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Dialogue 2018

The NTT Communications Group is creating opportunities to conduct discussions with various stakeholders, with the view to engaging in a dialogue that facilitates closer communication.

CSR Activities Contributing to the SDGs

Kaori Kuroda, Excecutive Director, CSO Network Japan / Eiichi Tanaka Executive Vice President, Chairperson of the CSR Committee

In today’s global community, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) upheld by the United Nations as universal goals are becoming widely recognized as a major focus of corporate management. While it’s no longer uncommon for companies to link SDGs to their businesses or CSR activities, there is less confidence in how to take the next step forward. With our eyes firmly on our future as a global ICT company, NTT Communications is exploring ways to address the needs of the global community. We invited Ms. Kaori Kuroda, Executive Director of CSO Network Japan, to participate in a dialogue on the challenges that lie ahead and what the future holds.

SDGs Win Broader Recognition in Last Three Years

 

Kaori Kuroda, Excecutive Director, CSO Network Japan / Eiichi Tanaka Executive Vice President, Chairperson of the CSR Committee
Tanaka
Thank you for participating in this dialogue for the third consecutive year. In retrospect, the SDGs have gradually gained recognition in Japan over the past three years. From the standpoint of the central government, which has actively promoted these goals, more work may lie ahead in terms of convincing local governments as well as small and medium-sized enterprises. However, I feel that, in general, recognition and understanding of the SDGs have grown significantly over the past three years.
Kuroda
In particular, an increasing number of large Japanese companies are including contribution to the SDGs in their own goals, and there is strong interest in initiatives such as the “SDGs Future Cities,” in which central governments recognize and grant subsidies to municipalities that come up with excellent proposals for achieving the SDGs. I am glad to see that SDG initiatives in Japan are gathering momentum.
Tanaka
Japan will have even more opportunities to think in global terms, with the approach of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and after winning the bid to host World Expo 2025 in Osaka. It is noteworthy that Tanaka: Japan will have even more opportunities to think in global terms, with the approach of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and after winning the bid to host World Expo 2025 in Osaka. It is noteworthy that the stated purpose of the Osaka, Kansai Expo is to bring about a society that achieves the SDGs. Japan is striving to squarely address the SDGs by the 2030 deadline, and I imagine the expo will be a venue for sharing the country’s initiatives with the world.
Kuroda
Actually, with the goal of managing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games along the lines of the SDGs, specific themes have been set, including “Towards Zero Carbon”, “Zero Wasting” and “Celebrating Diversity”. And I expect that efforts made under these themes can be widely recognized and consequently further raise awareness of the SDGs among the general public’s awareness of the SDGs. As for NTT Communications, you have linked the priority areas of your CSR activities with specific SDGs. How deeply has that taken root at your company?
Tanaka
The NTT Group has declared its full support for the SDGs as a means for creating ample opportunities to discover the relevance of the SDGs to business operations. As a result, we have been able to connect the priority areas of CSR activities in NTT Communications to specific SDGs. We must now advance to the next stage, and this has become a significant challenge.

 

Pursuing CSR Activities based on Global Standards

 

Kaori Kuroda, Executive Director of CSO Network Japan
Kuroda
In last year’s dialogue, you spoke about reinforcing CSR initiatives with an emphasis on global standards.
Tanaka
As a global ICT company, we have arrived at a stage where we must further commit ourselves to resolving social issues in Japan as well as overseas. Meanwhile, we must advance CSR activities that comply with global standards if we are to develop an even stronger presence in overseas markets, which in turn would help us manage business risks. For example, the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 embodies global standards requiring legal compliance and gave us—a company with an office in London—the opportunity to accelerate our initiatives with due consideration to labor and human rights issues in the supply chain. We established NTT Communications Guidelines for CSR in Supply Chain in 2013, and, with respect to new suppliers selected after fiscal 2018, we incorporated appropriate consideration for labor and human rights issues into the screening criteria applied before engaging in business with them. Moreover, we created a new mechanism to ensure similar levels of consideration among our current suppliers by including compliance with NTT Communications Guidelines for CSR in Supply Chain in 2013 into our contracts. We request our major suppliers to complete questionnaires in an effort to ensure compliance.
Kuroda
Incorporating these issues into a contract is much more difficult than it sounds. NTT Communications does not unilaterally seek compliance from its suppliers; it has also been enhancing its reliability and transparency as a supplier by registering with EcoVadis, which provides CSR assessment services globally, and consequently received a “Silver” rating. It seems to me that you have been very straightforward in pursuing these activities. Now I’d like to know how you would respond to the discovery of a possible human rights issue further down the supply chain.
Tanaka
To date, no such issues have come to light, but should we find a contractual violation, we will impose appropriate penalties and work with the supplier to reach a solution, depending on the gravity of the issue. Supply chain management has been an extremely tough area to tackle, and there will always be room for improvement. But the British legislation and demands from business partners has given us the opportunity to put into place the necessary foundations for doing business overseas.
Kuroda
As seen in the establishment of the Due Diligence Law on human rights in France in 2017 and the Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018, the trend toward requiring companies to respect human rights is expected to gain additional momentum in the years ahead. Respect for human rights lies at the very foundation of the SDGs, and 90% of the 169 targets are related to human rights and workers’ rights or, in other words, just labor practices. But even so, human rights still tend to be left out of corporate discussions, which is why I admire your stance and have high expectations that you will continue to lead and encourage other companies with your initiatives.

