Photo/Illutration Signboard of Hitachi Ltd. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Hitachi Ltd. will abolish all its “hanko” stamp seal requirements for office procedures within fiscal 2021, the company announced on Oct. 26.

It said it will swap hanko seals with electronic signatures for use in approving documents.

With more of its employees working at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, this will allow employees not to have to trek back to their offices just to stamp physical documents.

The company also said it aims to drastically reduce the volume of office paper it uses annually by 70 percent, or 500 million pieces of paper, made possible thanks to the policy change.

Hitachi group has about 130,000 employees in Japan, excluding members of its listed subsidiary companies.

The group typically runs through about 700 million pieces of paper every year. It set a goal to reduce the figure to 200 million in fiscal 2020 by ending its hanko requirements and increasing the number of employees teleworking.

Hanko stamps are used widely across the country to officially sign documents, in addition to using a signature.

It is in many instances a legal requirement and a cultural tradition that dates back hundreds of years.

Hitachi will conduct a review of its office task procedures and create a system to complete them online, bringing an end to the hanko seal culture in its offices.

The company will also raise the hanko issue with its partner companies.

The move by Hitachi, a major heavy industry conglomerate, is expected to influence more companies to follow suit.

The government has been pushing hard to end the hanko stamp culture in offices. Government offices are reviewing their hanko requirements with an eye to abolishing them.

Suntory Holdings Ltd., a major beverage manufacturer, recently announced that it will digitize most of its hanko approval practices in its offices and with its partner companies by 2022.

Information technology companies, such as Yahoo Japan Corp., Mercari Inc. and Line Corp., use e-signatures instead of hanko stamps.