July 28, 2009


Stepping Up Efforts to Conserve Biodiversity--Ricoh Co.

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.82 (June 2009)
"Towards a Sustainable Japan -- Corporations at Work" (No. 80)

Ricoh's Biodiversity Conservation Policy

The 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity is to be held in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture in 2010. Stimulated by this and other factors, an increasing number of Japanese companies are launching or enhancing their biodiversity conservation activities. Among them is the Ricoh Group, a leading supplier of office and information equipment such as copiers and printers, as well as optical equipment and electronic devices.

Ricoh has long been active in promoting environmental management. It launched biodiversity conservation initiatives as early as 1999 as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, starting with a forest conservation project. Its participation in the Business and Biodiversity Initiative later spurred even greater involvement. This initiative was proposed by Germany when it hosted the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP 9, in May 2008, which adopted it. Companies signing its Leadership Declaration are required to play a leading role in conserving biological diversity.

Ricoh and nine other Japanese companies signed the declaration, and Ricoh formulated its Biodiversity Conservation Policy in March 31, 2009. "When preparing our Biodiversity Conservation Policy, we received a lot of advice from the international conservation organizations World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and Conservation International (CI)," says Harumitsu Mashiko, Manager, Environmental Communication Office, Corporate Environment Division, Ricoh.

Here we introduce a brief overview of Ricoh's Biodiversity Conservation Policy.


The Ricoh Biodiversity Conservation Policy

1. Business Management Challenges
Ricoh will make biodiversity conservation part of its environmental management policy, in view of its status as a major business challenge.

2. Impact Evaluation and Mitigation
Ricoh will work to assess, understand, and analyze the impacts on biological diversity of all aspects of our business operations, including raw material procurement, and undertake ongoing efforts to mitigate these impacts by applying numerical targets.

3. Implementation
From a combined perspective of biodiversity and business, measures will be prioritized and the most effective and far-reaching measures will be implemented first.

4. Technological Development Promotion
Aiming at the creation of a sustainable society, we will promote development of technologies that utilize biological resources, and enhance innovation in technological development and production processes that are based on wisdom learned from ecosystems and living organisms.

5. Collaboration with Local Communities
In collaboration with not only government agencies but also with local residents, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders, Ricoh will pursue activities aimed at conserving precious ecosystems around the world and biological diversity in the countries and areas where we conduct business, with an eye to sustainable development.

6. Participation by All Employees
Following the proactive approach adopted by management and company-wide measures to raise awareness, all employees will be encouraged to improve their understanding and awareness of biodiversity and also to participate in voluntary biodiversity conservation activities.

7. Promotion of Networking
Through activities conducted in cooperation with customers, suppliers, other companies, NGOs, and international organizations, we will share information, knowledge, and experience relating to biodiversity, and work to expand the network of biodiversity conservation.

8. Public Relations
Ricoh will actively make public our conservation efforts, including their actual results, to help increase momentum for biodiversity conservation in society at large.


The goal defined under the Policy's first heading, "Business Challenges" refers to the inclusion of biodiversity concerns in the company's environment code when it is revised in two years' time. This environment code is the authoritative foundation for Ricoh's environmental approach.

Mashiko says of heading No. 2 "Impact Evaluation and Mitigation," "We included these initiatives in our policy because they have not been tried yet. Developing the implementation process will be the hardest part." At present, not only Ricoh but also many other Japanese companies are having a hard time establishing an index for evaluating biodiversity. Every year Ricoh gives encouragement to group activities that contribute to promoting biodiversity and conducts qualitative evaluations. Mashiko continues, "We aim to set numerical targets in our action plan to mitigate negative impacts on biodiversity. This year we are focusing on creating a vision for these goals."

A new system is being developed for No. 3, "Implementation." The company will require all business offices to take biodiversity into consideration, something that has so far never been mandatory. It will also focus on immediate approaches such as paper procurement and employee training to enhance environmental consciousness.

Ricoh has in fact just marked its first step in implementing concrete action based on this policy.

Making a Social Contribution to Protecting Wildlife and Local Residents

Policy items 5 through 8 have already been implemented as part of overall environmental management. One example is the project to preserve a forest ecosystem started in 1999, as noted above. This project focuses on protecting local residents' livelihoods while protecting a variety of ecosystems and regionally endemic species of wildlife.

This project has been carried out at a number of sites where the company has worked together with or lent a helping hand to local community groups and international NGOs. In Japan, the company supports activities to preserve the biologically diverse Afan Forest in Nagano Prefecture and the Yambaru Forest, home to the Okinawa Rail (Rallus okinawae), a bird endemic to Okinawa Prefecture. Abroad, it supports the restoration of Borneo's tropical forest orangutan habitats in Malaysia, and the conservation of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas World Natural Heritage Site in China, home to the golden snub-nosed monkey, which lives in alpine habitat.

One distinctive project aimed at protecting people's lives in close relation to forests is being pursued in the Republic of Ghana. The country has traditionally practiced a cycle of clearing tropical forest, raising cacao and then repeating the process at a new site as the soil loses fertility. Conservation International launched a project to restore tropical rainforests through agroforestry, which Ricoh has supported since 2002. A specific type of cacao that grows even in the shade of other trees has been planted in the forest. This cultivation method has actually led to as much as an eight-fold increase in crop yields. Mashiko was enthusiastic about this successful example.

In order to make a contribution to the society and the environment in terms of biodiversity, Ricoh is promoting its employees' voluntary activities to preserve the environment and expand conservation networks through symposiums for raising social awareness.

Aiming to Reduce its Environmental Load to One-Eighth by 2050

In establishing its vision for the future, Ricoh drew up some projections about the society in 2050. By this time, the world population is expected to reach nine billion, which will probably result in enforced limits on the use of resources and land, with corresponding impacts on businesses. Consequently, the company has reached the conclusion that developed countries need to reduce the burden they place on the environment to one-eighth of today's values. Ricoh has set this as its extra-long-term goal.

Ricoh portrays a sustainable society in its unique Comet Circle frame format. (in Japanese)

This format portrays all stakeholders involved in production, consumption and disposal of a certain product as members of a circulation system. Mashiko explains that up until the present one major initiative has been to improve the circulation of resources within the system. He says, however, "This will not be enough when we think of society in 2050. We also need to review our business operations overall, giving particular attention to the production phase, and to reducing amounts of new raw material input."

Ricoh measures its environmental load by considering "integrated environmental impacts," a process that evaluates its various environmental impacts and functions as an integrated indicator. This indicator deals aggressively with environmental data on the impacts of each operational process -- not only manufacturing, transportation and maintenance, but also procurement of raw materials and after-purchase consumer use.

In addition, Ricoh thinks that reducing its environmental burden is not enough, but that working to protect biodiversity now is essential to maintain and improve the resilience of our planet, and make a sustainable society feasible.

Mashiko tells a story about what was behind the company's proactive initiatives on biodiversity; "What made us step forward was an employee who had ardently worked on this issue." The power of one person moved the whole company. This, together with good relationships with non-governmental organizations providing adequate advice, contributed to what Ricoh is doing today.

Ricoh's efforts for the environment will never stop. The company's environmental portal site dubbed "Gaiaia" communicates its vision to further promote employee awareness. The website mainly focuses on its employees, but access by stakeholders outside the company is also welcome. (Japanese only)

Mashiko says, "First we will encourage our employees to be more aware of the environment. But we know that our actions have limits. We want to expand the movement throughout society."

Written by Yuko Kishikami