Highlight: The SDGs Committee
Group-wide SDGs Activities to Solve Social Issues
Based on the company motto "Sincerity and Creativity", the Lintec Group incorporates the SDGs* into its management and strives to contribute to solving social issues through its core business. The SDGs Committee and its West Japan Subcommittee are committed to organizing group-wide activities to achieve the SDGs.
- *SDGs: Stands for Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted by the United Nations in 2015. The SDGs comprise 17 goals and 169 targets to be achieved by 2030 as a set of common goals for the international community. To achieve the SDGs by 2030 and thereby realize a better world, various countries and entities around the globe are expected to hold discussions and take action.
Activities in the Past
The SDGs Committee was established in fiscal 2018, with the Aggressive CSR workshops launched in fiscal 2015, the forerunner of the committee. The purpose of the committee is to generate innovation within Lintec by solving social issues through business activities. For the Lintec Group, innovation is linked to "Creativity" in the company motto, "Sincerity and Creativity." To make a proposition that is a step ahead of customers, we need to read the future based on social issues and take action.
The SDGs Committee consists of members from a wide range of departments, including research, production, and sales. The members have acquired knowledge on megatrends*2 and the SDGs from scratch. Taking inspiration from the SDGs, they came up with new business ideas and new developments for existing businesses in small groups, which were reviewed and refined at the committee level. The members bring back what they learned from these activities to each department, thereby serving as "evangelists" who spread the messaging of the SDGs throughout the company.
- *Megatrends: Global societal trends
Voice of SDGs Committee members
Being a member of the SDGs Committee was a valuable experience for me in a number of ways. One was meeting new people from various other locations and departments, which I usually don’t get the chance to do at the head office, where I work. I was impressed by the variety of unique ideas presented to the committee, and became excited to imagine all the many more people with different thoughts and ideas within the Group, as those I met represent only a small portion of the entire workforce. I believe such a diversity of unique ideas will bring about many more interesting things.
As a member of the committee, I had to obtain a lot of new knowledge to accomplish my tasks. While working on a team, I became aware of what kind of knowledge and skills I needed, and set out to acquire them by myself. I even became deeply absorbed in these activities without thinking about it. I think I discovered a new side to myself, one that is driven by a studious and practical mind.
When I first heard about the concept of backcasting, I thought it was a very strange idea. I couldn’t understand its purpose or methodology―how can we start by defining a future, which is essentially an unknown quantity? But then I grasped the point of the idea, which is about envisioning a desirable situation, and, having recognized the usefulness of this new tool, became eager to use backcasting in performing tasks. At the same time, however, I found it difficult to teach people outside the team how to use this method. Many of them tried to use it but ended up working with forecasting.
I engaged in formulating a long-term vision, and a major challenge for this task was to establish an ideal future vision. In order to work on business planning effectively from the perspective of the SDGs, it is thus important to routinely think of visions and ideals for the future. Having one or more visions for the future is the key to smooth progress in the planning process.
I participated in a project in which all necessary activities, including learning and reporting, were carried out online, which was a first for me. Each of the members of the project team served as leader in turn, and I was assigned to the role for a determined period of time. Although I struggled to perform my duties, particularly the collecting and organizing of the opinions of individual members, I was able to build a relevant skill set. This rotating leadership system provided the team with a fair platform for opinion exchange as it gives all members, including those who may find it difficult to share their opinions in an online meeting setting, an opportunity to present their opinions while they are serving as team leader. The system also helped ensure an appropriate workload allocation within the team.
Our team occasionally had drinks together online, which helped create a friendly atmosphere. I recommend having small group gatherings, with or without alcohol, as a setting to encourage communication.
I first thought that non-business conversations should be avoided in online meetings, but later I began to feel a need to devote substantial time to such activities for the purpose of team building in an online setting, which is more important than in a normal, offline workplace.
The team had a tough time using the backcasting method effectively, particularly in establishing future visions for society and Lintec. Envisioning future situations from unknown variables is very difficult, thus giving rise to an irresistible tendency toward forecasting based on present, known variables. To remedy this issue, we went over it again and again with a consciously strong focus on backcasting, but the outcome was invariably a weak, unconvincing scenario lacking an effective link with the present-day Lintec. But we persisted in making cut-and-try efforts to tackle this challenge, believing that backcasting scenario planning is essential for the team and Lintec to promote effective SDGs activities that will contribute to society.
On a personal note, participation in the SDGs Committee helped me become more sociable. Being shy with new people by nature, I previously tried to avoid meeting new people at work or at home whenever possible. Despite this, when attending committee meetings, I found myself feeling fairly good and enjoyed working toward a common goal with lots of new people, each with different strengths and skills in areas such as communication, statistics, and information technology. I was particularly inspired by the strong dynamism generated by our diversity, which suggested a creative potential to produce new and interesting things after the SDGs-related projects come to an end. I am thankful to the SDGs Committee for helping me develop confidence in socializing with people. I now feel more comfortable talking with people and positive about building new relationships.
