Ginza×CSR Vol.5 ALBION
Management philosophy manifested in CSR
Kuukids in-house childcare facility
The 4th part in the Ginza×CSR series looks at Albion, a cosmetics manufacturer that runs a childcare facility called Kuukids located close to its headquarters in Ginza. This project is a part of the company’s social responsibility as a cosmetics manufacturer with many female customers and employees, and is also a way for the company to give back to Ginza with its diverse lifestyles. It is a good example of how a CSR project based on the key concept of “beauty, nurturing, and connections” can help raise corporate value.
To give beauty experts working on the weekends the option to raise a family
- ─ Please tell us about Kuukids, the in-house childcare facility near the Ginza headquarters.
- Albion opened an in-house childcare facility in Ginza 1-Chome, Chuo City, Tokyo on April 1, 2009 for shared use by its own employees and those of neighboring companies that have signed a contract. As of July 2013, a total of 17 children aged 0-3 were enrolled. It is also used by about 40 nearby residents for drop-in child care. A main feature is that it remains open until 9:00 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Its management is contracted to Poppins, a company that specializes in child care.
- ─ Why did Albion start a childcare facility as a CSR initiative even though it is a cosmetics manufacturer?
- When Albion established its CSR Group in 2008, it was apparent that there was a waiting-list problem for children to get into preschool, and that beauty experts had nowhere to leave their children on weekends or holidays when they had to work. Our company’s employee base is 70% female. The CSR Group wanted to create an environment where female employees that wanted to continue working after having children could do so, in a manner that was preferable to them.
As the first part of its CSR project, the CSR Group proposed setting up an in-house childcare facility to the company president. He agreed right away, saying to “do this immediately, not only for our employees, but to protect the children of the next generation.” A written proposal was submitted in May 2008, and the plan proceeded at an astounding pace, with the facility opening in April the following year.
Centered on the management philosophy rather than its compatibility with business
- ─ How does Kuukids relate to Albion’s management philosophy and its CSR concept, “beauty, nurturing, and connections.”
- As an upscale cosmetics manufacturer, we place importance on aspiring for authenticity. In addition to the products themselves that achieve “beauty,” the beauty experts and other relevant staff must be top-ranking to ensure customer satisfaction. We therefore emphasize human resource development, which is why “nurturing” is an important keyword. The “connections” principle was derived from this concept, signifying emphasis on people and placing importance on the connections between them.
Having the in-house childcare facility open until 9:00 a.m. has been mistakenly construed as an attempt to keep employees working longer hours. This is not the case — we wanted to give the option to raise a family while continuing to work to the employees that wish to do so. We did not want to require children to attend a second day care on weekends or late evenings in addition to their regular day care as that would be a great burden to them. This reason for Kuukids’ existence is directly linked to Albion’s corporate philosophy of “cherishing people.”
- ─ Why did Albion open the facility to other companies?
- There are a lot of service employees in Ginza. We thought that there must be women working in sales that are experiencing difficulties because they have nowhere to bring their children, and asked around. We found out that there were many women that had to give up having children or quit their jobs after giving birth. We wanted to widen the “connection” between women working in Ginza and children being raised there, and thus decided to allow neighboring companies to use the facility. It currently has contracts with eight other companies.
Determining everything based on cherishing people and harnessing their capabilities
- ─ Albion designed the entire childcare facility from scratch. What were some key points?
- The prime focus is safety. For example, there is no hallway in the facility. It features a radial layout that lets the childcare workers see into all of the rooms. It also incorporates designs that inspire creativity and sensitivity in children, such as colorful handmade doors in the playroom, acrylic and marble columns, lighting that uses films from cosmetics products, and colored tiles in the studio and dining room.
It has a kitchen so that the children can have homemade meals. Albion receives a subsidy for the program as an in-house childcare facility in Tokyo, so it reaches basically the same standards as certified preschools in Tokyo in terms of building construction and management level.
- ─ It seems as though the facility is passionate about the children’s education as well.
- The mothers are leaving their children in the facility’s care for a long time every day, so they must worry about the children’s development. In-house childcare facilities are thought of as facilities for the sole purpose of entrusting children so that employees can return to work, but we consider ours an educational facility based on the original concept of it being a place to assist in the children’s development.
