Sustainability | How the Public Sees Us

Third-Party Opinion

藤井 敏彦 氏

Toshihiko Fujii
Visiting Professor
Tama Graduate School of Business

TDK's Sustainability Report 2020 presents the most substantial content of any such report to date. In his Top Comment, TDK President Shigenao Ishiguro expresses a commitment to integrate the two vectors of economic and social rationality. Bringing these vectors into alignment will require input from multiple viewpoints, including digital transformation (DX), energy transformation (EX), and also customer experience/consumer experience (CX). This indicates that the company's sustainability initiatives have advanced to a new stage. I would like to comment on what I see as the central issues facing TDK's initiatives from this point forward.

My first suggestion would be that TDK could rethink the notion of materiality so that it more clearly provides a basis for economic and social rationality. Such an "Integrated Materiality" would identify areas and markets where management resources are to be focused to align business goals and the resolution of social and environmental issues through its business activities.

As TDK is a company in possession of many latent and emergent technologies that could give rise to entirely new applications or use cases, a certain amount of serendipity may facilitate unexpected innovations. Exercising caution, therefore, may be necessary to reduce the tendency to set rigid limits and impose wide buffer zones. TDK would be well-served to maintain a focus on its North Star. This could be its vision of the world wherein business logic and social rationale are one and the same. I believe that companies need to maintain open space to develop into, so that people will ask with anticipation: "What is that company going to do next?"

I would like to bring up another point regarding "Integrated Materiality", that of prioritization. It is no easy task to prioritize the materiality of social and environmental impact. The degree of difficulty is compounded when integrating business logic. No one way is the "correct" answer. All employees must participate in thinking about this, and perhaps this process of thinking itself is, in itself, the reason why prioritizing has meaning. This could help in the self-transformation that Mr. Ishiguro means when he says, "We ourselves must change."

Next, I want to discuss creating a system in which SDGs inform the company's core business. Each TDK Group company should think of stories of how its technologies, products, and solutions help resolve issues. This is a wonderful initiative. The effort invested in describing a comprehensive story should greatly contribute to the management of integrated goals.

In addition, TDK's strengths in its global human resource policies have always been a noteworthy part of its sustainability initiatives, but I would like to highly praise the advances TDK has made: In the harmonization of its global evaluation system among all groups and to publicize this matter. This program offers a model for other Japanese businesses.

In closing, I would like to state my expectations of TDK in the context of the Covid-19 crisis. This global pandemic has made clear that people do not act rationally, in the true meaning of that term. Rationality is, at best, an instrument of reason to realize one's goals. However, when the future becomes completely unknowable, or when we learn that our society can suddenly change on such a massive scale, we must revise the way we think about our world. Under these circumstances, the most 'rational' stance we can now take is to keep an open attitude about our future. I expect that TDK, with the myriad possibilities of its technologies and products, can contribute to the creation of a new post-corona world.

To be sure, today's businesses must consider the evolution of society. While rationality still has value, as management moves forward the limits of rationality must be considered as well as the relationship between constructivist approaches and the inherent randomness of the world. I offer my most sincere support for TDK's quest to explore how it can "create value among our products and technologies to help solve society's problems" in this very difficult world.