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Why purpose has moved to the top of the business agenda
Responsible Business

Why purpose has moved to the top of the business agenda

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Minoru Okajima — July 2020
From the Covid-19 pandemic and economic meltdown to climate change and digital disruption, we are living through volatile times that raise questions about the wider role of business. Fujitsu Vice President Yumiko Kajiwara argues that companies must now demonstrate a clarity of purpose that aligns their activities with society’s priorities.


Q: Faced with high levels of uncertainty and major societal challenges, how well are businesses responding?

I’m actually seeing new types of economic activities, the kinds motivated by creating sustainability for future generations rather than merely focusing on the interests of shareholders. For example, more companies are engaging in projects that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and the investment to support such endeavors is also growing.

There is also increasing awareness of a shift — perhaps most evident in the US — from shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism. Apart from shareholders, other important stakeholders include communities, supply chains and employees, as well as customers — the immediate beneficiaries of products and services from vendors. At last year’s meeting of Business Roundtable, the US association of top CEOs, 181 executives committed their companies to this shift. Also, the 2020 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos held a similarly themed session.

In Japan, the government’s Council for Science, Technology and Innovation proposed Society 5.0, a human-centric vision of society in which economic growth goes hand in hand with solutions to social challenges. The Japan Federation of Economic Organizations, too, supported the vision, defining it as the “Imagination Society” that focuses on creativity and social co-creation.

It’s worth noting that traditional Japanese businesses have always been comparatively sensitive to societal concerns, as expressed in sampo yoshi, or the benefits that flow from any transaction — to the seller and the buyer, but also to society. It also embraces the management philosophy that “business is a public institution of society,” one that is integral to the “goodness cycle.”


  About Yumiko Kajiwara

Yumiko Kajiwara

Yumiko Kajiwara is Fujitsu Limited’s head of diversity and inclusion, head of sustainability promotion, and vice president responsible for ‘The FUJITSU Way’ and collaboration with government. Since joining Fujitsu, she has also held senior roles with the IP, legal and HR divisions.

 

 

Q: Is that why Fujitsu has chosen to reaffirm its purpose this year?

Fujitsu is currently transforming from an ICT company to a Digital Transformation (DX) company. We are trying to become a partner that not only provides technology and services but also engages in digital transformation with customers and other stakeholders. To be a trusted partner, one needs a clearly defined purpose.

It is, to quote: “To make the world more sustainable by building trust in society through innovation.” The aim is to inform   all our stakeholders of what Fujitsu stands for and how we can benefit society. It’s our raison d’être: our management philosophy and mission statement all rolled into one, and something around which all management policy, business strategy and services will align.

Notably, ‘trust’ has been part of Fujitsu’s DNA since its founding. Our presidents over the years have repeatedly touched upon it. Trust is imperative in the digital age, and even more so as AI becomes ubiquitous. Of course, as technology matures, it can have both positive and negative impacts. That means it’s up to companies to understand all aspects of the technologies they develop and take responsibility for how they are used
.


Q: How do you ensure that this is implemented across a global workforce of 130,000?

It’s important for employees to reflect on their actions to ensure they align with our goals. Every worker has to internalize our purpose so they can spontaneously communicate it to others.
 
In his classic book, Management, Peter Drucker related the story of the three stonecutters who were approached and asked what they were doing. The first answered: “I’m earning a living by cutting stone.” The second didn’t even look up, but said: “I’m doing the best job of cutting stone of anyone in my profession.” The third, however, had the look of a visionary as he replied: “I’m building a cathedral.”

 
The allegory shows that people doing the same job can have vastly different views. Probably, the most motivated stonecutter would be the one who is aware of the purpose of building something that benefits the entire community.


“Yumiko Kajiwara”


Q: Given the growing awareness of the challenges facing mankind, does Fujitsu’s purpose resonate with employees and customers?

I think so, especially among millennials and Generation Z. There are many in these generations who are more interested in contributing to society than just making money. Unlike people who’ve lived through periods of relatively high prosperity, the defining moment for younger generations in Japan, for example, might have been the Great East Japan Earthquake, especially if relatives or friends were impacted by it.

That’s why they ask themselves what they should do in these uncertain times. They are also likely to react to the coronavirus pandemic. When a generation with such sensibilities becomes the bedrock of society, companies that don’t adhere to their way of thinking will be shunned.

Q: A core aspect of the Fujitsu corporate philosophy is promoting diversity. What is your role in that?

For several years, I have worked to implement diversity and inclusion policies throughout the company. When brainstorming with our global team about an appropriate internal vision message for diversity and inclusion, we chose: “Be completely you.” This means that a person should be able to realize their full potential in a corporate setting.

It draws on the notion of “psychological safety.” If someone doesn’t feel safe in the workplace, they can’t be 100% effective. For that reason, we must provide a workplace where an individual can work in their own way, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. Diversity and inclusion mean respecting every colleague’s individuality while maximizing abilities and talents. If we can’t do that, it’s going to be harder for us to discover or create new business value
.


Q: Are there diversity and inclusion challenges that are unique to Fujitsu’s home country of Japan?

 The idea of everyone working toward the same goal, almost exclusively speaking the same language and drawing on the same cultural references was very successful during the high economic growth period in Japan when productivity was the first priority. However, in this age of uncertainty when the traditional ways of thinking don’t always provide the answers, new perspectives and ideas are called for.

Innovation requires different views and sensibilities. Then again, homogeneity in the workforce is not necessarily all bad. It’s useful sometimes to have everyone on the same page in case existing business values created by technology and related services need to be maintained and enhanced. So rather than choosing between uniformity and homogeneity, we should understand the merits of each and stay balanced
.

From a more global perspective, though, Fujitsu has a wealth of relevant expertise and technologies, including its quantum-inspired Digital Annealer, Explainable AI, 5G and blockchain. And true to our purpose, we aim to leverage them all to help solve the problems afflicting society, which in the end will benefit our customers and stakeholders
.

Read more about the Fujitsu’s Purpose, Values and Code of Conduct in the FUJITSU Way.

First published July 2020

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