Akiyama: Society’s views on socially responsible investment and investments in Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) have changed over the past 10 years.
Investors have a common view of becoming too important to ignore social aspect including environment when they assess company.Investors are coming have the common view that CSR and environmental activities cannot be ignored when assessing a company. Japanese investors are interested in ESG investment because Government Pension Investment Fund signed Principles for Responsible Investment which United Nations support in 2015.
In Japan, the focus on ESG grew when the Government Pension Investment Fund cosigned the Principles for Responsible Investment supported by the United Nations in 2015.
Matsuo: In the long-term, companies that fail to consider social aspects will be eliminated from consideration.
Akiyama: I think that long-term investmentinvestments will expand as a whole but short-term investmentinvestments will remain. The company have to show the visions to raise long-term company's value by initiative of ESG.
Companies will be expected to demonstrate their vision for increasing long-term corporate value through ESG initiatives. Companies able to meet the expectations of ESG investments are those capable of implementing the following three steps. The first step is what is important as an agenda offor ESG. The second step is that we, can we develop inovation which innovation that can solveachieve the agenda of ESG? The third step is, we have to explain what it means. The third step is we have to explain what it means.
In 2016, the This is because Meiji Group celebrated its 100th anniversary. This repeatedachievement is the result of the Meiji Group repeatedly making innovations to tackle all kinds of issues.
Matsuo: That is right. After World War Ⅱ, we launched Japan's first infant formula and developed antibiotics which contributed treatment of tuberculosis lean days. I think that mainstay businesses isare close to resolve agendaresolving the agendas of ESG. I feel strongly that it has only been 100 years. I would like to telldiscuss our long-term vision inwith the perspective of the next 100 years. We prepared the Meiji Group 2026 Vision (outline) as a first step. We established an overseas sales ratio isof 20% or more as one of the targets in the Meiji Group 2026 vision. In Japan, domestic market is decreasingcontracting, because the population is decreasing. We are improving our unique strengths and offer our products'the value of our products to overseas markets. We strengthen our engagement in the health and preventative domain and propose new health value in Japan and around the world as new challenges in the health value domain. We contribute the extension of healthy lifespan by R&D and innovation in step with the quicklyrapid aging of the population. That is the issue of not only the company but also country.
Akiyama: In terms of population ageing, Japan is a super-advanced nation. If we can contribute to the extension of healthy lifespan in Japan, we can contribute overseas.
Meiji's unique strength isstrengths are developing food and the pharmaceutical businesses. Eating improveimproves health and medicine is applied to prevention and treatment. Those should be cooperatedlinked.
Graduated from Keio University Faculty of Economics. After work at a foreign securities firm, in 1999 Akiyama worked for the US subsidiary of an independent securities firm. In June 2001, Akiyama established Integrex Inc., which promotes SRI and CSR, where she serves as representative director.
Meiji Group initiatives related to resolving ESG issues
Akiyama: Tell us about current initiatives related to resolving ESG issues.
Sanuki: Each era requires different drugs.
Matsuo: With procurement, for example, we are conducting Meiji Cocoa Support (MCS) activities, which support cacao farmers in Africa and Latin America. We will procure high-quality cocoa beans and provide customers with the delicious chocolate. Our efforts to help increase production include providing farmers with opportunities to learn about cultivation technology, insect-pest control, and establishing seedingseedling-supply centers. In addition, we assist in raising farmers’ standard of living by digging wells for communities and donating desks and chairs to elementary schools. Sustainable procurement is not possible without the development of the entire region.
Akiyama: MCS contributes to stable procurement by contributing to the region. It is a wonderful initiative that is a win-win for both the cacao farmers and the Meiji Group. Also, a perspective of protecting the environment is critical to sustainable procurement.
Matsuo: Through MSC, we continue the support that promote initiatives such as agroforestry that do not place a burden on the environment. At the same time, considering the future impact on climate change, I believe we should consider beginning support in Asia and other regions.
Akiyama: We also need new ideas.
Matsuo: We also need to address population ageing by focusing on new challenges in the health value domain. Related to food and pharmaceuticals you mentioned as our strengths, over the next 10 years I want us to challenge ourselves to the three themes of gut flora, the gut-brain connection, and antiaging. I also want to focus on R&D related to infectious disease prevention and treatment.
Akiyama: This is an important issue. The products just mentioned – infant formula, chocolate, confectioneries, antiaging, and pharmaceuticals – are Meiji Group products that affect customers, from children to the elderly, throughout their entire lives.
Matsuo: Exactly. Our customers represent a broad range of age groups. Our products are with our customers throughout their lives so we are always aware that any negative incidents will lead to a loss of trust. We will continue earning the trust of our customers.
Akiyama: Trust is the foundation of a company’s existence. The Meiji Group strongly reinforces food safety and fundamental compliance. However, as the company grows in scope, ensuring the sharing of our Group philosophy among employees becomes an issue.
If we conduct overseas business, it's important.
Matsuo: Because one of our vision targets is to increase our overseas sales ratio, overseas employees are increasing in Meiji Group. Diversity is important issue to realizing this. It is important for each employee to approach their work with sense of having a mission as a Meiji Group employee.
Akiyama: In Japan, there tends to be a misunderstanding that “there must be diversity.” However, that is not the case. We want employees who embrace and support the company’s fundamental values and Group philosophy. Beyond that, it is important to embrace diverse thinking and workstyles towards realizing our philosophy.
Overseas, avoid forcing the Japanese way of doing things, and respect local culture, religion, and customs. It is important that we share our Group philosophy and foster the development of people who love working for the Meiji Group.
Elevating “meiji” into a brand that is recognized internationally
Employees' commitment to ensuring safety, reliability, and quality is essential.
Matsuo: Lastly, I please talk about your expectations of us.
Akiyama: As was discussed earlier, contributions to the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases are a critical global issue. We have great expectations for your company. To increase fans, I want you to disseminate stories about your products and the value you provide. There are many consumers who like Meiji Group products. However, people do not know how products are made and the stories behind these products. I think you can increase fans by attaching stories to your products to convey details about MCS and other such activities and philosophies embraced by the Meiji Group. Listening to you, I realized that the Meiji Group is challenging itself to numerous endeavors. I hope that Meiji becomes a brand that is not only known in Japan, but also widely known international so that when someone sees the Meiji logo, they immediately recognize it as the Meiji brand.
Matsuo: Our plant tour and food education activities provide experiential learning and convey such stories. However, this is only to a limited audience. Moving forward, I will incorporate this opinion into future information dissemination. We will continue applying the strengths of the Meiji Group toward contributing to the physical and mental health of customers around the world. Thank you for your time today.