Ricoh Chairperson takes the stage at Reuters NEXT 2023 "Empowering Colleagues to be ESG Advocates"
November 9, Ricoh Chairperson Jake Yamashita delivered a keynote address titled “Empowering Colleagues to be ESG Advocates,” at Reuters NEXT 2023. He shared Ricoh’s efforts to empower colleagues by creating a corporate culture that motivates them to have a sense of purpose and inspires to be creative, in alignment with its Mission and Vision “Fulfillment through Work,” and Ricoh’s innovation as the fruit of colleagues seeing the connection between their roles and ESG agenda. Find out how Ricoh’s founding principles “Love your neighbor, Love your country, Love your work” shapes the Company’s sustainability to this day.
Thank you all for the great honor of being here today. It is humbling to be among such esteemed global leaders driving truly dedicated work in the ESG arena.
While we are here from different backgrounds and experiences, we have one shared goal: to tackle the big societal and environmental issues already upon us. Today, I will share some insights from my own experience and the lessons Ricoh has learned along the way.
Ricoh’s Transformation with ESG at the Core
Ricoh is very committed to its own ESG journey. Some of you may know Ricoh as a market-leading manufacturer of printers with 80,000 plus colleagues in 200 countries and regions, but today, we have grown into a global digital services company. During this tremendous, transformational journey of our own, ESG has always been a core tenant of our approach.
I want to talk about the opportunity we all have to empower our colleagues to be ESG advocates.
Colleagues can make the greatest difference
Today’s workforce is increasingly motivated by a company’s social and environmental commitments. By 2025, millennials will make up an incredible 75% of the global workforce, and a company’s ESG practices heavily influence their career choices. Recent data from Deloitte’s 2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey underscores this: over half of both Gen Z and millennials analyze a company’s environmental policies before taking a job, and more than 40% have, or are willing to, switch jobs due to climate concerns.
This shift is not just about employment; it’s also affecting how business is done. In North America, nearly 60% of our clients consider ESG factors when choosing partners. We’ve seen a 200% surge in ESG-related requests in RFPs in North America compared to the prior year. More than just checking a box, our customers want sustainability partners with expertise to help them reach their internal goals using our products and services.
As emerging decision-makers, millennials prioritize innovation, skill development, and positive societal impact in their work environments. A solid commitment to ESG is essential to remain competitive in attracting talent and meeting customer expectations.
Ricoh’s starting point—Spirit of Three LovesThe principle of putting people at the heart of business was ahead of its time when Ricoh started 87 years ago. Our visionary founder, Kiyoshi Ichimura, formed our company guided by principles that still resonate today, treating employees with respect and equity. The founding principles formulated in 1946 are: "Love your neighbor, Love your country, Love your work."
"Love your country"
For a long time now, the second principle, “Love your country,” has been interpreted by Ricoh as “love your planet.” These principles have always been at the heart of our success. As a manufacturer, we pioneered our own circular economy model that we call the “Comet Circle™” back in 1994, evaluating every aspect of a product’s lifecycle to reduce its environmental impact. Leading sustainability in printing, our goal is to eventually have zero waste going to landfills.
Businesses must continue to take robust action. Ricoh, for example, is taking aggressive steps to meet ambitious environmental targets. In 2020, we revised our greenhouse gas reduction targets Scope 1 and 2 from 30% by 2030 to 63% vs fiscal 2015 because we were well on track to surpass our initial goals.
Implementing digital manufacturing using IoT technology, has reduced power consumption by 70% in our manufacturing plant in China established in 2020 compared with the former two plants. And I’m proud that Ricoh was not only the first Japanese company to join the RE100 but that we encouraged numerous other CEOs to join, too. As co-chair of the Japan Climate Leaders Partnership, I am strongly encouraging the Japanese government to deepen its commitment to maximize the use of renewable energy.
"Love your neighbor" "Love your work"
Our other two core principles, "Love your neighbor" and "Love your work", embody Ricoh’s commitment to its people and to creating an environment where people can work with enthusiasm. With the rapid advancement of AI technologies, we live in a world where most of the jobs currently being done by humans will be replaced by machines. Valuing our people and maintaining a people-centered management structure empowers individual team members to make the difference between simply achieving corporate goals and the vision of a livable future for every person on the planet.
We linked our ESG targets and employee engagement scores to executives’ compensation along with other KPIs.
Jake’s Vision as CEO, and then as Chairman
Before becoming CEO seven years ago, it was my passion to effect positive change. The essential link between employee happiness and business success is central to this vision.
