Dialogue with Thought LeadersFulfilling the Corporate Philosophy with a Focus on the SDGs

Contributing to the Resolution of Global Issues with Innovative Technologies and Advanced Materials

With a history stretching back to 1926, the Toray Group has come a long way thanks to its spirit of contributing to society through its business.
In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted at a United Nations Summit, designating 17 global social issues as targets that the entire world should work on together.

With this background, in 2018 we again invited some important thinkers to exchange views on Toray’s corporate philosophy and the SDGs with members of Toray’s Board of Directors and other Toray leaders.

Milestones in the Toray Group’s philosophy

Toray was launched to manufacture rayon (rayon made of wood pulp was the world’s first chemical fiber).
Yunosuke Yasukawa, who founded the company, stated his hopes that the company would generate “major benefits for the national economy.”
Company principle of contributing to society established.
Corporate philosophy, “Contributing to society through the creation of new value with innovative ideas, technologies and products,” established.

Milestones in the Toray Group’s philosophy

Thought leadersFront row

Kaori Kuroda, Executive Director, CSO Network Japan
Tetsuo Kondo, Director, UNDP Representation Office in Tokyo

Toray Industries, Inc.Rear row

Yukichi Deguchi, Executive Vice President and Representative Member of the Board, General Manager, Corporate Strategic Planning Division (center left)
Hideki Hirabayashi, Vice President, Chief CSR Officer, Director, General Administration & Communications Division (center right)
Shigeki Taniguchi, Vice President, General Manager, Personnel & Industrial Relations Division (second from the left)
Toshiyuki Nonaka, General Manager, Global Environment Business Strategic Planning Department (left)
Toshinori Hara, former General Manager on Special Assignment, Life Innovation Business Strategic Planning Department (right)
Naohiko Yamasaka, General Manager, Environment & Safety Department (second from the right)

Hirabayashi :We believe that companies must take the expectations of diverse stakeholders seriously and manage operations accordingly in order to be essential to society in the medium to long term. At the same time, it is not enough for us to simply see society’s expectations for the perspective of our daily operations. This is a truly important opportunity to hear the views of these two thought leaders, who are so familiar with the global social issues which Toray is expected to help resolve going forward, especially when it comes to living up to our corporate philosophy, “Contributing to society through the creation of new value with innovative ideas, technologies and products.”

In last year’s dialogue, the thought leaders we invited stated that Toray should articulate its long-term vision with reference to the SDGs, recognize the importance of human rights due diligence, and pursue initiatives encompassing the supply chain. In the year since then, we have put in place the Toray Group Sustainability Vision, which includes quantitative targets for 2030, and established the Toray Group Policy for Human Rights.

I hope that this time you will give us recommendations on the points related to the SDGs that we should strengthen as we work to resolve global issues.

SDGs and Toray Initiatives
  SDGs Toray Initiatives
End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Green Innovation businesses (Roll PlanterTM pilot project)
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • Life Innovation businesses
  • Preventing air pollution at plants (Reducing atmospheric emissions of chemical substances)
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Supporting science education at schools
  • Holding workshops at the Science Museum, etc.
  • Providing awards for science teachers via the Toray Science Foundation and Toray science foundations in three Southeast Asian countries and South Korea
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Initiatives for advancement of women (Toray Industries, Inc.)
  • Supporting events to develop female students in science and engineering majors
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Green Innovation businesses (Securing drinking water using water treatment membranes)
  • Water usage management at plants
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Green Innovation businesses (Supporting the widespread use of renewable energy)
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Helping employees maintain work-life balance
  • Promoting employment of persons with disabilities and the elderly
  • Respecting human rights through the Toray Group's CSR Procurement Guidelines, etc.
  • Establishment of Toray Group Policy for Human Rights
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Providing grants for young researchers via the Toray Science Foundation and Toray science foundations in three Southeast Asian countries and South Korea
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Green Innovation businesses (Wooden roof reinforcement with aramid fiber Kevlar®, etc.)
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Green Innovation businesses (Bio-resource utilization / promotion of product recycling)
  • Reducing wastes at manufacturing sites
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  • Green Innovation businesses (Curbing CO2 throughout product life cycles)
  • Reducing CO2 at manufacturing stage
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • Preventing water pollution at plants
  • Green Innovation businesses (waterless printing technology)
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Initiatives under the Toray Group Biodiversity Basic Policy
  • Survey on bio-based raw materials in procurement
  • Initiatives under the Toray Group Basic Policy for Increasing Green Areas (Greening at plant sites, etc)
  • Environmental preservation activities at head office and plants
  1. Note: Roll PlanterTM is a registered trademark of Mitsukawa Co., Ltd. Kevlar® is a registered trademark of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.

The Toray Group Sustainability Vision—Helping to Achieve the SDGs

Kuroda :It is very significant that you have now set out your vision for 2050 and setting specific quantitative targets for 2030. Even when the future outlook is not completely certain, establishing aspirational targets has a great deal of impact due to your position as a leading company.

