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Messages from Keidanren Executives December, 2017 Toward the Realization of a Sustainable Society

Kuniharu NAKAMURA Vice Chair of the Board of Councillors, Keidanren
Representative Director, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sumitomo Corporation

Keidanren revised its Charter of Corporate Behavior with the aim of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by promoting Society 5.0 to help bring about a sustainable society.

The acceleration of globalization in the 1990s contributed greatly to world economic development, but it also produced many issues of a global scale. Long years of discussion on overcoming these issues resulted in the 2015 adoption by the United Nations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as the SDGs that constitute the goals of Agenda 2030's action plan.

These SDGs call on companies to confront social issues that cannot be resolved simply through the conventional pursuit of profit and to contribute to society through their businesses. It is not just about avoiding reputation risk. Such efforts lead executives and employees carrying out their day-to-day duties with a full understanding of the social significance of their businesses, and enable company management to improve existing businesses and create innovation, and would also boost the motivation of workers.

Looking back over history, many Japanese companies have firmly oriented their management practices toward continuous growth alongside society by giving consideration not just to shareholders but to a broad range of stakeholders. Japan holds the keys for effectively resolving issues, including technology to alleviate pollution and approaches such as utilizing diverse human resources and reforming work styles to address the needs of an aging society with a declining birthrate.

In keeping with global endeavors to attain the SDGs and resolve social issues, Sumitomo Corporation this year compiled and announced six "material issues" that the company should address with priority when leveraging its strengths, based on the business philosophy and management principles of "benefit for self and others, private and public interests are one and the same" to which Sumitomo has adhered throughout its long history.

Companies have a very significant role to play in achieving a sustainable society, and I believe that Japanese companies, in the sweeping trend of international institutions, national governments and companies coming together as one to take on the SDGs, are able to find a superb opportunity to highlight their presence by actively communicating their commitment to resolving issues and their concrete achievements in this regard.