Many organizations see the value in "happy colleagues equals happy customers, which equals a strong business," but I want to take it further. For Ricoh, our mission and vision, ‘Fulfillment through Work,’ drives everything we do. I am convinced that when people are motivated and inspired by their work, they will pursue excellence. Creating that motivation requires a sustained effort, and the ESG agenda is a fundamental element of this. In the book "Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life," author Hector Garcia agrees, pointing out that "If a company has a message that communicates a sense of purpose and it is shared effectively with the staff, that will motivate employees."
Creating the environment for ESG advocates
Culture of Excellence
While this effort starts from the top, it is sustained by our people, who bring these priorities to life within the communities in which we live and serve globally.
Our North American CEO, Carsten Bruhn, fosters a Culture of Excellence program centered on the belief that innovation comes from inspiring diversity in all its dimensions. Passion drives still more passion, and colleagues have recorded videos telling in their own words what it means to them to work at Ricoh. These efforts have increased employee retention, engagement and job offer acceptance.
SCALA Program for reskilling colleagues
Creating an enthusiastic environment is a start, but retaining quality team members is key. One upgrading and reskilling program initiated in Europe is a nine-month digital talent development program that has provided over 4,000 field engineers with the technical skills and digital expertise to equip them for new digital-focused roles in the company.
Closing Digital Divide
Even beyond just Ricoh, as part of our prior B4IG (Business for Inclusive Growth) coalition activities, we created a skill training program to support local women artists narrow the digital divide in rural India. Helping these artists acquire design and IT skills and sales channel knowledge enables them to generate income not possible before. Since then, we launched our own initiative to support young people in Japan and Vietnam.
The link between colleagues’ roles and ESGs
As people began to see the connection between their roles and our ESG agenda, innovation emerged in new ways across the organization.
PLAiRMore than 15 years ago, we began replacing virgin plastics in our core business with components made from PLA, a more sustainable, plant-based alternative that helps the environment. As our teams became more familiar with PLA, they used other technology expertise to create a breakthrough material: foamed PLA sheets. It is 99% bio-based, compostable, and heat-resistant. What started as a single team’s innovative concept is now ready to grow into a full-fledged circular economy business. A food container pilot program launches in Japan this year, with plans to expand to Europe and North America after that.
3D for Healthcare
With ESGs in mind, we want to take on the challenge of making healthcare accessible to more people. In North America, our team saw an opportunity to develop a solution that leverages our Managed Services infrastructure. We use the patient's image data to 3D print replicas of the individual's internal anatomy and are currently conducting trials with several medical centers. The 3D printed models can be used for aiding in diagnosis, surgery prep, and educating patients and medical students. The aim is to improve patient experience.
On another front, colleagues saw an opportunity to improve communication with non-hearing team members, so they developed a voice-recognition software package allowing everyone to participate in meetings equally. It worked so well that it is now offered as a service to customers.
SDGs awareness survey
In each of these cases, our teams recognized opportunities to address challenges by leveraging their expertise beyond their everyday responsibilities. This curiosity emerged organically as team members discovered a passion and purpose in aligning their roles with ESG goals rather than by management mandate.
And all this means that our vision of "Fulfillment through Work" is coming to life. What we’re experiencing at Ricoh is a transformation not limited to us alone; it’s a journey everyone can embrace. We asked team members to verbalize the relationship between the SDGs and their own work, and of the nearly 38,000 responses, 92% felt their work contributed to resolving social issues, and almost the same number said it led to their job satisfaction.
More and more, it’s often the small actions that resonate most deeply with our people. This harmonious synergy creates a win-win scenario, benefiting not only our businesses and customers but also our colleagues and, our planet.
In conclusion, I want to leave you with this important message: as leaders within your organizations, you can inspire and mobilize every team member to become passionate ESG advocates. Together, we can drive the transformative change, moving beyond mere ‘business actions.’ It’s clear that a top-down approach alone cannot address all challenges. Empowering your colleagues unlocks the potential for a collective and sustainable impact.
I firmly believe that motivated team members who see how ESG fits into their roles are an untapped force that can drive the creation of a sustainable society. And if we get it right, the reward for our entire planet will be more than worth it. No organization can do this alone; we have to work together across borders and cultures.
There is an old saying that means a lot to me: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” At Reuters IMPACT last year, I was blessed with the birth of my first grandchild just hours before I went on the stage. That’s who I think about the most.
So, let’s work together to save our planet today and not just leave it up to future generations to solve.
Thank you very much.
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