Social Issues addressed by Sumitomo —Compass for the Future—
Pro bono work in support of NPO initiatives tackling social issues
An increasing number of companies are introducing pro bono schemes in which employees devote their professional expertise and time to worthwhile causes. The pro bono approach is still in its infancy in Japan’s private sector and only a few financial institutions have embraced the concept so far. Thus, SMBC Nikko Securities, a member of SMBC Group, is notable for its enthusiastic embrace of the concept. As a pioneer, it has been actively involved in the Group’s pro bono initiative for some time. The firm was among the first to recognize the social significance of pro bono work and the positive impact it could have on corporate value. In the case of SMBC Group’s pro bono scheme, employees undertake pro bono activities outside of their normal working hours. However, fluctuations of the workload in the course of the year make it difficult for employees to find the time to collaborate with co-workers on pro bono projects.
So, SMBC Nikko Securities took pro bono activities a step further. Although many NPOs and other voluntary sector organizations tackling social issues have a wealth of specialized knowledge and great ideas, they tend to lack personnel with broader expertise, not least in organizational management. Because SMBC Nikko Securities can offer not only financial expertise but also planning and project management skills, the firm is well-positioned to partner with NPOs.
In March 2020, SMBC Nikko Securities introduced a pro bono work scheme under which employees can devote up to 20% of their normal working hours (7.5 hours per week) to pro bono activities. Thus, through this innovative pro bono scheme in which employees can use a portion of their working time, the knowledge and skills they have cultivated working at a leading securities firm and their wealth of experience as consummate professionals are having a growing impact in the voluntary sector.
The pro bono scheme promises to yield benefits in terms of sustainability, human resources development, and enhancement of corporate value. Undertaken in the context of a management strategy that emphasizes addressing social issues by putting the management philosophy into practice and contributing to attainment of the Social Development Goals (SDGs), SMBC Nikko Securities’ launch of the pro bono scheme is a practical expression of the firm’s prioritization of “Environment,” “Community,” and “Next Generation.” Firstly, these priorities are fully in accord with the provision of support to NPOs working to resolve social issues. By encouraging employees to get involved in NPO initiatives, the pro bono scheme facilitates fruitful coexistence with local communities and helps them flourish, leading to the attainment of our overarching goal, namely, the realization of the sustainable society to which we all aspire.
Secondly, human resources development. For enterprises operating in the current era of unprecedented change and uncertain prospects, success hinges on cultivating high-caliber people capable of dealing with new circumstances, generating new ideas, and eager for new experiences. Through collaboration with diverse people one would not encounter in the customary course of business, including those from other departments and NPO representatives, and by tackling the issues on which NPOs focus, SMBC Nikko Securities’ employees have opportunities to exercise leadership and gain plenty of experience. By devoting a portion of their working hours to pro bono work, people are better able to collaborate on projects, leading to more and better results that, in turn, encourage everyone involved to redouble their efforts in pursuit of more ambitious targets.
Thirdly, enhancement of corporate value. Engagement in distinctive activities to help resolve social issues not only develops people’s capabilities but also promises to attract human and intellectual capital while burnishing the SMBC Nikko Securities brand, leading to the enhancement of corporate value. Considering the primacy of these three factors—sustainability, human resources development, and enhancement of corporate value—management put its weight behind early introduction of the pro bono scheme.
Under the pro bono work scheme, each partnered NPO is supported by a team consisting of from six to eight SMBC Nikko Securities employees and projects are executed based on successive 6-month periods. The third such period, from July to December 2021, is currently underway. So far, a cumulative total of 94 employees have participated in the pro bono scheme and are supporting six NPOs. Participating employees are selected through internal recruitment and teams are formed by adding supporters who wish to participate outside their working hours. The supported NPOs are selected based on the social issues they are addressing and their specific activities.
For example, Grameen Nippon is an NPO providing small, unsecured, low-interest loans to single mothers and other needy people to help them escape poverty and become self-reliant. An SMBC Nikko Securities pro bono team has been supporting Grameen Nippon for three successive 6-month periods. The scope of the support includes expertise related to microfinance, promotion of collaboration with pro bono teams of other corporate partners and supporters of Grameen Nippon, and strengthening of administrative functions.
An employee who has been involved in the pro bono scheme for two successive 6-month periods is contributing her microfinance-related knowhow and holding workshops to support people, primarily women who are not in full-time employment, in their efforts to start small businesses. Eager to make a social contribution, she had a great desire to participate in the pro bono scheme. As a single mother herself and moved by her encounters overseas with people trapped in extreme poverty, she was naturally attracted to Grameen Nippon.
Although the system allows employees to devote up to 20% of their working hours to pro bono work, she also devotes some of her free time to this worthwhile cause. In the second 6-month period, as the team leader she was able to grasp the big picture of Grameen Nippon and step up collaboration. The voluntary work was challenging, giving her opportunities not only to gain fresh insights but also to develop the skills to organize and implement her ideas. Thanks to the experience she gained through the pro bono scheme, she was able to tackle her professional duties with renewed confidence and vigor.
NPO Fair-Start Support is another organization that an SMBC Nikko Securities pro bono team has been supporting since the first 6-month period. This NPO helps young people brought up at children’s homes to secure employment. Its activities are an excellent fit with the firm’s “Next Generation” and “Community” priorities. The pro bono team’s support has already yielded valuable results, such as finding jobs through collaboration with Rotary Clubs and making videos introducing prospective companies offering employment.
18 months since the launch of the pro bono scheme, all the indications are that it is taking root in SMBC Nikko Securities. Aiming to augment its social contribution, the firm plans to increase both the number of participating employees and the number of NPOs supported.
Read about initiatives to achieve a low-carbon society, aiming at net-zero greenhouse gas emissions since these emissions are implicated in global warming.
In view of ongoing globalization and the growing complexity of supply chains, companies need to respond appropriately to issues in supply chains.
The pace of workstyle reform is accelerating as the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted numerous companies to embrace novel ways of working.
For companies, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the crucial importance of employee health into sharp focus.
Accelerating global warming poses serious business risks. Accordingly, companies need to formulate strategies and implement specific countermeasures from a medium- to long-term perspective.
Spurred by efforts to reduce environmental impacts and in line with increasing social needs, replacement of gasoline-powered vehicles with electric vehicles is accelerating.
Vigorous initiatives are afoot to tackle social issues by revitalizing communities and the interpersonal relationships that bind them together.
Poverty persists in contemporary Japan and the existence of child poverty is a grave concern.
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.
The rapid progress in medicine in recent years is largely due to the efforts of not only universities and other research institutions but also of companies to develop cutting-edge technologies.
Numerous initiatives to promote industry and commerce at the regional and community level are underway, involving the use of renewable energy and thus contributing to decarbonization.
One-third of food produced is lost or wasted globally, amounting to about 1.3 billion tons per year. Food loss and waste is a pressing issue in need of a solution.
Companies are addressing a wide range of issues so that people and companies can coexist in harmony with the global environment.
In addition to natural disasters, there are various types of hazards whose nature, incidence and severity are changing with the times. Resilience and flexibility are indispensable in dealing with them.
Read about initiatives to achieve sustainable regional revitalization. The attributes and resources that each region can offer are leveraged to strengthen local economies and overcome the problem of population decline.