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.
Q&A with Jackie F. Steele and Megumi Ishimoto
Leading up to our upcoming monthly meeting on ‘Celebrating Women as Change Agents in Post-Disaster Tohoku,’ we’re featuring a Q&A with Jackie F. Steele, a political scientist at the University of Tokyo, and Megumi Ishimoto, Executive Director of NPO Women’s Eye. The Q&A is modeled on the Proust Questionnaire, designed to reveal insights into the respondent’s personality. Join us […]Published on 14th March 2018
March Strategic Partner Member Offers and Other News
Check out the latest member offers and opportunities from our Strategic Partners here! Our Strategic Partners are committed to bringing the best services and products to FEW members. And go to our Strategic Partners page to learn more about all of FEW’s Strategic Partners, who not only support FEW’s activities but also provide professional and personal services […]Published on 1st March 2018
February Meeting Recap: Survivor – How to Overcome Adversity
You never know where life is going to take you. That was the message from our February guest speaker, Maxine Van-Cliffe Arakawa, who has had a decades-long career as a fashion stylist, make-up artist, and fashion show director in New York and Japan. She shared her personal experiences dealing with bi-polar disorder and gave her candid advice to […]Published on 1st March 2018
March Community Services Feature: Five Tokyo-Based Organizations That Fight For or Empower Women
In honor of March’s International Women’s Day, we’d like to present to our FEW community a list of five organizations that have established themselves as organizations who fight for or empower women as well as a list of five events that you can attend to show your support for this year’s theme of #PressFor Progress. […]Published on 28th February 2018
How I Got Here: Johanna Nousiainen
I first came to Japan as a study abroad exchange student. That year changed my life, even though at first I didn’t know it would. I was supposed to become a journalist in Finland, since that was what I loved to do – looking for information, interviewing people, writing articles about unique encounters you have. […]Published on 28th February 2018
FEW Spring Hanami Picnic & Party
Join FEW on Sunday, April 1, at Shinjuku Gyoen for a special family-friendly spring picnic celebration under the cherry blossom trees and enjoy connecting with friends, old and new!