The concept of “creating shared value” is gradually but steadily finding its way into corporate Japan as an increasing number of managers recognize the importance of community-based business strategies.

The CSV concept was proposed by Harvard University scholars, including Michael Porter, a professor at Harvard Business School, stressing that companies should offer solutions to social problems through their business activities and become indispensable to their communities.

Sekisui House Ltd. is a leading practitioner of CSV management as an extension of its program to build homes for people with disabilities that began in 1975.

One such facility built by Sekisui is a group home for nine intellectually disabled men in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture. Completed in April 2016 and called Nogiku, the group home looks no different from private houses in the neighborhood and is managed by a social welfare corporation.

“We wanted a home where people with severe disabilities can live like ordinary people, such as going out into the community,” said Yasushi Mera of the group home’s operator, Minamidai Goko Fukushikyokai. “We made it look like an ordinary house so that they feel it is their home.”

Social welfare organizations often lack access to information about properties available for new construction. Sekisui thus makes arrangements with owners of land where it builds facilities and the owners lease them to welfare organizations.

Nogiku is a two-story house designed for people with disabilities. For example, hallways are 1.8 meters wide, twice that of ordinary houses, so using a wheelchair is easy.

Each of the nine tenants lives in a sound-insulated room of nearly eight tatami mats to ensure their comfort.

“Houses are products closely related to social issues,” said Yuki Hirose, head of the Corporate Social Responsibility Office at Sekisui.

“We have been promoting CSV activities from such viewpoints as whether houses are designed for the safety of children, how houses can cut carbon dioxide emissions, how to rebuild communities that have fallen into weak interpersonal relations, and so forth,” Hirose said. “The approaches have helped improve earnings for our company.”

In late September, Sekisui was chosen as one of the recipients of the Kids Design Award for the 11th consecutive year by the Kids Design Association, a nonprofit organization authorized by the government to promote designs that contribute to the safety of children.

Kirin Co. established its Creating Shared Value Division in 2013, becoming the first Japanese company to institute CSV management. The brewer has three targets for its CSV activities — contributing to the local community, contributing to the health of people and protecting the environment.

For contribution to the community, Kirin is promoting products that local people feel proud of and that help strengthen bonds between people and society.

Kirin, for example, has developed 47 different types of Ichibanshibori beer, the same number as Japan’s prefectures, making each type available only in the prefecture it represents.

The company has also produced two new products, using pears and peaches grown in Fukushima Prefecture, for its popular Hyoketsu series of vodka-based beverages.

Although Fukushima is a major producer of fruit, it has been stigmatized since the 2011 nuclear crisis, said Masaya Hayashida, who heads Kirin’s CSV division as executive officer.

“We want to erase the damage through our products,” he said.

Farmers in Tono, Iwate Prefecture, which was also severely damaged by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, produce hops that Kirin has been using in its beer production for more than 50 years. Due to the aging of growers and shortage of successors, production of hops in the city has dropped to a quarter of its peak level.

But new workers are starting to join the occupation thanks to a program launched by Kirin to support young people wishing to become farmers.

Kirin is promoting the development of nonalcoholic and low-calorie beverages as a way to contribute to the health of people while working to preserve water resources and trim the weight of containers and packages for environmental protection.

The CSV strategy raises the reputation of Kirin while contributing to an increase in the sale of its products, Hayashida said. “It brings us a lot of benefits, such as the elimination of our negative image on environmental issues.”

Rohto Pharmaceutical Co. and retail giant Aeon Co. are also actively engaging in CSV activities.

“CSV is a management strategy that benefits companies, consumers and society,” said Masatoshi Tamamura, a professor in the policy management department at Keio University. “It creates new economic and social values in dealing with troubles in our life and enhances the sustainability of companies.”

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