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Sustainability Story
Stakeholder Dialog YKK AP Sustainability

YKK's founder, Tadao Yoshida believed that companies should serve local communities and people, and YKK AP has inherited this idea and applies it in its business activities. Megumu Murakami, author of SDGs Nyumon ("Introduction to SDGs", published by Nikkei Business Publications, Inc.) and other books, and an expert in ESG investment and climate change risks at The Japan Research Institute, Limited, talks to our president, Hidemitsu Hori, about YKK AP's sustainability initiatives.

YKK AP Sustainability

Megumu Murakami

(Senior Manager, Center for the Strategy of Emergence, Japan Research Institute, Limited)

Hidemitsu Hori

(President Representative Director, YKK AP)

Megumu Murakami

The Japan Research Institute, Limited Senior Manager, Center for the Strategy of Emergence

Hired into the Industrial Bank of Japan (current Mizuho Bank) after graduating from the Faculty of Law, Kyoto University, before joining the Japan Research Institute in 2003. Specializes in ESG (Environment, Society, and Governance) investment support, climate change risks and finances, etc. Her recent work, SDGs Nyumon ("Introduction to SDGs"), has been published by Nikkei Business Publications, Inc.

Murakami:When I visited the experience showroom, not only did I encounter the good performance of your products, but also noticed that many of the products can contribute to SDGs.

Hori:The value of our products might be hard to be delivered just by looking at them, but their value becomes clear when you actually experience them. I think that is why the experience showroom has been rated even more highly than we expected. Windows with good thermal insulation performance are known for saving energy, but they also provide health benefits, important in this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

Murakami:Peopleʼs concerns have shifted.

Hori:Thatʼs right. People are becoming more interested in ventilation. An important theme is air flow, in which ground - level windows bring in good air and higher windows release interior air outside. Windows have an important role in maintaining health.

Murakami:I am never sure when to open the windows in pollen season.

Hori:We provide a lot of information related to windows and doors on our website, including how to open and close windows and effective ventilation methods. As well, we are working on the development of doors with 3D face recognition and contactless handles. These are useful crime prevention technologies, but with the coronavirus pandemic, there are increasing numbers of people who want to avoid touching door handles, so we can expect demand to grow.

Megumu Murakami

Murakami:Do you have products specific to overseas markets?

Hori:In the U.S., we produce and sell hurricane resistant windows. Since 1996, when hurricanes caused a tremendous amount of damage, certain standards have to be met in order to get insurance. In Japan, using shutters with high wind pressure resistance is an effective way to prepare for a typhoon.

Murakami:Products that save energy and protect against natural disasters also make a house feel safer and comfortable, which contributes to overall wellbeing.

Hori:As you suggest, how we live at home is more important than ever. The number of people working from home is skyrocketing. Our ways of living at home are changing. Instead of people working at the office and then spending their off -time at their houses, people are now working long hours in their houses. Interest is also growing in the performance and functions of a house. Until now, many people did not really know what their houses were like during the day, but now more and more people care about it and want to change the daytime brightness, temperature, and so on.

Murakami:You have also established headquarters operations in Kurobe, Toyama. What was behind that?

Hori:After experiencing the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, we started thinking about our risk response should something happen in Tokyo, and so we established headquarters functions in Kurobe. In other words, it was a case of business continuity planning (BCP). As coronavirus infections have increased in Tokyo, our Kurobe Countermeasures HQ has been able to rapidly respond to the coronavirus problem, with excellent results. Another major plus has been that by moving to Kurobe, we have been able to remind ourselves why the YKKʼs founder, Tadao Yoshida, created the YKK Group. The winters are very cold there, but when the snow melts with the arrival of spring, the meltwater begins to flow and we have the opportunity to experience beautiful natural surroundings. It makes us realize that this natural environment is where true value resides. Conducting business for the sake of the local environment and for people was at the core of Tadao Yoshida's thinking.

Murakami::In Sweden, where efforts toward SDGs have been advanced, the environment is considered as the foundation for human lives and economic activity. You have this mindset long before the idea of SDGs arises.

Hori:Tadao Yoshida put many ideas into practice, including investing to protect the environment. Placing great importance on the natural environment, by planting trees around a factory to create a "factory within a forest," for example, is exactly the kind of thinking that Tadao Yoshida embraced.

Murakami:The idea of doing things "for the environment and for the people" is inherent in many of the 17 goals of the SDGs. The idea of doing things “for the environment and for the people” is inherent in many of the 17 goals of the SDGs.

Conducting business for the sake of the local environment and for people was at the core of Tadao Yoshidaʼs thinking.

Hidemitsu Hori

Hori::In that sense, we have already made much progress on them. Recently, however, we have also come to realize that we failed to anticipate natural disasters and other issues. The 17 individual SDGs are connected to our business in many ways, but this is not something that we can make the world appreciate or recognize. Rather, each individual employee must work to tie the goals to their business, and in that way, society will see and appreciate the value of that work.

Murakami:An example that we see from other companies is efforts to replace plastic products with better-quality products. In terms of SDGs, what was your companyʼs purpose in switching from aluminum to plastic window frames?

Hori:Vinyl windows have good energy-saving and thermal insulation performance, but they are derived from petroleum, and so in terms of recycling, aluminum is easier to work with. Therefore, at this point in time, plastic helps to reduce CO2 emissions, and the performance factor is important, but from the point of view of SDGs, any replacement material has to have good performance and also be good for the environment. It was at this point that we turned to wood materials. The wood must be from Japan, not imported. The reason for this is that traditional satoyama (cultivated woods) is disappearing, forests and human habitation are intermingling, and the forests are growing wild. What happens to these forests is of great importance in protecting the nationʼs land.

Murakami:Making use of lumber is attracting attention from a variety of perspectives.

Hori:Japanese cedar (sugi ) stops producing oxygen after 20 to 30 years, so we have to harvest trees that are ready to be harvested, plant new trees, and regenerate the system. We are also thinking of planting Japanese cypress for our use. Wooden windows have good performance, but are difficult to care for. Looking to the future, we are working on solutions, such as placing coverings on the exterior, wood that does not need maintenance, and exploring different ways to use plant materials.

Murakami:From the point of view of the natural environment, we have raised our expectations for wood materials.

Hori:The ideal solution is recycling, in which, for example, 100 percent of the products we deliver to customers are reused, including the plastic. A question is, how do you recover the materials? Also, how do we reduce packaging when it comes time to ship? We want to firmly establish mechanisms that make sustainability consistent with economic activities.

This conversation took place on March 23, 2020.

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