The Ricoh Group is committed to carrying out socially beneficial activities in a steady, responsible manner, both within and outside of our business functions. These activities include initiatives the Group and its employees lead as well as support given to nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations.
The Ichimura Nature School Kanto gives children a chance to “learn how to live from Mother Nature” in an agricultural community. The program runs for nine months, or one entire agricultural season from planting in March to harvesting in November.
Every other week Friday after school, 28 boys and 28 girls come to the Nature School and work the fields until Sunday afternoon, growing some 40 different kinds of vegetables. In this way, they learn how to “develop yourself by thinking together, using each other’s ideas, and doing field work together with the blessing of nature.”
Since the school opened in 2002, it has earned a stellar reputation for activities sustained for more than 10 years. In 2012, the school’s efforts were recognized by the Japan Philanthropic Association with an award—the 10th Corporate Philanthropic Award—and in 2013, the school was honored with the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Award in the newly established category that recognizes companies promoting hands-on activities for youth.
We have started introducing new programs for graduates, such as alumni farms and are also enhancing existing programs, such as general meetings and summer camps, spearheaded by Daichi no Kai (the Earth Club), a group voluntarily established by alumni of the program. We will continue to support the development of students, including some 600 children who have graduated from the Ichimura Nature School to date, as they take their place in society.
When it came to Ricoh’s attention that children were losing interest in science, a program—Ricoh Science Caravan—was launched to provide opportunities for children in Japan to develop a love for science. The caravan travels to educational facilities, mainly science halls and schools throughout Japan, engaging children in science experiments.
The program touches on topics that are easy for elementary school children to understand, such as the basic principles of electrostatography, and the presenters are volunteers from local Ricoh Group companies nationwide. This showcases the Ricoh Group’s unique efforts to contribute to society.
In fiscal 2013, the caravan rolled out 42 times, and a total of 23,381 children experienced the mysteries and joys of science. In 2014, we plan to start a new program using color copiers and digital cameras.
Activities to help re-establish the fishing industry in Minamisanriku, a town in Miyagi Prefecture that was hit hard by the tsunami, have been part of Ricoh’s training program for new employees for three years now. These activities contribute to community rebuilding in the disaster area and also serve an educational purpose as new employees are able to gain a different perspective and learn a different skill while lending a helping hand.
In fiscal 2013, we divided a total of 224 people into two groups across nine places along the coast. Each group went to work alongside members of the local fishing industry for four days. Involved in the program now for three years, the fishermen look forward to the interaction with Ricoh’s new employees. There were many happy scenes, with one person remarking that “lots of the young folks willingly start up conversations with us.” Ricoh’s presence is really being felt here, and a bond of trust between the Company and the community has developed as a result. On the surface, the program is a way for new employees to experience support activities first-hand. But the true stars of the program, so to speak, are ultimately the local folks who benefit by Ricoh’s decision to play a role in the reconstruction process.
Since August 2013, two Ricoh employees have been involved in disaster reconstruction support activities as special staff of the city of Kamaishi, in Iwate Prefecture. They are members of the organization Kamaishi Satellite, which helps drive the Tohoku Future Creation Initiative, a cooperative, cross-sector effort encompassing industry, government, academia, and the public, with a mission to create a new future in the area destroyed by the great earthquake and devastating tsunami of March 11, 2011. Based in Kamaishi, the employees tackle two issues: developing young businesspeople on whose shoulders rest the future of the Kamaishi-Otsuchi region; and promoting concrete reconstruction plans for Kamaishi. Below, they talk about the local activities they have had a hand in so far.
Q：What activities were implemented in the past year, and where do things stand now?
A year ago, I was a total stranger here. I was so anxious and apprehensive about everything. But through our involvement in the first term of the Future Creation School, a program to develop the future leaders of Kamaishi, and the First Kamaishi Hyakunin Kaigi (Council of 100 People), which emphasizes increased participation by young people and the realization of citizen-led community building, we met lots of like-minded people who have talked about the future of Kamaishi with us. We now feel that our efforts here have meaning. We busy ourselves every day with preparations for the second term of the School and the Second Council to lay the cornerstone for the foundation of tomorrow’s Kamaishi.
Q：What was your most memorable moment of the past year?
