In the 6th part of the Ginza×CSR series, we spoke with Osamu Nishimura who is tackling CSR initiatives at Chuetsu Pulp & Paper Co., a comprehensive pulp and paper manufacturer. Although not part of his organizational role, he bestowed himself the mission of resolving social issues and evolving the company’s social branding. Here he talks about the events leading up to collaborations with companies in Ginza and non-profit organizations across Japan.
Create your own work
- – Is it true that you take on social initiatives from the position of a single employee?
- Although I do what in other companies would be called CSR activities, my formal job title is manager of the Marketing and Sales Planning Department. Our company does not have an actual CSR department, and I was not given any particular CSR-related mission by the company. It was about four years ago that I started the social activities taking place today.
- – What got you started in CSR?
- The turning point was at the Expo Y150, a Yokohama Port Opening 150th Anniversary event held in 2009. When looking for someone to recycle a large volume of bamboo to be used at the event pavilion, our company was contacted because of our experience using bamboo as a material for making paper.
While talking, they said, “While you’re at it, how about setting up a booth?” However, this was after the relevant department had moved to our Head Office in Toyama prefecture. There was nobody at the Tokyo Head Office that could do the booth while also doing their regular duties. We had no experience setting up an event booth, and no knowledge on how to plan or run one.
In the roughly 20 years I’ve been with the company since joining fresh out of university, I have worked mostly in the wood material purchasing department, although also at an overseas post and in the secretarial office, among other positions. I carried on a lifestyle where I did a modest job and prioritized my private life. But the truth was that I always had a simmering desire to take on work that was more valuable to society. So, when the opportunity arose, I felt, “I can do this,” and took on the task.
- – How did the booth opportunity lead to ongoing activities?
- From the response to the event booth, I became convinced that many people would share our sentiment about bamboo paper. I thought that bamboo paper, which can only be made by our company and which could evoke people’s compassion, would be a great vehicle for corporate branding.
Our company was seriously lacking such branding. Even though we started making bamboo paper in 1998, we did no publicity for it, thinking, “because it is a good thing we are doing, people will eventually notice.” So, even though corporate branding is probably the job of the company’s General Affairs and Human Resources Department, I was not seeing any activity over there, and decided to take it upon myself.
Without any knowledge or experience, I started expanding our external network. I set up a booth at Earth Day Tokyo and other environmental events, and started up collaborations with other companies and with non-profit organizations. I learned that instead of simply doing the job you are given, you can also create your own work. Of course that opened the way for a whole new set of troubles (laughs).
Not just a “good cause” — is it truly useful?
- – Why do you think bamboo paper evokes compassion?
- I think that, first of all, it is because it is an initiative with substance that is useful to society. Unmanaged bamboo groves seek out light and eat away at the neighboring forests. Making efficient use of trees obtained by thinning overgrown bamboo groves that are a nationwide problem and increasing production of bamboo shoots helps the local region.
Our bamboo paper is a product developed through trial and error by the leader of our company’s wood material purchasing department who had everyone under him become involved to help the region. So it is infused with the spontaneous thoughts of the employees involved.
If a company determines activities based on a CSR policy hammered out simply for form’s sake and makes them the task of staff in a CSR department — if that is all that is done, then the motivation may stray from the essential question of “What can we do to truly serve society?” to “For the cause, for the company, for the position.”
- – This has also led to collaborations with companies in Ginza.
- Isetan Mitsukoshi used our bamboo paper for strips of paper during the Tanabata (Star) festival and in a display for its Global Green Campaign (http://www.isetanspecial.com/globalgreen/), when numerous eco-friendly products were displayed in the shop.
The collaborations began with strips of bamboo paper I have been distributing to relevant people since more than four years ago during the Tanabata festival. Our company representative thought, “maybe we can get them used in the Ginza shopping district.” It was last year that we gained a connection with Isetan Mitsukoshi, after being introduced by a certain person working in Ginza.
The person in charge at Isetan Mitsukoshi was very enthusiastic and said they would love to use the paper in that year’s Global Green Campaign. They created eye-catching art pieces with the bamboo paper and displayed them in four windows of the Ginza branch, four windows of the Nihonbashi branch, facing the main streets. I was very happy because not only did that person sympathize with our effort, but they also turned that feeling into action. For Ginza’s yukata festival as well, the person in charge shared our sentiment and used our bamboo paper in their pamphlets and posters.
- – What initiatives do you do other than bamboo paper?
- We held the first Ginza Social Film Festival in August at the Hotel Monterey Ginza. We showed a documentary film and discussed social issues with the aim of increasing social mindedness at the company. We did not limit it to just our company, and invited many people from Ginza and like-minded folks. As a result, the venue that was expected to have a capacity of 50 people was filled with over 80 people. A company that was doing no publicity until four years prior was able to bring in 80 people who shared our sentiment in 10 days of announcing the event without any advertising. That is a fantastic asset.
- – Did you learn anything from holding the film festival?
- I sensed that the participants did not just want to watch a film, but also to mingle with each other and exchange opinions. I think that creating a community of highly social minded people and a space that can act as a base for disseminating ideas also contributes to society. We plan to continue holding this event about once every two months. I hope that people in Ginza and those laboring at CSR activities in other companies will make use of our film festivals.
Allies outside the company come to the rescue
- – Do you have your sights set on further collaborations with companies in Ginza or other local contribution activities?
- At the factory locations, we have been carrying out activities that take care of the local area as if it were common sense. But the reality was that there were few such opportunities in Ginza where our Tokyo Head Office is located. Ginza is a place where highly conscious people gather. Although many places may be vibrant, there are very few that have the class of Ginza. Chuetsu Pulp & Paper Co. also wants to be a company that is befitting of Ginza as a world leading district. We also hope to increase our opportunities to become more involved with the Ginza community.
- – What does an employee need if he or she wants to try a social initiative like you have done?
- First they need to just get started, then they need to show that they are trying their best. If you are working as hard as you can to better our society, people will always appear to back you up. When you don’t know what to do, those allies will help you inform others, introduce you to more people, and do other things to help you on your way forward.
If you ensure an activity is not only needed by society and something you are interested in, but also something with merit to the company, then even if it is outside your prescribed role, your boss is unlikely to object. You will surely hit rough spots once you start, but don’t let it get you down (laughs). In return, many wonderful people await you.
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Manager of the Marketing and Sales Planning Department, Business Administration Division, Chuetsu Pulp & Paper Co.Osamu Nishimura
After graduating from university, began working for the comprehensive paper manufacturer, Chuetsu Pulp & Paper Co. After joining the company, he worked at various bases in Japan for collecting wood as papermaking stock and in the United States base for collecting foreign wood before taking on his current post at the Tokyo Head Office. After holding a booth at the Expo Y150, a Yokohama Port Opening 150th Anniversary event held in 2009, he began using bamboo paper the company has been producing since 1998 as a corporate branding tool, and started leading activities that have been spreading wide outside the company. As a result, the company has been awarded numerous prizes in the environmental field in the past four years, including a special jury prize in the 1st Contest for Corporate Activities on Biodiversity, an award from the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in the 8th Eco Products Awards, and a social product award in the 1st Social Products Award.
Interviewer: Karin Sugiyama
Alterna consultant (http://www.alterna.co.jp)
Offers services in marketing, communication, business strategy and new business development activities for foreign-affiliated IT companies, advertising agencies, and public relations firms. After going independent in 2008, Sugiyama now participates in educational projects for solving social challenges, assists cooperative alliances between companies and NPOs, and offers consulting for CSR activities and practical assistance.
Writer: Karin Sugiyama Planning/editing: Alterna