If I can make a bit of money, will I be happy...?
It all began with that thought.
Sanyo Syoji Co., Ltd. was founded in 1947 and began its resource recovery recycling activities in 1957.
The company has been recognized for its keen awareness of problems relating to environmental conservation (certified by the Ministry of the Environment as an Eco-First company, etc.), and is actively involved in dealing with problems related to our everyday lives and the environment.
Sanyo Syoji president Hiroyasu Ueda speaks about the work and attitude of the company.
The Word of a Young Worker
Hello. I'm Hiroyasu Ueda. Something that one of our young workers said to me recently left me speechless.
"Even though I wanted to deal with environmental problems, when I was looking for a job I went around many of the different companies in the industry and most of them referred to themselves as "garbage collectors," which I found really disappointing.
The awareness of society with regard to recycling is increasing, and people have high expectations of the industry. Recently, we are finding that graduates from national and public universities and famous private universities are deliberately selecting and applying to join companies in the industrial waste recycling industry.
These people have studied fields such as environmental biology, environmental economics and environmental psychology, and want to put to work what they have learned for the benefit of society.
Despite the demands of the age in which we live, the industry is still very much in the development stage, and there are many problems that still need to be solved.
Although Sanyo Syoji has been designated an Eco-First company, we run the Eco-School, and have been rated as one of the leading companies in this area in the industry, in order to get here we had to clear every hurdle that presented itself along the way.
I would be very happy if by sharing something of the path that we have taken to get to where we are today you are able to understand a little about the industry and the philosophy of Sanyo Syoji.
The Day our Way of Thinking Changed from "We Just Need to Make a Profit" to "Is Just Making a Profit Enough?"
It was 1999 and I had just been appointed representative director of Sanyo Syoji. At 29, I was young, and my only asset was my vigor. It's a company, we should make some money, that's what companies do, I thought. I was determined to forge ahead.
As a job, industrial waste processing is, of course, not a pretty job. Dirty clothes, rough language and punishment with punishment for failure with the blow of the fist went without saying. On the other hand, once a job was finished then everyone would get together and have a drink and celebrate. As a place to work I didn't hate that rough atmosphere. Even if our manners were not considered to be the best by some parts of society, who cared. Somewhere in the back of our minds we may have had the thought that we were doing the dirty work that the people in their shiny suits couldn't do.
The thing that caused me to question the way I thought was taking on some challenged youths in 2001. Things were going well for the company and I thought it was about time we gave something back to society. Little could I imagine the impact it had on my life.
These challenged youths did not work that fast, but if they were told "do this" then they would not stop. The thought of finding some way to take it easy just never entered their heads. They worked single-mindedly. And if they were told to greet people happily, then no matter where you met them they would always do that. Seeing them working like this day after day I started to think how meaningless my life was just thinking about how to make money.
Making a Company with a Heart
I thought a lot about what was important for the company, and the conclusion that I eventually came to was that we should make a company with a heart. I looked back and reflected on the fact that up until that time I had thought of our employees as tools for making money.
Employees who thought it was fun to go to work and looked forward to seeing their workmates were sure to be happy. When happy employees interact with customers, then the happiness would spread to the customers.
And from customers the happiness would spread to many other people.
That would be something worth living for, much more so than making money.
That's easy to say, it sounds nice, you might think. But the people working in this industry - including myself - have straightforward characters.
Once we start going in a certain direction we tend to keep moving along that path.
Some people would call us simple (smile).
You might think that's crazy, but all joking aside, that's where we started.
The first things we did were welfare projects; long-term leave, five-day working week, a canteen and free lunch, a uniform laundry service, staff trips, subsidized social gatherings, etc.
We contracted an outside agency to conduct a staff satisfaction survey, and we got workers to comprehensively evaluate management.
We introduced flexible working hours to eliminate overtime, and abolished the timecard system that is based on the premise of not being able to trust people.
We progressively introduced these measures, and we noticed that staff became more kind and started to help each other.
Now we have many challenged workers and older workers in the company, but there is no distinction between young or old, male or female. Everyone gets along well. Of course there are always things we could do better, but we will continue to listen to what staff have to say, and we want to create an environment in which people can be secure and continue to work in health.
- The staff cafeteria at the Tokyo Branch that doubles as a multipurpose space.
- The garden at the entrance to our head office.
What We Can Do for the Earth
At Sanyo Syoji, where there are no work quotas or overtime, there are three things that we always make sure we do:
- Say hello with a happy smile.
- Clean often.
- Abide by SKH.
（S＝Use san after everyone's name、K＝Use keigo (polite language).、H＝Conduct yourself with hinkaku (dignity).
SKH Campaign badge
People who cannot abide by these three rules are not recognized as Sanyo Syoji employees.
It is very simple, isn't it?
All three rules are based on the concept of respecting other people and making them feel good. However, what I discovered when I actually did it myself is that it is difficult to do this continually 365 days a year, and there is actually a lot more to them than meets the eye. But I have a feeling that systematically implementing them on a continual basis is in some way related to our work, which is to protect the global environment. If we talk about protecting the earth it sounds all rather too big and it's easy to think that someone else will deal with it. But don't you think that people who can extend a little kindness to make the lives of people around them more bearable can use their imagination to improve the lives of people who live far away, and people who have skin of a different color?
Wanting to do something for other people I think is the very foundation of recycling.
At present, we're expanding our Nara and Tokyo branches, but what we absolutely want to avoid as the company becomes larger is to neglect our three foundational rules. It is my hope that our employees in each branch will actually compete with our head office in terms of creating a happy work environment.
We have run through the history of Sanyo Syoji at breakneck speed.
For those of you who are wondering just what kind of a company we really are, I invite you to take the time to come and pay us a visit. I can guarantee you will be greeted in a bright and cheerful manner.
And I'd be happy for you to be able to sense from our workplace the way that people who are cared for can in turn care for other people and the environment.
Sanyo Syoji President
The reason we call people challenged is because we consider people who have some kind of physical or mental challenge to have been given the challenge by God.