It was the first-term graduation ceremony for the Future Creation School. At the graduation ceremony, the 10 graduating students—all keen to become local entrepreneurs—spoke in front of a huge crowd, including the mayor of Kamaishi. They each described a vision for the region and the business concept that they had fine-tuned with the help of their instructors to realize that vision. I was impressed by their business concepts, which were inspiring, pointing a path to the future. Hearing the students’ comments, I was very pleased to be working in this office.
Q：Going forward, what does the community need?
The area devastated by disaster is in transition, moving out of the restoration phase and into the reconstruction phase. This shift will probably bring about a noticeable decrease in support and assistance from across the nation. The people here must realize it, too. Still, I feel it is important to reemphasize the idea that a community is cared for and developed by its people, so more citizens should take part in the process and ensure a future for Kamaishi and the rest of the area.
Q：What kind of activities would you like to see happen next?
By the time I leave Kamaishi a year from now, it would be great if the cornerstone for the foundation of tomorrow’s Kamaishi were in place. The Future Creation School will continue, along with the Kamaishi Hyakunin Kaigi, and we will meet more people with great ideas for the future. These people need support to take that vital first step into business, and I hope we can create the necessary opportunities for promoting development toward their independence.
All sorts of creatures exist in places all over the world, from forests to lakes and marshes and further to coral reefs and oceans, and each of these places exhibits a unique ecosystem. The destruction of these ecosystems could spell the end of the natural environment that is indispensable for sustaining human life, as well. Forest ecosystems, which present particularly rich biodiversity, are of special interest to Ricoh, and the Company has been promoting forest ecosystem conservation projects in five countries and six regions since 1999 in partnership with environmental NGOs and local communities.
Unlike simple afforestation, the primary objectives of these activities are to protect the habitats of indigenous species and the life of residents and to establish a system for sustainable forestry management.
Forest ecosystem conservation projects (as of March 31, 2014)
|Inception date||Country||Project name/NGO partner|
|November 2001||Japan||Nagano Kurohime Afan Forest Conservation/C.W. Nicol Afan Forest Foundation|
|November 2001||Japan||Conservation of the Yanbaru Forest in Okinawa/Yanbaru Forest Trust|
|May 2004||Russia||Conservation of the Taiga, home of the Siberian tiger/Global Environment Forum|
|August 2007||China||Conservation of the biodiversity of the Three Parallel Rivers, a World Heritage Site/Asia Green-Culture Association|
|August 2007||Brazil||Restoration of the Boa Nova lowland tropical forests on the Atlantic coast/BirdLife International Tokyo|
|July 2011||Malaysia||Revitalization of mangrove forests on the north-central Selangor coast/BirdLife International Tokyo|
SAVE Brasil, a partner organization of Ricoh’s engaged in forest restoration in Brazil, won the 2014 Prêmio Muriqui. This award, recognized as one of the highest tributes to environmental action in Brazil, is granted by the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve Council (which is part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves) to public or private institutions that stand out in their work, particularly for biodiversity protection and sustainable development. A prime example of the organization’s results is the identification of 237 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in Brazil. Through this forest restoration project, the organization has contributed to the creation of five protected regions covering a total of 60,000 hectares.
FreeWill is an employee-led endeavor launched in 1999 that seeks to turn individual donations into a sizable fund for social contribution activities underpinned by greater participation and sustained involvement in the movement. Employees who belong to FreeWill donate a portion of their salary, with the collected funds going to non-profit organizations that promote solutions to social problems.
As of March 31, 2014, FreeWill participation had expanded to include employees at nine Group companies including Ricoh, and membership topped 8,000. The club invites suggestions from members on which organizations and activities to support, and during the fiscal year ended March 31, 2014, donations were extended to 43 organizations. Funds were applied to such events as cherry tree planting along the path that the tsunami took in the city of Rikuzentakata, in Iwate Prefecture, which suffered immense damage from the catastrophic wave that followed the great earthquake of March 11, 2011. Funds were also directed toward the FreeWill Picture Book Project: Deliver to the World!, which sends picture books with a Bengali translation to children in Bangladesh.
Through these activities undertaken by FreeWill, a great many members have contributed to local communities as well as society at large.