Social Issues addressed by Sumitomo —Compass for the Future—

Following Japan’s declaration of its intention to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, decarbonization initiatives have gained momentum. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to heightened consciousness throughout society of the vital importance of health. And there is growing awareness of the need to secure human rights throughout supply chains. There are among the pressing issues confronting all of us. We will show you what Sumitomo Group companies are doing to tackle these social issues in the course of their business activities.

Social issues

Click a social issue for an explanation of the issue and articles on what Sumitomo Group companies are doing to tackle it.

Decarbonization

Among greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions implicated in global warming, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are a major culprit. Hence the importance of initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions in the drive to achieve net zero GHG emissions, i.e., carbon neutrality. In order to limit the global average temperature increase and achieve net zero GHG emissions in the second half of the 21st century, which are among the goals of the Paris Agreement, the Japanese government has set a target of a 26% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 compared with 2013. In October 2020, the then-prime minister declared that Japan intends to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

New workstyles

Workstyle reform is an idea that has been around for a while, but it is now coming into its own as companies introduce systems that make it possible for diverse people to work in styles attuned to their needs while enhancing productivity through creative utilization of ICT. For Japan, the challenge posed by population aging coupled with a low birthrate is particularly acute. Achieving flexible workstyles is a precondition for securing ample human resources as the working-age population continues to shrink. In addition, teleworking has become widespread, taking root amid the COVID-19 pandemic as a workstyle synonymous with the new normal.

Health

Management of employee health plays a vital role in reducing the incidence of accidents attributable to such factors as overwork and stress while also contributing to workforce retention in the current era in which companies struggle to secure human resources. A healthy workforce is advantageous in terms of operational productivity, which ultimately translates into higher corporate earnings and growth in corporate value. In companies committed to health & productivity management, employees are more motivated and experience greater job satisfaction. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the critical importance of prioritizing employee health into sharp focus. Traditionally, witness inspection is conducted in the presence of the order placing party and the order receiving party at the construction site.

Supply chain

A supply chain is the entire system for producing and delivering products and services from the sourcing of raw materials through to delivery to end-users. Since the weight accorded ESG (environmental, social, and governance) initiatives in the assessment of corporate value is large and growing, companies are coming under increasing pressure to respond to various issues throughout their supply chains, which include their subsidiaries and affiliates as well as their suppliers of raw materials and other items. The issues related to supply chain are diverse. They include not only environmental impacts, such as emissions of CO2, discharge of sewage, emissions of harmful substances, destruction of forests, and pollution of the oceans, but also human rights and suppliers’ workplace environments, corporate governance, and so on. If a company fails to handle these supply chain issues appropriately and neglects information disclosure, its business will likely suffer.

Climate Change

Countermeasures for global warming, the phenomenon driving climate change, center on the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and management to prevent disasters or mitigate their impacts. The Paris Agreement, adopted at the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in 2015, following the Kyoto Protocol, reaffirmed the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2oC while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5oC compared to pre-industrial levels. Accelerating global warming is implicated in extreme weather events that pose serious risks for companies. Accordingly, companies need to formulate strategies and implement specific countermeasures from a medium to long-term perspective.

Electrification of mobility

As the automotive industry undergoes a once-in-a-century paradigm shift, “CASE”, a handy acronym referring to the key aspects of this transformation—“Connected,” “Autonomous,” “Shared & Services,” and “Electric”—is the future. Not only the automotive industry but also a host of other industries interconnected with it are addressing CASE. Electrification is a powerful global trend as conventional automobiles powered by CO2-emitting internal combustion engines are increasingly replaced by electric vehicles (EVs).

Community

At the micro level, society is composed of individuals, families and households. At the macro level one finds the national government, municipalities and so forth. In between are communities that fulfill essential roles. It is in thriving communities that mutual support flourishes, opinions are coordinated, and cultural traditions endure. Since communities are the glue that holds society together, it is in everyone’s interest to make them flourish. A community is essentially a group of people, and loss of community cohesion leads directly to a dysfunctional society where people are disconnected from one another, alone and vulnerable. Therefore, social issues cannot be tackled effectively without revitalizing communities and the interpersonal relationships that bind them together.

Poverty

We live in a world where one in ten people subsist below the extreme poverty line of 1.9 dollars a day, and so it is fitting that “No Poverty” is Goal 1, topping the list of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The elimination of poverty is a truly global theme, by no means limited to developing countries. Extreme poverty, mainly seen in developing countries, is a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. On the other hand, relative poverty, evident in developed countries, means low income relative to others. In Japan, many households, particularly those headed by a single mother, are in relative poverty. According to a 2018 survey by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, one in seven people in Japan live in relative poverty, with less than half of the median disposable income.

Development of the next generation

In view of the continuing decline of Japan’s working age population, due to population aging coupled with a low birthrate, development of the next generation is an urgent issue that should be tackled by society as whole, with the private sector playing a prominent role. Both quantitatively and qualitatively, companies need to foster human resources capable of securing future prosperity while also ensuring that the country’s precious inheritance of technology and knowhow is handed down intact to the next generation. From the “Community” perspective, the fostering of people endowed with the qualities and skills necessary to exercise effective leadership in their communities is another important theme.

Initiatives of Sumitomo Group companies

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