What is most important for Toshiba in developing its CSR activities? In relation to that, what issues would be related to CSR on a global scale? Toshiba talked with Mr. Jeremy Prepscius, BSR regional vice president in Asia. BSR is a U.S. non-profit organization specialized in consulting on CSR.
|Location||Toshiba Head Office|
Business for Social
Corporate Social Responsibility Division
When I talk with institutional investors, many of them say they have interest in knowing both ‘risks’ and ‘opportunities,’ the two sides of 'Environment, Society, and Governance' (ESG). I think that the intention of CSR for companies is not only mitigation of risks, but also creation of various opportunities.
Absolutely. Many CSR reports issued by companies lack ‘opportunities.’ Of course, risks are important, and many companies start from here. However, if you just focus on risks, you will get nothing more than risk management. Opportunities, on the other hand, connect your innovation to local viewpoints in the world and to business models, and create changes in society. This is an important, but a challenging idea to put into practice. Although Toshiba’s CSR report already mentions connectivity to external factors such as conflict minerals and opportunities, I think you can make a further step forward by demonstrating how Toshiba can contribute to the global community through implementing CSR coupled with innovation. Then, your CSR program becomes an important business element helping Toshiba decide on how to take Toshiba’s technologies into the marketplace, or the impact of having or not having the technologies in the market place. If we can get to this point, we can think about the next version of sustainability.
By ‘impact,’ I suppose you mean how we might make changes in the world, or how we could take advantage of ‘opportunities.’ In Vietnam, for example, we have our environment-related technologies and systems to reduce the environmental burden of our client’s plant. Our ‘Smart Community Project’ in India enables the entire community there to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and obtain stable energy sources. I think there is a possibility to create more impact on society with Toshiba’s unique technologies and innovations.
Japanese companies have many good ideas and good technology. They just have to expand on how to create social innovation with these. I think CSR has been about three very simple ideas: respecting, listening, and understanding. Through these practices, we can create opportunities. First, you need to respect your various stakeholders. To respect your stakeholders, you need to listen to and understand them correctly. It always goes back to understanding needs of the economy, companies, and customers. We need to provide stakeholders with what they really need, not with only what we want to provide. Likewise, stakeholders in different areas have different needs. In Indonesia, there might be issues of water treatment, solar power generation, or infrastructure. In India, there might be issues of rural power generation, power storage, or data storage. Therefore, Toshiba has to ‘respect, listen, and understand’ these voices to maximize opportunities.
To move on to the next topic, in the global community, the United Nations has taken the initiative to make ‘business and global human rights’ a key issue of CSR.
I personally think CSR has been always about human rights, because business impacts people and the world they live in. However, it is true that for many years we did not want to use this idea, because it was not considered a safe topic for business to talk about. What people are doing now is bringing back the most basic idea, which is ‘there are many kinds of stakeholders and each one of them has human rights.’ The idea includes, for instance, respect for human rights of workers at companies and in their supply chain. It also includes responsibility for companies to work on better product safety and quality. I think the current trend of human rights is to understand the different opinions of different stakeholders by taking a more systematic approach. Although it is a slow transformation, I think a deeper understanding of human rights is becoming more and more important for business.
Toshiba is already engaged in the issue of conflict minerals and is promoting CSR at the supply chain through dialogue with suppliers, business organizations, and NGOs.
Society’s expectations are always changing. If you had asked me five years ago, ‘should the electronic sector worry about an issue of conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding countries,’ I would get confused. An answer for a question you ask today would not be the same five years from now. As for human rights, Toshiba has already announced its engagement in this issue to global society. For example, Toshiba joined the UN’s Global Compact in 2004. Understanding and engaging human rights would be a difficult part, but at the same time it should be at the core of Toshiba’s business model as well. If Toshiba expands its business by systematically integrating human rights into its business conduct, it would continuously have positive impact on each one of us in society. Toshiba’s CSR report is a great starting point. The next step is to focus on how to create opportunities and value, or how to listen to voices from local communities. Voices from stakeholders would help us to mitigate risks, to understand human rights and transparency in activities of the supply chain, and to find opportunities and value. I am looking forward to seeing Toshiba’s further commitment to move on from the "Toshiba's Sustainability Activities" report to ‘"Toshiba's Sustainability Impacts and Visions," the next version of CSR report.