With a firm commitment to customers and communities, Nichirei aims for sustainable growth so that it may reach its centenary and beyond
In accordance with our mission to bring genuine satisfaction to consumers based on an understanding of their lifestyles, we are striving to help people lead healthy and enriching lives through the food items produced and supplied by the Nichirei Group’s businesses.
In fiscal 2015, we celebrated the 70th anniversary of our founding and, looking back on the Group’s history, we can see how it has evolved parallel with Japan’s own development. Following the country’s postwar reconstruction, the Group experienced a period of rapid, then more moderate, economic expansion. The Group faced very challenging business conditions, against a backdrop of two global oil crises, the collapse of Japan’s bubble economy, and a subsequent period of prolonged deflation. Yet, the Nichirei Group was able to survive, adapting to the changing times and creating new business domains, as both management and employees maintained their unwavering devotion to the Group’s customers.
As in the past, the Nichirei Group remains firmly committed to benefiting communities through the medium of food-the basis of people’s lives-by means of its products and services. We have published this CSR(Corporate Social Responsibility) and Environmental Practices section of our website in order to report on our initiatives in this regard, and provide the site’s users with a chance to give us feedback.
Please tell us how business and CSR activities are related under your recently started medium-term business plan.
Under the new medium-term business plan, we will aim to make steady progress toward strengthening the foundations of the Group, so it can realize its potential and grow sustainably. Covering the period fiscal 2016 through fiscal 2018, the new plan follows our previous medium-term business plan, thanks to which the Company achieved record-high profits in fiscal 2015.
Our conviction that the value of the Nichirei Group lies in its ability to contribute to society through its businesses remains unchanged under the new plan. Likewise, realizing our mission of bringing genuine satisfaction to people based on an understanding of their lifestyles, is still the purpose of our everyday business. This approach remains at the heart of our CSR activities.
In view of social changes and the needs of the day, the Nichirei Group has replaced the six areas of responsibilities defined in our basic CSR policy with “The Nichirei Pledge?Working to Make Our Communities More Sustainable,” taking into consideration sustainable procurement as well as food safety and reliability.
Under the new policy, our CSR structure will be reorganized. We are now working to meet the expectations of the Group’s broad range of stakeholders through various initiatives.
What is the Nichirei Group’s basic approach to social sustainability?
We understand that the Nichirei Group must fulfill its obligation to ensure its business activities contribute to social sustainability. As globalization progresses, the world is shrinking, and the pace of environmental changes is accelerating. People around the world have become increasingly aware of the need to make societies more sustainable, as was indicated, at the 21st Conference of the Parties in December 2015, by the adoption of the Paris Agreement as an international framework for dealing with global warming.
In fiscal 2015, Japan adopted its first corporate governance code. This reflects the growing demand of investors for higher corporate value over the long term, and exerts pressure on Japanese companies to meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.
Up until now, the Nichirei Group has been helping protect the environment by reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases and promoting the effective reuse of resources. But, since our business essentially depends on the harvesting and slaughtering of foodstuffs, we must also work to reduce the Group’s impact on the environment across the entire supply chain, from procurement through to production, distribution, and sales.
In recent years, there have been many scandals in Japan and around the world involving major corporations. This has placed corporate ethics in the spotlight. In response, we established a basic corporate governance policy for the Nichirei Group in October 2015. Accordingly, we are striving to ensure transparent and ethical management in order to ensure that the Group is widely trusted by the public. In our view, ethical principles and profitability are compatible, and form the foundation of our ongoing commitment to offer stakeholders new value.
In your view, what specific role should the Nichirei Group play as an enterprise that primarily deals in food?
As a business that handles foodstuffs, the Nichirei Group has an important role to play in ensuring the safety and dependability of its products. We recognize this as one of our top priorities.
Over the past few years, the public has been shocked by a number of scandals in the food industry, including cases of false labeling and the discovery of foreign substances in food products. In that context, we have stepped up food safety and food defense measures, and enhanced our food crisis management capabilities to ensure that information can be shared quickly in the event of an emergency. Thus, for example, Nichirei Foods-which operates the Group’s processed food business-has adopted an RFID system and installed cameras for verification.
