action Campaign to share the significance of resolving social issues with other employees*.
The shock I felt while attending a CSR workshop led me to a new approach to technical development.
Controller R&D Strategy Center & Development
I could not write a single word
I had been attending the regular employee study sessions, and I happened to hear about CSR at one of these sessions. After a general explanation on CSR, I participated in a workshop and engaged in a group discussion. When asked what Ricoh could do to solve poverty and other global issues using its mainstay business, I could not write a single word. This experience was a profound shock and—at the same time—it made me realize that "understanding issues in my head" was not enough.
Participating in a division-wide contest made CSR feel close to home
This experience was the starting point and gradually helped me share my thoughts on social contribution and corporate profit making. I did not have an opportunity to immediately use the knowledge at work, but several months later, I entered a user-interface development contest held in the Controller Development Division. I chose "education" as the theme, because I had studied it earlier at a CSR study session. I created a system that uses our multifunctional printers to provide educational services in both advanced nations and developing nations, and I won the contest.
Wanting to develop new technology with a focus on society
I am currently engaged in developing new technology related to future business plans. I believe that Ricoh can provide new value to society by using its strengths (its value chain, conducting the entire process from planning, development, manufacturing to sales). When developing controllers in my line of work, I hope to make proposals that incorporate a CSR perspective.
New cross-divisional "volunteer team" to consider BOP business potential
In October 2008, we launched the "Kokorozashi team" which discusses efforts to solve social issues, considers business opportunities in the BOP market and takes action. The team was formed when six employees who shared same "Kokorozashi" (which means "vision" or "motivation" in Japanese) naturally came together, and voluntarily decided to form a team. Members consist of employees in new business strategy, new technology strategy, and CSR division, including employees who have participated in non-governmental organizations or the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers program. The team's approach is to drop all conventional thinking that targets only advanced nations for Ricoh's business, and hold discussions with local community members in target nations or regions to determine truly needed products and services. In fiscal 2009, as the first step in these efforts, we began searching for partners and gathering information by conducting a market survey to identify the true problems and needs of developing countries.
Steps toward launching BOP businesses
BOP business ideas start with on-site surveys in India
In March 2010, Ricoh conducted its first on-site survey in India. Roughly 70% of India's population reportedly lives in rural areas, and many of them are from low-income families. We went to a village near Mathura, a mid-sized city in northern India. We visited entrepreneurs and schools in the village, and talked to local people.
During this survey, we reaffirmed the importance of understanding the regional situation first-hand and finding solutions to local problems together with local residents when proceeding with BOP businesses. We also learned that the important thing is how to connect a company's sustainability with efforts aimed at making society affluent while transcending the framework of individuals, countries and companies. Ricoh plans to continue listening to the voices of local people and consider products and services together with the community with the goal of contributing to solving issues outlined in the Millennium Development Goals.