A sporting approach to sustainabilityNovember 23, 2011
Masato Mizuno, Chairman of the Japanese sports manufacturer Mizuno Corporation, is strongly committed to environmental protection – in sports as well as in business.
Interview by Marcus Schick
T Magazine: The sporting goods industry may not be the first one that people think of as having a strong link with sustainability. Why do you as a company consider this to be such an important concept?
Masato Mizuno: Sport has a huge impact on society. It is a vital part of our communities and is something that is important to all of us for entertainment, health and social cohesion.
At the same time, if we continue to destroy the environment, there will be no ecosystem for the next generations. As a company, we see sustainability in an integrated way. We must be a role model for others.
This is why we take all measures possible to promote awareness of the impact that environmental damage can have on us. This is especially important in Asia’s fastgrowing economies.
Why is sustainability so important for Asia’s fast-growing economies, and do you see much evidence that they are doing enough about it?
There are still big differences in the economic development of Asian countries. Some have been growing extremely quickly during the past few years.
Governments and major company leaders in those markets are trying their best to integrate sustainability into business practice. Unfortunately, some countries still face issues, such as air pollution and the rapidly expanding usage of water.
But with the increase of media and world attention on the environment, most countries and major companies in Asia now know the reality and are beginning to take action.
What steps is Mizuno taking to enhance the sustainability of the company and its products?
We at Mizuno are working to achieve a sustainable society and therefore have enacted a CSR Basic Philosophy and a CSR Vision.
Our philosophy is to help people lead a more affluent and comfortable lives by:
- Providing better sporting equipment, places and opportunities for playing sports to all, regardless of nation or race
- Conducting business activities in a transparent and fair way
- Proactively addressing labor and human rights issues and global environmental problems toward the realization of a sustainable society.
Our vision is to be an organization that is trusted and needed by all stakeholders, by thoroughly emphasizing fair play, friendship and fighting spirit, and proactively working to realize a sustainable society and preserve the Earth’s environment.
What are the two or three most influential factors driving these efforts?
We defined three spheres:
- Business management that responds to social expectations. The specific areas of our activities are customer satisfaction, stakeholder satisfaction and social contribution.
- Business management toward the realization of a sustainable society. The specific areas of our activities are CSR procurement and conservation of the environment.
- Business management that responds to social trust. The specific areas of our activities are corporate governance, compliance, internal control, risk management and disclosure to stakeholders.
It is often said that sustainability requires “tone from the top.” How do you integrate sustainability into your management ethos and values?
First of all, we do not have one charismatic leader who is responsible for the entire company. Charisma can be good for short-time efforts, but will not replace a sustainable strategy.
Therefore, we try to spread the responsibility across several individuals and collect different ideas and influences before making decisions.
In addition, we have an internal education program, which enables every employee to participate in lessons especially prepared for their division for
30 minutes weekly.
We seek to conduct our business activities in a transparent way, adhering to laws and regulations, and respecting social norms in all countries and regions.
This requires us to have a strong risk and controls framework to ensure that, as a company, we follow the J-SOX laws and internal requirements. (J-SOX is the informal name for a new legislative framework of internal controls over financial reporting (ICFR) that falls within the scope of the Japanese Financial Instruments and Exchange Law).
The importance of these values also influences our marketing decisions. When choosing athletes for sponsorship, we try to make sure that they share our values.
Only by respecting these values will we be able to build strong relationships among our stakeholders, who are very important to us.
Such a relationship based on trust and friendship can only function through good and honest communication with each other.
The Japanese economy is still recovering after the economic crash of the 1990s. What are the lessons from that period, and do you think that Japanese companies are now more sustainable in their approach to growing their business?
When I became the President of Mizuno in 1988, it was probably the best time for the Japanese economy. During these boom years, we expected even more growth for the future and invested a lot of time and money into our business.
But with hindsight, I have to say that I made big mistakes back then. If you wanted to be a good CEO, everybody expected you to spend a lot of money.
The focus was on expansion, without much thought given to the consequences. But since then, we have learned our lesson.
Between 1996 and 2006, we wrote off all our debts, restructured our business, and outsourced parts of our production to China and South East Asia.
What do you think about tax incentives to encourage companies to become more sustainable? Do these affect your business?
I support the idea of those tax incentives with all my heart. In Japan, we have one tax for all companies that enables the Government to invest in sustainability.
There are also plans to introduce a green tax in the future. This tax will be calculated specifically for every company according to its achievements in sustainability.
I agree with the introduction of this law, because with tax incentives coming along, it makes investments in sustainability more attractive and punishes those who do not help to protect our environment.
The financial crisis made many investors focus more on risk management than they might have done in the past. Do you believe that sustainability can help decrease risk?
Risk management can help to minimize the risk of damage to the environment and the company.
But on the other hand, we will never be able to eliminate all risks. We are surrounded by risks all the time and have to learn to live with many of them.
If you look back to your own life: what has been your most important effort in sports?
I think sports play a big role in society and we can learn a lot from it. My grandfather, a great sportsman, established Mizuno in 1906 and soon encouraged me to compete as well.
I started my sports life as a football player; to be honest, sometimes as a bench warmer. During winter, I enjoyed skiing and used to serve as a ski patrol to rescue people in trouble.
These days, as the head of Mizuno and the Vice President of the Japanese Olympic Committee, my life is still focused on sports.
My work with the Olympics Committee makes me extremely proud to be part of a team that has combined sports with culture and environmental protection.
We have created an Olympic movement in Japan with an excellent image that upholds all the most important sporting values: the search of excellence; competitive spirit; friendship and fair play.
The next step would be to host the Olympic Games in Japan in 2020 and show the world the greenest games possible. This would be the greatest personal success in sports to me.
Masato Mizuno, Chairman of Mizuno Corporation
“Sport is my life,” says Masato Mizuno. His grandfather, a passionate sportsman, established Mizuno in 1906. Masato was made President of the company in 1988.
He is not just a businessman, but is also an avid supporter of the Olympic Movement.
Masato Mizuno, who has a strong commitment to environmental protection, is member of the IOC and of the IOC Sport and Environment Commission.
The Mizuno Group
The Mizuno Group, comprising the Mizuno Corporation, its 17 subsidiaries and three affiliated companies, is primarily engaged in the manufacturing and marketing of sporting goods, including baseball, golf and other sports equipment, sportswear and footwear.
The Group, with headquarters in Osaka and Tokyo, also operates sports facilities, including golf schools and futsal (five-a-side soccer) courts. The Mizuno Corporation was founded in 1906 by Rihachi Mizuno in Osaka.
The company started out as a manufacturer of baseballs and gloves, then later branched out into other sports including tennis, football and athletics.
It has established factories in Germany, France, China and the UK. Today, the Mizuno Group has more than 5,800 employees worldwide.
This article was first published in the Ernst & Young T Magazine 05 special edition which can be accessed using the link below: