By Marie Mortreux, Public Relations and Communications Intern
Our June 2016 meeting focused on contrasting social businesses and traditional businesses. Two successful women were invited to talk about their experiences in both the corporate and social enterprise sectors: Megumi Hagiuda, founder and CEO of AFRIKA ROSE, and Angela Ortiz, CSR Manager at H&M Japan. The panel was moderated by Sabine Becker-Thierry an independent consultant and the program coordinator for FEW.
What does “ethically produced” mean? Social businesses are inherently different from traditional businesses although they’re not non-profit organizations. Some big corporations have also been incorporating the notion of CSR (corporate social responsibility) into their management practices.
After seven years working for a pharmaceutical company, Hagiuda flew to Kenya to take part in NPO-led community action. During her time there, she became inspired to create a business importing Kenyan roses to be sold to Japanese consumers. She’d always dreamt of working in social development and during the time she worked as a volunteer in Kenya (from 2011 to 2012) she realized building schools wasn’t really tackling the root of the problem. She realized parents needed jobs first in order to gain financial independence and be able to finance their childrens’ education. As a result, she took the initiative to create a sustainable alternative by importing roses to Japan and creating a source of income for the Kenyan workers of a rose farm, also enabling them to benefit from healthcare, free lunches, scholarships and clean water systems.
Hagiuda strongly believes Kenyan roses reflect the power of nature and life, the strong connection with family and the expression of love attached to Kenyan culture which has been lacking nowadays in the fast-paced Japanese lifestyle, partly due to modernization and globalization. As a result, she wanted to surprise Japanese people by “circulating a love ecosystem.” She emphasized the importance of thinking about the people who produce the products we buy and that she wishes all companies were social enterprises. One of the challenges she encountered when developing her business was the lack of understanding of people of the difference between a social business and charity, such as donations.
Ortiz is the co-founder of O.G.A for Aid, a disaster relief NPO. At H&M Japan, she currently focuses on developing awareness and managing energy reduction as well as staff training. Ortiz first entered the non-profit world because she wanted to become more aware of social investment and environmental responsibility. She then built her own consultancy project before joining H&M. Her choice comes from a desire to learn more about the corporate world but also be more sustainable in her life as a mother. She trains the staff of H&M about environmental issues such as pollution and stressed the difficulty of handling several hundred employees while trying to overrule already set procedures.
The triple bottom line adds a new environmental dimension to the two already existing financial and social components of company management. Three goals targeted by Angela as the CSR manager of H&M are a fair and equal workplace for everyone, leading the field and having only sustainable materials in the supply chain. When looking at the different stages of production, one comes to realize there are steps which can be taken to reduce environmental damages. Raising awareness of the designers, educating farmers to grow organic cotton and reducing emissions during transport are some examples. However, consumers have the biggest impact on the environment by choosing to recycle or throw out their clothes.
In Japan, 90 percent of textiles are thrown away as moeru gomi. H&M works together with I:CO, a sorting facility to recycle textiles and redistribute benefits to NPOs such as Save the Children and Resilience. One of the challenges faced by H&M is its lack of control over working conditions in factories as its suppliers are independent contractors. Angela emphasized the importance of vigorous auditing and also encourages other big companies to publicly list their suppliers. Lack of transparency and sustainability from companies will result in loss of profit in the long run. The social role of companies falls down to educating consumers by raising their awareness and providing them with alternative steps to be taken such as recycling.
Despite the fact living in a capitalist society gives the right to anyone to invest and create value, the responsibility remains on the consumers to make changes by choosing not to purchase goods and services from a company whose practices are unethical. Japan was the first country to recycle paper and was originally very sustainable and conscious in terms of environment. Having more corporations become social organizations and consumers who are more aware opens the possibility of creating a better workplace in chains of production and preserving the environment.
March 2017 Women’s Start-up Club Recap: The Art of Pricing and Negotiation
On March 29, 2017, the FEW Women’s Start-Up Club covered two crucial topics to successfully grow your business: Pricing and Negotiation. Vanessa Oshima, General Manager, Women’s Category, at Nike Japan, first led an engaging discussion on identifying and developing strategies for successful price setting. Tanja Bach, FEW Women’s Start-Up Club Committee Member, then continued the discussion with insights on successful negotiation […]Published on 4th April 2017
History of FEW Series: Top Highlights from Past CSS Events
By Raena Murakami, Public Relations and Communications Co-Director One of FEW’s flagship events is the biennial FEW Career Strategies Seminar (CSS), a full-day professional development event led by experienced, successful female business leaders and mentors. The event consists of workshops and skill-building sessions to equip participants with the tools necessary to enhance their lives and […]Published on 3rd April 2017
Q&A with Travel Industry Experts Chiara Terzuolo and Rie Miyoshi
Leading up to our upcoming monthly meeting on ‘Unveiling Japan: New Themes in Travel & Tourism,’ we’re featuring a Q&A with speakers Chiara Terzuolo of Veltra and Rie Miyoshi of Outdoor Japan. The Q&A is modeled on the Proust Questionnaire, designed to reveal insights into the respondent’s personality. Here, Chiara reflects on valuing those who […]Published on 1st April 2017
The Way of Tea Recap – An Introduction to Japanese Tea Ceremonies with Ruth (Sōshin) Lionberger
By Tanja Kinnen, FEW Special Events Director The Way of Tea and the chance to gain deeper insights into this mysterious Japanese tradition brought 15 curious women to attend our special event on a sunny Monday afternoon. The national holiday seemed like the perfect opportunity to get to know more about the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Ruth (Sōshin) […]Published on 1st April 2017
How I Got Here: Tanja Bach
Ever been asked “What do you do?” My answer: “I empower people to become the best version of themselves.” As a coach and facilitator, I am lucky to do what I love by enabling leaders, teams, entrepreneurs and anyone with a dream to realize their potential and be the best version of themselves. I like […]Published on 1st April 2017
Inspiration and Creativity
Each of us has a creative side just waiting to be awoken! Join us as we hear how a panel of creativity-focused women took the leap to turn their creative passions into their life's work.
Mirai No Mori Fundraiser at Toriizaka Art Gallery
Join us for this special fundraiser for our Community Strategic Partner Mirai no Mori at Toriizaka Art Gallery. Hear from the gallery founder, Karen Thomas, and enjoy a tour of the gallery over wine, cheese and delicious food. All proceeds to Mirai no Mori Back to Nature Program.
Midweek Lunch Mixer at Le Petit Marché Roppongi
Take a break from work and join us for delicious food and great networking on our monthly midweek lunch gathering at Le Petit Marché in Roppongi.