In Japan, it is imperative that measures be introduced to reduce the high rate of food loss that results from the high rate of food disposal, despite the nation’s low rate of food self-sufficiency. Nichirei Foods has been doing its part in reducing the final disposal of food through initiatives such as recycling into fertilizer food scraps that remain after food processing. The company has also been involved with food banks since fiscal 2005, well ahead of the general trend in Japan’s food industry.
In fiscal 2015, food products that a Nichirei Group company had outsourced to a company for disposal-because the food exceeded its safe shelf-life-ended up being illegally resold by that company. In response to the incident, we reviewed the Group’s procedures for outsourcing waste, created new rules, and re-inspected the companies to which we currently outsource waste disposal. We also devised new procedures for confirming the proper disposal of products. Now, as a general rule, food for disposal must be removed from its packaging and, if removal is not possible, a Group employee must be present at the disposal site.
As a food distributor, the Nichirei Group has a vital role in delivering food when and where it is needed. At the same time, we are facing increasingly stricter transport and shipping regulations in Japan. To fully comply with those regulations and related laws, the Group’s frozen logistics business is setting up rest facilities along long deliver routes, and collaborating with business partners to ensure regular shipments according to fixed arrival and departure times.
What do you want to accomplish by fiscal 2018, and what measures are you focusing on to achieve those objectives?
By fiscal 2018, we want the Group to have increased its profits from operations in Japan, expanded its international businesses, and set in motion businesses that will drive sustainable growth. At the same, through Group businesses we will continue seeking solutions to problems confronting society.
Although the Japanese market is regarded as mature, food-related needs continue to change, reflecting shifting lifestyles and household composition, among other factors. The flow of goods and services is very likely to change dramatically due to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement concluded in 2015. This will make it necessary to pay even closer attention to market trends when developing products and services to meet consumer expectations. Outside Japan, we will not expand our businesses to just any growing market. Instead, we will invest in resources only after having carefully examined and selected places where we can leverage the Group’s competitive advantages.
Meanwhile, we are carrying out a number of group-wide initiatives as part of a major project aimed at enhancing the Group’s management capabilities. At each Group company and in its capacity as the Group’s holding company, Nichirei Corporation is initiating general and specific strategies linked to human resources, technology, quality, finance, the environment, and other areas. These it is incorporating into each of its business strategies. For example, we have included health management in our new medium-term business plan in order to bring more dynamism to the Group by helping employees realize their full potential. Specifically, we are placing importance on respect for work-life balance and stress management, so that employees can continue to work while enjoying good physical and mental health.
We also recognize the need to promote the success of the Nichirei Group’s diverse human resources. Since women make up about 40% of the Group’s total workforce, we are promoting women to management positions and training them for career-track jobs. There is no simple way to move everyone in the same direction, as people have diverse backgrounds and viewpoints but, through consensus-building and constant discussions, the Group’s employees can develop the power to reform their workplaces.
We intend to lead efforts to hire and train human resources that can drive the Group’s growth. We are confident that highly motivated employees, who find value in their work and strive for self-improvement, will be the force behind that growth. The key factor will be setting the right balance between personal and organizational growth.
What is your vision for the future, given your desire for the company to mark its centenary.
If Nichirei is to be in business for 100 years and longer, it is essential to keep our customers happy. Drawing on the exceptional dedication of the Group to constantly respond to customers’ lifestyle preferences, we will be able to understand even the smallest fluctuations in consumer tastes. This should enable the Group to adapt to the broad trends of the times. It is precisely this approach that will make it possible for the Group to keep growing, and allow us to pass on its corporate culture and traditions to future employees.
Bearing that in mind, we expect our employees to take the necessary initiative, without forgetting that they must also be serious and committed as members of the Nichirei Group. Whatever the circumstances, be they good or bad, employees should fulfill their duties by making the most of their own skills and available resources, and by independently making decisions and taking action. Such self-driven employees are vital to ensure the Group remains able to compete internationally.
Based on the strong commitment of every member of the Nichirei Group and by building on the Group’s innovations and ongoing initiatives, we will continue pushing on to our goal of attaining 100 years in business. As we pursue these endeavors, we look forward to the continued support of the Group’s stakeholders.