It gives eurhythmics classes (a type of comprehensive education that cultivates imagination and self-expression by letting the children use rhythm to experience music with their bodies and creates harmony between their body and mind), and gives them opportunities to experience geography, culture, and music from around the world. It also utilizes the Kyobashi Park Adopt Program to have the children take care of the flowerbeds as members of the community. To make them better-acquainted with the Ginza district, it holds a social studies field trip where the children travel from Takara-cho to Tokyo Square Garden and the Wako building and have a tour of the Kabuki-za Theater.
- ─ How is it different from the in-house childcare facilities at other companies?
- Usually, the children must all arrive at the childcare facility at a predetermined time. However, the beauty experts working shifts arrive at work at different times each day, so our childcare facility is flexible about arrival time. It also recognizes that women in customer service jobs cannot always come pick up their child right away if they come down with a sudden cold, and provides futon mattresses and diapers that other places require the parents to bring themselves, in acknowledgment of the burden of carrying such items when commuting to work.
The facility was not established for personnel reasons, but rather to take care of people. We therefore request cooperation in the above respects from Poppins, the company contracted to manage the facility. It helps that they provide meticulous support.
Handmade dors of tpy cupdord with textures and colors that stimulate sensitivity in the children.
The corners of the cupdoard are rounded. On top are marble columns.
The kitchen used to make daily meals. Meaks are altered for children with allergies.
Voluntter activity to care for flowerbeds usinf the Kyobashi Park Adopt Program.
The company name is not written on the Kuukids sign
- ─ Neither the company name nor its logo is written on the Kuukids sign. Did you not think about including those for publicity?
- Remembering who the facility is for is more important than short-term publicity. From the perspective of the children’s feelings, it would be better not to have a company name as part of the name of the school they attended. Also, for the other companies that also use Kuukids, not including “Albion” on the sign lets them freely talk about the childcare facility as their company’s own.
In other words, if you think of the childcare facility as being for the interests of the parents and children using it, it is only natural that the company name would not be included. Our corporate philosophy of “starting with people” is also consistent with this concept.
- ─ In what ways has the in-house childcare facility been a success?
- By creating an environmental foundation that allows women to continue working even after having children, the number of employees taking maternity leave at the end of March, 2012 was about 120 people, which is about 2.5 times higher compared to before the childcare facility was established (45 people in 2008). In fiscal 2012, the rate of employees returning to work after completing maternity leave reached as high as 96%.
Many employees, including those without children, have become more conscious towards making the company an easy place to work. Also, there is an increased feeling among employees that Albion is contributing to the local community. These are great successes. I have been directly hearing positive feedback from employees, and feel glad to have launched this project.
Letters of gratitude Ms.Koike received from employees that have used Kuukids. She carries them around for encouragement.
Taking on challenges and evolving just like Ginza
- ─ Over half a century has passed since Albion was established in Ginza.
- Something that Ginza and Albion have in common is that they both try to evolve and try new things while continuing to value the history and culture up until that point. Kuukids is also one challenge the company took on. I think a major reason why the president of Albion accepted our proposal so quickly is precisely because he wanted the company to remain one that consistently takes on unprecedented challenges and tries new things. We strongly recognize that we are being nurtured by the district of Ginza. I want to make Kuukids an initiative that is befitting of Ginza, a district that continues to change while upholding past traditions.
- ─ In addition to being a social contribution program, do you think the Kuukids initiative helps raise Albion’s corporate value?
- According to customer feedback, there is a growing tendency to choose products not just for their characteristics, such as a preferred scent or texture, but also based on sentiment towards and trust in the company. It will probably become increasingly important to communicate the approach of the company through its products. The employees will also have to become able to communicate this in their own words.
Through means such as the childcare facility, the corporate philosophy of “cherishing people” is spreading within and outside Albion. That seems to be boosting its corporate value and credibility. The establishment of awareness in employees that women can continue working even after having children is a part of that value. In fact, we are currently experiencing a rush of employees welcoming their second child (laughs).
Assistant Manager of the CSR Group, General Affairs Division, Albion Co.
Worked as a financial accountant in the foreign-affiliated retail industry and as a consultant in a foreign-affiliated consulting firm before joining Albion at the launch of its CSR Group in 2008. Within one month of working there, she had already planned the Kuukids childcare facility to support women in their desire to continue working by increasing their working options and to contribute to the elimination of the preschool waiting-list problem faced by society.
In addition to the Kuukids office, she is also currently involved in Albion’s social contribution activities as a whole and in the company’s office for a project to support continuing work while raising children or providing nursing care.
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