Message from the Executive Officer in Charge of CSR & Communication
環境?社會貢獻擔當 三宅 香
An Unchanging Retail Business Mission Grounded in Our Basic Principles
Amid the spread of COVID-19, Aeon places the highest priority on the safety of our customers and employees in our mission to support the daily lives of our customers through the provision of products and expanded services.
In recent years, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many other problems, such as flood damage caused by typhoons and abnormal weather that reaffirm my sense of gratitude for being able to live a normal life. Aeon’s basic principles include the keywords “peace, people and local communities.” The word “peace” has its origin in the words “open in scorched earth,” which were written in a flyer distributed by Honorary Chairman Okada announcing the opening of a store in a burnt field after the war. Upon reading the flyer, a customer offered words of support, saying “thank you, this means peace has returned.” This is when he realized that “the retail industry will not prosper unless there is peace.”
COVID-19 is not a local phenomenon like natural disasters, it affects everyone and it appears there is no end in sight. However, no matter what the emergency may be, we always put customers first, as Aeon is grounded in the basic principles of pursuing peace, respecting human beings and contributing to local communities. We engage in our daily activities with a recognition of the significance of being closely connected to the everyday lives of our customers.
Responding to Changing Times
Our business has been significantly impacted by COVID-19, but this does not mean that Aeon’s work or business will change. To adapt to changes in society in line with our basic principles, I think it is important to utilize Aeon’s comprehensive strengths to advance further innovations.
30 years have passed since Aeon launched the “Aeon Group” in 1989, and at present, we have grown to developing eight businesses in 14 countries. This is because, in line with changes in customer needs and society, Aeon is infused with the DNA of constant innovation. In response to economic deflation, a declining birthrate and an ageing population in the 1990s, we promoted the development of large shopping centers and drug stores in suburban areas, and in the 2000s, we responded to lifestyle diversification with “WAON” electronic money and established AEON Bank.
Since 2010, we have responded to diversification in the consumption environment, including increases in the elderly population and working women, while responding to megatrends by strengthening business development in growing Asian markets. Ascertaining global changes and changes in customer lifestyles, as well as viewing environmental and social issues from a long-term perspective, Aeon’s sustainable management is able to quickly adapt to changes and achieve sustainable growth from a long-term perspective, which we believe will lead to Aeon becoming a corporate Group that contributes to local communities. In addition, in order to put this sustainable management into practice, we are continuously strengthening the creation of a global CSR foundation. In 2004, we announced our participation in the United Nations Global Compact, the first retailer in Japan, and are proceeding with various initiatives.
Climate Change Initiatives from the Perspective of the Supply Chain
In 2018, Aeon announced the “Aeon Decarbonization Vision 2050” and has since been promoting initiatives to this end. The realization of economic value through business activities and contributions to the creation of social value are essential for the long-term sustainable growth of companies.
Aeon Decarbonization Vision 2050 efforts are centered on conserving energy by reducing the amount of energy use in stores and shifting to renewable energy. We are making steady progress, including the 2020 launch of two stores operating on 100% renewable energy. However, our goal is not to achieve decarbonization by ourselves, but to achieve decarbonization in a sustainable manner for Japan as a whole. Compared to 2018, when we announced this vision, society’s awareness of decarbonization has increased, but looking at the ratio of renewable energy used in Japan, my sense is that there are still many issues to be resolved.
Further, typhoons caused by climate change and floods caused by heavy rains impact food procurement, distribution and continued store operations, which we recognize are important issues. Regarding climate change initiatives, we conducted scenario analyses in line with TCFD in 2019 to examine risk assumptions and business continuity countermeasures. As a result, it became clear that climate change has a substantial impact on the food needed to sustain everyday life and that we needed to formulate a strategy that considered the impact of climate change on supply chains. At TCFD there were a variety of discussions between corporations and investors involving the 2°C target, and the most important factor for Aeon is making plans for product procurement and supplies that take climate change into consideration. Going forward, we will continue to examine supply chain risks from a global perspective in consideration of life with COVID-19.
Strengths Unique to the Retail Industry’s Direct Contact with Customers
In July 2020, mandatory fees for plastic shopping bags went into effect in Japan, but there are various opinions regarding the reduced usage of plastic shopping bags. For companies, are plastic shopping bags a problem because they pollute the oceans, or because they emit CO2. My sense is that the solution is different depending on how the problem is perceived, and the lack of a clear consensus on the appropriate measures only complicate the issue.
We have spent a year discussing approaches to the plastic issue within the Company. To take action as a retailer, it is important to take advantage of the most significant trait of the retail industry and involve customers in the decision-making process. Leveraging our strength as a Company that interacts directly with its customers, Aeon asked customers to join us in thinking about this problem, which will enable us to take action together. In 1991, Aeon launched the “Bring Your Own Shopping Bag Campaign,” and as of the end of February 2020, the number of stores that stopped distributing plastic shopping bags for free increased to 2,256. At these stores, the percentage of customers declining plastic shopping bags is 74.6%, showing strong customer support. I hope the mandatory fees for plastic shopping bags will give even more people the opportunity to think about environmental issues.
In terms of efforts going forward, Aeon places importance on (1) reducing and getting rid of as much as possible and (2) creating a recycling-oriented society. Although there are various technical and other issues involved in the recycling of plastic, as retailers we can become sales and collection bases that want to further promote recycling-oriented societies alongside our customers.
Practicing Sustainable Management
Today, the expansion and complicated nature of various global challenges are at an unprecedented level. Given these circumstances, I feel that there is an urgent demand to contribute as much as possible to environmental issues as well as local communities and to grow as sustainably as possible.
During the heavy flooding disasters of the past few years, customers showed up to our stores because they thought our multi-story car parks would be a safe place, resulting in a situation in which our physical stores were used as evacuation centers. While we of course support everyday life, Aeon itself cannot survive unless we are useful and necessary for our customers, even in times of emergency.
Aeon aims to become the corporate Group that contributes the most to customers and local communities, aiming for corporate growth as well as the resolution of environmental and social issues. Going forward, Aeon will continue to put the lives of our customers first amid all environmental and social changes, while practicing sustainable management with the aim of realizing a sustainable society and Group growth.