Editor’s note: The United Nations adopted 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) in 2015 and urged all its member countries to make efforts to achieve them by 2030.

The 17 include “no poverty,” “zero hunger,” “good health and well-being," “quality education,” “gender equality” and “climate action.”

But how should companies introduce those goals in their businesses?

The Asahi Shimbun interviewed 10 top executives of companies belonging to the Global Compact Network Japan (GCNJ), which mainly consists of firms supporting SDGs.

The following is the fourth of the series. The interviewee is Yoshihiro Hidaka, president of Yamaha Motor Co., a major boat maker.

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Yamaha Motor Co. is selling outboard engines throughout the word. It is also making efforts in developing countries, such as those in Africa, to exploit new markets.

We developed highly durable outboard engines for fishermen who were rowing their boats by hand to go to the offing. As the engines do not easily break down even with poor-quality fuel, fishermen’s fishing areas expand. Therefore, the engines contribute to heightening the economic levels of fishing villages.

However, our business does not end with the sale of the engines. Our company’s employees remain in the villages for the time being for maintenance.

In addition, we have introduced fishing methods, such as longline fishing and dragnet fishing, to fisherman. During the period from 1977 to 1995, we published a newspaper-style “Fishery Journal,” which introduced Japanese fishing methods and fish storage methods with illustrations.

The next step is boats. My company is also manufacturing boats made of fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP). If fishermen use wooden boats, the quality of fish they caught may deteriorate by the time they return to port. If boats are equipped with facilities to store fish in cold conditions, they can keep the fish fresh. As a result, fishermen can sell high-quality fish in distant places. The productivity of fishermen drastically improves.

By manufacturing boats in those countries and raising engineers, we can also generate new employment. As these fishery-support activities have gained high praise in developing countries, we’re also going to spread these activities positively from now on.

What I’m feeling now is that young employees’ awareness toward social contribution is heightening. I think that if society is filled with goods and education is sufficiently implemented there, a desire to make the entire society better will spread. Making it clear that what they’re doing is leading to solutions for social problems is useful to maximizing the motivation of young employees.

Activities for social contributions will not continue for a long period if they are conducted on a voluntary basis. The activities must come into existence as a business while solving social problems. The coexistence of the two factors is a condition to be able to continue the activities.

Motivation and a sense of mission are important for young people. In addition to these, corporate managers are required to judge whether the activities can come into existence as business opportunities. If they can make the judgment, they can tackle projects while predicting circumstances of five years or 10 years later.

I think that activities for SDGs will also contribute to companies’ brand strategies.

My company is also engaged in installing small water purification systems for providing safe water in countries, mainly those in Africa. It installed a total of 24 systems in 12 countries by the end of 2017.

The business has produced few profits. But we’re continuing to do the installations, thinking that we want people in those countries to have good impressions of the Yamaha brand in places close to their daily lives and become familiar with it.

(This article is based on an interview by Asahi Shimbun Staff Writer Satoshi Kimura.)

ENGAGED IN ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ACTIVITIES

Yamaha Motor is Japan’s largest company in the marine business, such as the production of outboard engines and boats. It is also manufacturing motorbikes and helicopters for agricultural purposes.

The company is advocating a “Kando-creating company” as its corporate purpose. (Kando means simultaneous feeling of deep satisfaction and intense excitement that people experience when they encounter something of exceptional value.)

In December 2017, the firm expressed its participation in the United Nations Global Compact as part of its efforts for SDGs.

In Japan, Yamaha Motor is engaged in activities to protect loggerhead sea turtles, an endangered species, along the Enshunada sea area's coast in Shizuoka Prefecture, where its head office is located.

It is also tackling activities to clean Hamanako lake in the prefecture and to conserve coral reefs in Okinawa Prefecture.