Kondo :Speaking as someone who is involved at the UN in promoting private-sector partnerships to achieve the SDGs, Toray’s corporate philosophy has long reflected your aim to give back to society through the creation of new value. I truly feel that Toray is constantly striving to identify the value it can offer the world. I believe it is extremely important that you make sure that your efforts to raise business revenue in your main operations naturally lead to contributions to the SDGs.

It is estimated that the effort to achieve the SDGs will create US$12 trillion (about 1,300 trillion yen) annually in corporate business opportunities by 2030.

Deguchi :Right now, Toray is determining the major new business themes for the future that will support the Toray Group going forward and is engaged in a variety of related group-wide projects. The majority of these themes, such as resolving global environmental issues and contributing to health and longevity, are directly related to the SDGs.

In this sense, although the SDGs are a recent development, Toray has actually been working to resolve the global issues the SDGs target since much earlier, as part of its efforts to achieve its corporate philosophy. I think this means that Toray is well positioned to help achieve many of the goals. However, I would like to see Toray go beyond its current achievements. With the SDGs as the global agenda of the international community, Toray ought to strive to make even greater contributions in order to more completely fulfill its corporate philosophy.

Kuroda :The Toray Group has been involved in addressing global issues for many years in line with its corporate philosophy, and it has already made substantial contributions to the areas targeted under the 17 SDGs. To take it higher, you would be well served by enhancing the integration between your identified material issues and the SDGs. Moreover, one of the most important features of the SDGs is inclusivity, emphasizing that no one should be left behind. I hope that Toray will grow its business with all people in mind, including the populations of developing countries.

Yamasaka Setting targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions was an extremely important and difficult task in formulating theToray Group Sustainability Vision. Since Toray is a materials manufacturer, our energy consumption is very high at chemical plants and other sites, so our greenhouse gas emissions are inevitably substantial. We have grappled with this troubling situation by repeatedly trying different solutions.

Hirabayashi :Toray has a corporate culture that embraces repeated and serious discussion of the conditions we face and examines and sets targets with the conviction that we can achieve them. Given that climate change is a truly grave global issue, we set challenging quantitative targets to express our commitment to really making a difference.

Kondo :It is extremely difficult to grow a business while reducing CO2 emissions, but in Toray’s case, the fight against climate change has become a business opportunity. I think that Toray is in the midst of a paradigm shift, reexamining its existing values while working on its initiatives.

Aiming for True Innovation

Nonaka :Using innovation to grow our business while fulfilling our responsibilities to the environment definitely helps to achieve the SDGs and also represents a business opportunity. It gives employees a sense that they are participating on the job in the SDGs effort, which makes them even more motivated and encourages them to keep working hard.

Hara :In other sectors such as healthcare, medical costs inevitably rise as healthcare advances are made; yet as demands that medical costs be reined in mount up, these advancements themselves become an issue. We sense these contradictions in business quite often, but true innovation is able to resolve these kinds of contradictions. We want to create breakthroughs with truly innovative solutions, while obtaining the cooperation of people in the public sector.

Initiatives to Promote Respect for Human Rights Worldwide

Kuroda :The world expects global companies to fight climate change and ensure respect for human rights along the supply chain. In such circumstances, it is also very significant that the Toray Group Policy for Human Rights was established in fiscal 2017. Respecting human rights in the overall supply chain means formulating and then publicizing a solid policy, the initiatives you will take for suppliers, and how you will handle any negative human rights impacts.

Taniguchi :Several of the 17 SDGs are related to employment issues. We have traditionally valued hiring, and we have very much emphasized our dialogue with labor unions in the process.

Taking action on the comments made by the thought leaders at last year’s dialogue, in December 2017 we established the Toray Group Policy for Human Rights. Our business stretches across Asia, including China, India and Southeast Asia, as well as countries in the Middle East, Europe, North America and South America—and must therefore be sensitive to an extremely broad range of human rights approaches and cultures. We intend to ensure that our human rights policy is incorporated into our operations in all of the countries in which we do business.

Our supply chain is very broad in the fiber/textile and other businesses, so we will start nearby and work outward from there.

Securing Enough Revenue to Provide New Value for Society

Kondo :If I could share a metaphor, I would describe a company’s goal of raising revenue as not simply to provide dividends, but to climb the “mountain” of offering value to society. Making this climb requires energy, and I think that revenues represent this energy.

Imagine a double-decker bus climbing this mountain of offering value to society. On the second deck of the bus sit the people who take a long-term view, craft overall strategies, and give instructions. On the first desk, we have people who monitor what lies right in front of them and steer safely, people who collect fares from the passengers, and other team members who play various roles. The strengths of all are required to get the bus up the mountain.

I have high hopes that everyone at Toray will further accelerate efforts to boost business earnings, while strengthening contributions to social issues, so that we can make major contributions to the achievement of the SDGs.

Hirabayashi :Thank you very much for all of your thoughtful observations.
Toray will use these valuable insights to run the company in a way that directly responds to social expectations.