October 31, 2007


Exploring Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Management with the CSR Compass Network -- E-Square Inc.

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.62 (October 2007)
Toward a Sustainable Japan--Corporations at Work Article Series No.65

CSR Spreading in Japan

In the field of sustainable business management, "CSR" - the abbreviation for Corporate Social Responsibility - has become a familiar byword in recent years. Since about 2003 and on a background of globalization and growing awareness of environmental crises, the CSR concept spread rapidly in Japan as an important part of business management. A series of corporate scandals was also part of the background on which companies were urged to further contribute to society and restore public confidence.

Prior to this, in 2000, E-Square Inc. was founded to help companies establish environmentally friendly management and apply business innovations. The company currently has about 20 employees. As the CSR concept spread throughout the country, E-Square began providing support on corporate socially-conscious activities and added a CSR management consulting service. In the fields of CSR, sustainability, and environmental business, the company completed about 300 projects between 2001 and 2006. In this article of the JFS newsletter, we introduce the efforts of E-Square and the CSR Compass, an inter-company networking service specializing in CSR management.

E-Square Inc.

The name "E-Square" refers to squaring the "Es" of Economy and Ecology. Based on these two Es, its business is divided roughly into two areas: supporting individual companies on strategy development, communication, human resource development, marketing and business development, and managing its inter-company network.

E-Square's consulting services start out by helping clients establish a vision. Some companies want to incorporate the CSR concept into their management philosophy; others want to know what measures they can take to build an environmental vision, for example by setting a target year of 2020. Responding to these growing demands, E-Square supports each individual client from the initial establishment of its strategic vision through actual CSR management. After clarifying the vision, the company helps the client draw up roadmaps for the medium- and long-terms as the next stage as a way of discovering how to achieve the vision. Once the client's strategy is established, E-Square provides the client with consultation on internal and external communication, staff education, development of products and services, and marketing.

In the course of its consulting work with individual clients, E-Square realized that regardless of business category or company type, clients shared many common factors in the fields of prerequisite information about business practices and the concept of sustainability. E-Square also realized it would be a good idea for clients to share experiences and know-how among themselves, and that in addition to direct information-sharing, a communication platform would also be required to provide discussion opportunities on CSR management with a variety of stakeholders, not just those in business sector. These ideas took shape as the CSR Compass, an innovative corporate network for CSR business management.

The CSR Compass

The CSR Compass, just started in April 2007, is a corporate network that includes an information platform tailored to support CSR management. At the inauguration of the network, E-Square welcomed the participation of the following eight big companies as launching partners: Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. Inc., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Sekisui Chemical Co., Fujifilm Corporation, Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Mitsubishi Corporation, Idemitsu Kosan Co., and Nissan Motor Co. As of October 2007, there were 67 member companies altogether, with all of them operating global businesses. Satoko Ekberg, Director of E-Square Inc., is proud of way the CSR Compass now comprises one of the world's most innovative paid-membership information services and of the scale and diversity of its member companies.

The CSR Compass incorporates five services altogether, four on its website - Global Benchmark, Members' Benchmark, Stakeholder Radar, Executive Briefing Note - and the CSR Leadership Meeting, which offers networking and discussion opportunities.

Both Global Benchmark and Members' Benchmark exist to introduce best-practice cases by leading companies in the world and in Japan. These two services organize and analyze cases falling into eight categories of CSR management requirements, such as "Vision, strategy and commitment" and "Governance and management systems;" they are also organized into business types and areas. The entire collection of best-practice case studies is available as an information database.

Stakeholder Radar provides a variety of information on trends and movements by stakeholders in sectors surrounding the business environment. This service introduces articles by opinion leaders in NGO/NPOs and think tanks, and analyses of trends in the U.S., EU and Asia. Executive Briefing Note presents articles analyzing key global developments written by Peter D. Pedersen, President of E-Square. Thus, CSR Compass offers information on CSR in Japan and the world that is comprehensive in both quality and quantity. In addition to the services on its website, the CSR Leadership Meeting offers opportunities for member companies to discuss specific topics for a deeper understanding.

By providing well-organized information focused on CSR, CSR Compass is a helpful tool for further promoting CSR management. Some member companies say that CSR Compass serves as a strong incentive to facilitate CSR management in the whole company, because it objectively presents major efforts being made by leading companies in Japan and the world. The CSR Compass has also been praised highly by CSR departments in companies that are struggling without support from their upper management.

Ekberg thinks that CSR Compass performs a worthwhile service, saying, "For CSR management, it is important to have broad knowledge and deep insight. By interviewing experts and collecting information for CSR Compass, we can look at CSR management issues from different angles, and that gives us a wider and more well-balanced perspective. By keeping our eyes open, we can observe the flows through which small movements can create a global trend." For example, she explains that recently in the United States, individual movements addressing greenhouse gas emissions among private businesses, citizens/NGOs, governments and the financial sector have been coalescing into a trend and creating huge momentum.

"CSR Compass is also very valuable because as many as 67 large Japanese companies that are working hard on CSR management are participating in it. We'd like to make it a place where not only companies but also diverse stakeholders including NGOs and research institutions get together to exchange information and have wider discussions about CSR management from various perspectives," said Ekberg, expressing her expectations for the future of CSR Compass.

CSR Management in the Future

Based on its accumulated know-how and experience through E-Square's consulting work and CSR Compass, what tasks does the company think CSR management will have to take on in future? Ekberg says, "Recently, Japanese companies have deepened their understanding of CSR management and have been making greater CSR efforts. However, they are still unsure about setting out longer-term visions and strategies, for example, on how to prioritize tasks for responding to environmental issues and social needs. Meanwhile, leading companies abroad have accumulated experience through actively communicating and collaborating with outside stakeholders such as NGOs, and getting different perspectives. Japanese companies also need to work with a variety of stakeholders, just as foreign companies do, in order to get more ideas for further topics to be considered and on how to respond to issues promptly and appropriately."

E-Square hopes to serve as a guide and propose CSR management methods that are better suited to each company by discussing the role of CSR with its clients in various fields of business and by staying a few steps ahead of current trends, Ekberg says. E-Square will keep working hard, hoping to see the day when Japanese companies will increase their presence in global society and lead the world in practicing CSR management and creating a sustainable society.

(Written by Noriko Sakamoto)