 

Supporting Educational Reform in the Philippines in Collaboration with an NPO

Kuroda
What progress have you made in pursuing CSR activities that contribute to the global community?
Tanaka
In terms of our global CSR activities, in 2018 we saw the full-scale launch of a project for addressing educational needs in the Philippines. What makes this initiative special for us is that it’s being undertaken in partnership with an NPO. The initiative originated from our aspiration to contribute to local communities in a visible and positive way as a company engaged in overseas business. In reality, however, it’s quite difficult for us to constantly maintain direct involvement in social issues abroad while also engaged in our daily operations. So, we decided to link up with a local NPO that is already doing excellent work in the Philippines and to combine our strengths with theirs in the hope of creating a completely new movement.
Kuroda
Under the SDGs, such an effort is equivalent to Goal 17: achieving the goals through partnership. Why did you choose the Philippines for this project?
Tanaka
First of all, the education gap associated with poverty is a major social issue in the Philippines, and education is an area in which we can easily apply our ICT expertise. We also have a partner company there, which facilitates local backup. Given this background, we searched for an NPO that would be our best partner and found a candidate in e-Education, which has been working to improve educational outcomes in 14 Asian countries through video-based training. We received a firm response to our proposal from them. The basic idea is for us to support e-Education’s activities by providing ICT solutions that lead to improving education in the Philippines. In finalizing our action policies and establishing a supportive organization, we sought applications from our employees. Fortunately, many of them raised their hands out of a passion to do good, noting that that’s why they had joined the company. In the end, about 30 members became involved in the project.
Kuroda
I truly feel that this is a wonderful project. Not only is it a CSR activity, but it starts with the major goal of resolving the problem of education in the Philippines and is being conducted through the voluntary participation of highly motivated employees. For these reasons, I think it’s an excellent example of the “outside-in” approach, with which goals are set to meet actual social needs.

 

Developing Activities Suitable for Replicating across Asia

Kaori Kuroda, Executive Director of CSO Network Japan
Tanaka
This activity began in June 2018. We repeatedly conducted interviews with e-Education, and our members, who were divided into six groups, and we hold workshops to select individual issues and formulate specific proposals for ICT-based improvements. We have narrowed our focus to three proposals and plan to hammer out the details of deployment through direct exchange with the Department of Education of the Philippines. In a separate move, we started donating 200 tablets to the Department of Education in November 2018. They will be used to provide e-Education’s video-based classes and manage the study programs, and to test our proposed models for ICT improvement.
Kuroda
What ideas do you have for the project?
Tanaka
There is a national program in the Philippines called the Open High School Program (OHSP), which offers students a second chance to obtain a diploma if they have not been able to attend school or have dropped out as a result of poverty. However, a problem has emerged: the OHSP teachers are also basically teaching classes at schools during the weekdays and providing students who need to work on weekdays with free classes on the weekends, making it difficult for them to keep track of progress being made by each student. One of our ideas for solving this is to apply ICT to develop a matching system for teachers and students. We have other ideas too, such as deploying a bus to serve as a mobile ICT classroom for students who live far from school and using AI robots to motivate students. None of these ideas have moved beyond the drawing board, but we’re taking the approach of closely listening to local needs in project design. Moreover, e-Education is an NPO that provides support in multiple countries across Asia, so we intend to develop initiatives that will ultimately spread to other countries. Serving the entire region would become too difficult to manage on our own, so we anticipate collaborating with organizations such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). We must not forget, though, that these projects shouldn’t fizzle out in the event we are no longer able to provide funding. We believe that our ultimate goal is to enable the Filipino people to advance and accomplish their educational reforms at their own initiative while utilizing our help for their futures. And this would lead to the creation of the sustainable society envisioned by the SDGs. We also hope to set a successful example through our activities so that many similar initiatives can be launched in other countries and regions.
Kuroda
You have lowered the barriers between the government, NPO and company by upholding the shared goal of improving the educational environment in the Philippines and are seeking to effectively reflect local needs in your activities. From this perspective, I think it’s a model project founded on the “Leave no one behind” principle of the SDGs. The good thing about the SDGs is that they provide a common language across the world that is relevant beyond borders, generations and sectors. Without such a common theme, perhaps we wouldn’t be able to grow out of our conventional “inside-out” thinking based on utilizing corporate strengths. In fact, there are not yet many examples in Japan of collaboration between companies and NPOs. Companies may provide funding, but the formation of partnerships is still quite rare. In that sense, I see great promise in this partnership between NTT Communications and e-Education. You spoke of your wish to expand your activities to other countries in Asia, and I can’t wait to find out how the project pans out three or four years from now.
Tanaka
We will do our best to meet your expectations. Our activities in the Philippines seem to be increasing employee motivation, too. By continuously involving a wide variety of people, both inside and outside our company, we hope to nurture these activities so they yield results that raise the level of our CSR activities as a whole.
Kaori Kuroda, Excecutive Director, CSO Network Japan / Eiichi Tanaka Executive Vice President, Chairperson of the CSR Committee
Kaori Kuroda, Executive Director of CSO Network Japan

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