from:  http://www.keidanren.or.jp/

The Spirit of Self-Help

Chairman of the Board of Councillors, Nippon Keidanren
Adviser to the Board, Toshiba Corporation

There was a certain executive who made the words "self-help" his lifetime motto.

The executive was Mr. Koji Kobayashi, known as the savior of NEC Corporation for his success in restoring the company to prosperity, who passed away at the age of 89, about a decade ago. Born in an isolated village in the mountains, Mr. Kobayashi worked his way through school, determined to succeed in life. Today, he goes down in history not only as a great engineer but also as a dynamic businessman with an international perspective. "Jijo," or self-help, a book of reminiscences about Mr. Kobayashi published in his honor on the first anniversary of his death, extends over 850 pages. Within its pages, you can find his words: "Be aware that the "jijo," the spirit of self-help, is the driving force for the development of human beings and society."

Although social security is an essential measure to ensure people's safety and security, the spirit of self-help is necessary to provide the foundations. And yet, people tend to argue that, "If the degree of public assistance is cut even slightly, the quality of social security itself could deteriorate," even while recognizing the need to control ever-increasing public expenditure and to restore central and local government to a sound financial footing. However, isn't it too bad if we forget the spirit of self-help and come to rely solely on public assistance? To my way of thinking, self-help should come first, as the base; mutual aid should come next, and public assistance should come last.

Last October, Nippon Keidanren made the following suggestion on provision of medical services: "With limited resources from insurance premiums and tax revenues, the public medical insurance system needs to ground itself more in mutual aid and personal responsibility. The system has to be streamlined by cutting out excessive and unnecessary medical care, and to focus benefits on medical services for those having a difficult life or facing a life-threatening situation due to serious disease or injury." If we are to reduce total public expenditure on healthcare without lowering the quality of services, it is important to work out a plan for streamlining on one hand, while also compensating for expenditure reductions by cultivating a culture of self-help and mutual aid.

In future discussions of social security programs, it might be necessary to come up with proposals to increase the overall resources available for the social security by increasing the portions derived from self-help and mutual aid; to introduce competition into healthcare services; and to enhance the quality of services accordingly.

Besides implementing social security reform, first we have to make a serious effort to regain our spirit of self-hel


Japan as "Ethical" and Technological Power

  Mitsuo Ohashi
Co-Chairman of Committee on Asia & Oceania, Nippon Keidanren
Representative Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Showa Denko K.K.

The terrifying night that I spent in a bomb shelter as Tokyo sustained a major air raid. The difficulty in obtaining food after the end of the war when I had to appease my hunger with poor meals of flour dumplings in soup. Memories of that miserable state of Japan 60 years ago still haunt me.

Today Japan is an "economic power" and has been called that way for many years, despite the collapse of the bubble economy and the worst postwar recession it has gone through. It is astonishing, however, that the Japanese people have lost moral sense in exchange for affluence in material. To recover that moral sense should be the top and urgent priority for our nation.

The issue of corporate ethics has been raised in recent years and lively discussions are going on about the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR). However, we should consider the matter from the viewpoint of Japanese society as a whole. I am sure the ethics problem has resulted from the nation's failure to teach everyone to fulfill his/her obligations to society, which I call "personal social responsibility" (PSR).

Each member of Japanese society must earnestly tackle this task, taking every opportunity that may arise at one's home, school or workplace. We in the business world should take the initiative in encouraging each employee to conduct business affairs to the highest ethical standards. This will not only serve the national interest but also lead to prosperity of respective corporations.

There can be various methods for achieving that end. After all, however, it is a matter of establishing a corporate culture in which employees are convinced that no unethical conduct whatsoever is tolerated in the corporations they belong to.

With limited territory, population and natural resources and no possibility of becoming a military power, it is not easy for Japan to strengthen its presence in the world: particularly in Asia, which is very important for Japan in the 21st century.

Nevertheless, the goals we should pursue are obvious.

First, Japan must lead the world in the development of technologies that will give benefit to all mankind, becoming a "technological power."

Secondly--this is the point I want to stress in this article--, Japan must establish itself as a model of keen sense of morality, becoming an "ethical power."

I believe Japan will be able to earn the respect and trust of international society in the true sense of the word only after accomplishing these two goals.


Manifesting a Corporate Conscience

Vice Chairman of the Board of Councillors, Nippon Keidanren
Chairman of the Board, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.

I say this with a feeling of self-reproach but I feel that we do not hear the word "conscientious" used much any more these days. I believe that words such as "conscientious product" or "conscientious service" may be just about the best praise a company can receive from customers who have great trust in the products, services and conduct of the employees.

Therefore, what is first needed for a company to "manifest its conscience" is to be thoroughly customer-oriented and offer products and services of high quality and value in its core business. Related to this, providing an appropriate, quick and, most importantly, sincere response in the event of a quality problem or misconduct, which should of course never happen, is another example where the conscience of a company is in evidence. In addition, a company, being a social entity, should proactively fulfill its responsibilities and mission as a corporate citizen for the betterment of society. Along with various social action programs, I believe that the attitude of a company as a sponsor of TV programs is also very important and a concrete example of what I mean. There are so many variety and comedy shows on TV these days. It is certain that such programs are necessary, but I feel that having only such programs will surely not result in enriching humanity. I feel that sponsors need to carefully examine the contents of TV programs. This surely is another way for a company to manifest its conscience.

Nowadays, we see that many vicious crimes and acts of abuse occur where innocent children are the victims. We have also observed a string of events where the raison d'etre of a company and the morality of the management and employees have come into question. Bad manners in public places are also too much in evidence. I cannot help but feel the desolate state of Japanese people's minds when viewing such phenomena. It seems that we are losing the noble set of values and fine customs that Japanese people used to possess, such as "diligence," "patience," "earnestness," "propriety," "mutual help," "sense of public morality," the feeling that "children are a treasure of society," and the belief that "a child cements a marriage." I hope that all of the people in society will work together to somehow regain these virtues. To achieve this, I believe that companies are strongly obligated to seriously think of ways to manifest their conscience and then carry through by taking concrete action. I firmly believe that as more and more companies are judged to be conscientious, the better direction society will take