The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Diversity | Young Professionals

September 2013

ENVIRONMENT VS. THE CORPORATE WORLD
CSR activities are considered key when taking a new job

By John Ghanotakis, Amir Khan, and Timothy Trahan

Japan has not always been the most transparent country when it comes to highlighting corporate failures. With its top-down hierarchical structure and close political and business ties, embarrassing issues have often been swept under the carpet.

This, coupled with a passive media and a shortage of investigative journalists, means that boardroom scandals, safety failures, discrimination, and other problems are rarely seen until the problem becomes so big that it can no longer be contained.

So how does all this impact young professionals today?

Whistle-blower legislation supposedly provides a fig leaf of protection here in Japan. Yet, especially among young professionals who have the most to lose in terms of their future careers, there are very few brave souls who would dare speak up against large corporates. But corporate scandals aside, many young professionals also fear for their futures, due to the larger social, economic, and political issues that impact the environment in which they work and live.

With this awareness, many young professionals are asking what they can do in their companies to make a difference and help change things for the future. While the CSR programs of some companies are more self-regulation- and compliance-related, other companies pride themselves on funding or promoting external programs for social good. The programs cover a broad area, from supporting charities and education to seeking legislative changes as well as workplace regulation.

Many of our members, and much of the ACCJ membership, joined volunteer projects in the Tohoku area to assist in providing support and supplies to the towns and villages devastated by the March 2011 quake and tsunami.

While company budgets facilitated the logistics of going to the devastated communities, it was the leadership and on-the-ground activities of the individual employees that really made a difference. These people showed that corporations feel a responsibility to contribute to society, particularly to communities that have been affected by a disaster. The activities continue and many are spearheaded and supported by young professionals looking to utilize their leadership skills and take part in teamwork outside the office.

Some of our members have had CSR-related items included in their offer letters and considered that inclusion as an important part of taking a new job.

Change can happen top down through strong leadership and corporate change, or from the bottom up through pressure of the media, social action, workforce action, or voting. Either way the importance of, and need for, change for the better is fueling many companies’ drives for a more friendly interactive approach.

However, the broader concerns of young professionals go beyond the scope of CSR. Understanding corporate change and learning how to develop synergy between the environment and the corporate business world will help these leaders of the future have a better sense of how everything is related, even if sometimes less directly.

With this goal in mind we recently arranged a presentation by TEPCO about the changes and awareness that developed following the failures at Fukushima, and how these have resulted in a more responsible and safety-conscious approach.

Many of the young professionals who attended heard how one of the most traditional Japanese companies has elected a foreign female to their board, and how she is driving the company’s internal and external programs of change, transparency, and accountability.

In addition, for September we have scheduled a presentation on charitable involvement, participation, and opportunity by ARK founder Elizabeth Oliver MBE. This will be a great chance for young professionals—whether or not currently taking part in their companies’ CSR activities—to learn how to get involved in charitable work and contribute to the greater society.

In today’s busy world, there are few opportunities for individuals to make a difference to their companies or society. That makes it doubly important to hear about success stories like these, and to learn how easy it is to become involved.

A company’s future and strength lie in its employees and young professionals, who will lead the company and shape it for the future. With a greater awareness among tomorrow’s leadership concerning the importance of running a responsible business, we can all hope for a much brighter future. •

ACCJ EVENT Clifford Rosenberg, managing director of LinkedIn Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, will give a presentation on September 10 at the ACCJ entitled “Transforming the Way the World Works with Social Media.” To be co-hosted by the Young Professionals Committee, the event will provide insights into the role of social media in business. For more details: www.accj.or.jp

1 2 3John Ghanotakis (chair), Amir Khan, and Timothy Trahan (vice chairs) are members of the ACCJ Young Professionals Group Subcommittee.

Many young professionals are asking what they can do in their companies to make a difference and help change things for the future.”