When engaging in the SDGs project, I tried to describe future visions using the backcasting method, which I found was a difficult challenge. Applying this method is not hard for small-scale planning, for example, for a venture with less than 10 people, where it is easy to share future visions and make progress even without precise designs. However, the same process is much more difficult to carry out in a large corporation, where it is necessary to lay out detailed plans, obtain approval from many parties, and mobilize large teams to implement the project. I struggled a lot, though without much success, to apply backcasting appropriately, trying to restrain the natural tendency we have to revert to forecasting. Major issues lie in the difficulty in establishing desirable future visions due to our inability to foresee the future and in controlling the tendency toward forecasting, which is suited to handling foreseeable factors.
What most impressed me when attending SDGs Committee meetings was the range of unique characteristics possessed by the other members, who were brought together from different departments to work on the grand theme of achieving the SDGs. This impressive diversity is not simply attributable to differences in organizational affiliation, but is more associated with the wide-ranging values and thoughts of different individuals. This was revealed as various views were expressed on the company’s grand SDGs project, and they spanned a wide spectrum from being negative and hesitant to supportive and advocative. Despite such disagreement, all members joined forces to advance toward the common goal, coming up with a course of events that could offer a dramatic story.
On a personal note, as a result of studying the SDGs in depth as part of my committee activities, I naturally began to develop a general outlook on things, even at home, shaped by the viewpoint of the SDGs. My now-routine SDGs-aware attitude and viewpoints are not limited to Goal 5, the target of our team, but extend to other goals.
Other important findings from committee activities were related to the importance of looking at things from a different angle. The same world can look different when you are doing something you have chosen to and when you are doing something you are forced to. I think achieving the SDGs requires a complete overhaul in how we think. To do this, we need to develop a new point of view.
I am still struggling with backcasting. In a constantly changing world, the backcasting scenario planning process is hard to implement. Having established a future vision, you begin to use backcasting to schedule actions to implement in order to achieve the vision, and the next moment you find yourself going back to forecasting. As the world is constantly changing, we need to continue to respond to the changes (updating) while trying to keep an eye on an uncertain future. When you have set a goal and begin to create a scenario to approach it, you won’t be able to resist the temptation to use forecasting. As such, we try to make corrections (updates), but have yet to produce satisfactory results. Our team is satisfied with the present version of our future vision, but will need to keep it updated in response to new developments, trying resist the tendency to forecast. This is not an easy task.
It often happens that I understand something well but have difficulty putting that understanding into action, which is very frustrating. Yet, through team activities, we have begun to involve people outside the team in a covert manner. Specifically, we hold sample making sessions to arose interest in our activities, and are gradually producing results.
Proposal of New Business Ideas by the SDGs Committee
The SDGs Committee has been working on the creation of business models that solve social issues through the core business. The committee was to make a report to top management in March 2020, but the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a change of plans and an online proposal meeting was held in October.
In the meeting, four teams proposed new business models for the company that aimed to solve social issues and ensure profitability at the same time.
To make the proposals, members first learned about the SDGs, sustainable societies, and the backcasting method. Then, each team envisaged the ideal state of the company, taking megatrends into account, and created a business model as a strategy necessary for the achievement of the ideal state. All teams held discussions with the help of not only a range of supporters inside the company but also external universities, research institutes, businesses, NPOs, and NGOs. They proposed a broad and diverse range of ideas, without being bound by existing businesses and technologies of the Lintec Group.
All ideas proposed by the teams were examined by top management to decide how the ideas should be handled and how to proceed. Many of the ideas proposed have been subject to further discussion and, in addition to the committee, Production Div, the Research & Development Div, and other business divisions have joined the research and discussion.
- *Backcasting: A method to consider what to do today by setting a future status that can be a goal and thinking backwards to the present
Activities of the West Japan Subcommittee
"The West Japan Subcommittee was established in July 2020, drawing members from the Osaka Branch Office and four plants in West Japan. Eleven members from various departments formed two teams. While unable to get together in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they engaged in online activities via a process of trial and error.
The West Japan Subcommittee first acquired basic knowledge, like the SDGs Committee had in the past, and shared the awareness that the SDGs are still not standard in the Lintec Group. Then, all employees kept their eyes open for social issues, and each team held discussions on what we should do to link the SDGs to our actions. In March 2021, they made proposals for company-wide SDGs-related activities to the officer in charge and their own supervisors.
One of the teams included in their proposal four steps for company-wide SDGs-related activities, namely "understand the SDGs", "learn about Lintec", "promote interaction between different business sites", and "connect with stakeholders", and laid out 10 actions to take for each step. The actions expected not only the input of knowledge by each employee but also behavioral changes through output.
The other team proposed a points-based system that would generate broader interest in the SDGs and social issues and encourage people to take action. Ideas that would lead to various activities were offered in the hope of making the SDGs standard throughout the company.
When the members reflected on the activities of the West Japan Subcommittee, their feedback included comments on the realization that they were learning something new and starting to take ownership of the issue, indicating that the members themselves went through a transformation.
The Lintec Group formulated its long-term vision, LINTEC SUSTAINABILITY VISION 2030, toward the target year of 2030 for achieving the SDGs. The key initiatives include contributing to the achievement of the SDGs through business activities. The entire Group, including overseas group companies, will continue to take action.
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