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Top>Education>To create a society of coexistence through fair trade —method, outcome, and problems of seminars


Kappei Hidaka

Kappei Hidaka [Profile]

To create a society of coexistence through fair trade

—method, outcome, and problems of seminars

Kappei Hidaka
Professor of Business Administration, Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University

Ⅰ University education and seminar

The curricula of our university are composed of lectures and seminars (practices). The primary purposes of lectures are to effectively teach students about the basic concept and system of each subject at each department, and convey the latest knowledge to students. The latest knowledge may include the new findings and inventions in the cutting-edge scientific field, such as iP cells, and a new hypothesis, which would deny the dogma, such as the new interpretation of history.

In most lectures, knowledge is conveyed from professors to students unilaterally. This tendency is said to be strong especially in Japan. In most lectures, Japanese students are busy with listening to professors carefully and writing down. Needless to say, it is important to listen to advanced knowledge accurately and write down skillfully.

By the way, the rapid advance of globalization (international economic activities) and information-communication technology (ICT), which accelerates globalization, has changed the structure of the international society. University education should include the contents reflecting such social changes. ICT induced the creation of the Internet society and increased the amount of information in it considerably. Modern people need to possess the ability to efficiently retrieve only important pieces from an enormous amount of information. To do so, it is necessary to acquire the skills to glean and analyze a broad range of information, including overseas one, and to transmit information.

The learning at university means the act of confirming the general and universal contents of the scientific analysis results of some academic subjects by communicating with others. From this viewpoint, learning is the science of communication, which is characterized by the sharing of findings with others. It also can be said to be the act of formulating your own opinions critically through the communication with others. The golden opportunity to improve your communication skills is a seminar. A seminar is the activity of intellectual creation in which professors with plentiful expertise and students detect problems with the modern society and design countermeasures. A small number of students learn advanced contents of some field or subject with professors. In this process, students exchange opinions with one another, receive criticism, and broaden their knowledge.

Ⅱ Research theme of my seminar

Here, let me introduce my seminar. The research theme of my seminar changes every year, and so operation methods also vary.

I will explain our researches in the past several years. In 2007, we researched the brand strategy of Lexus. As you know, Lexus is the luxury car section of Toyota Motor Corporation. We focused on the difference in brand development between Toyota and overseas automobile makers. Ford, which represents the U.S., and Volkswagen (VW), which represents Germany, have obtained luxury car businesses by acquiring existing brand firms. Meanwhile, Toyota created its original brand Lexus in the U.S. market in 1989, and then diffused the brand business nurtured in the U.S. to other markets, including Japan. An excellent collaborative paper Research into Lexus was produced, as Lexus College cooperated in it and students conducted meticulous fieldworks. Unfortunately, during the process of writing the collaborative paper, the Japanese automobile market became stagnant, the downturn of the global market followed after the subprime loan crisis, and it became difficult for luxury car brands to attract the public attention. Accordingly, the information transmission from my seminar became less effective.

In 2008, I set a research theme of the multifaceted discussion on corporate social responsibility (CSR), and analyzed CSR reports and earth environment reports, etc. of the 6 companies: Toyota and Volkswagen in the automobile industry, Sharp and Apple in the electric industry, and Lion and Unilever in the general merchandise industry. We discussed how each company contributes to society and the meanings of each company's business administration efforts from the viewpoint of students and consumers, for 2 years. We summarized the analysis results as reports, participated in joint seminars and debates with other universities, such as Meiji University, and had opportunities to communicate and interact with others.

In 2009, our research theme was Fair Trade. Fair Trade is a project for improving the unfair positions of producers and laborers in developing countries in the field of international trading. Under the principles of communication, transparency, and respect, Fair Trade is aimed at assisting consumers in developed countries and producers in developing countries in doing mutually-beneficial transactions in the field of international trading. In addition to the development of systems, it is important to conduct educational activities especially in Japan.

In my seminar, we first reviewed the theoretical and practical literatures pertaining to Fair Trade. Students had sufficient fundamental knowledge and eagerness, and so it did not take so much time to learn from the literatures. As the next step, we selected Fair Trade groups mentioned in literatures and the firms that promote Fair Trade actively, and divided students into some groups. Then, each group visited groups and firms in which they have interests. In order to improve communication skills, it is effective to interview the staff of each firm about the actual situation and problems.

The Fair Trade staff of AEON suggested that we participate in its autumn event. AEON has been conducting Fair Trade activities since its customers requested it in 2004. Many people think that Fair Trade activities are carried out by only nonprofit organizations, which support developing countries, but there exist some Japanese firms that have worked on Fair Trade actively, like AEON. The activities of Japanese firms seem to be inferior to those in Europe, where Fair Trade was born, but this does not matter. It is important for consumers to assist Fair Trade firms that have willingness to contribute to society as corporate citizens. The activities of my seminar are aimed at introducing the social meanings of Fair Trade products to consumers and shifting the developed country-dominant society, which sacrifices developing countries, to a mutually beneficial coexistence society. It is essential to connect citizens (consumers), firms, and producers in developing countries through such activities.

The suggestion from AEON was that we would participate in the large-scale environmental event titled Eco Products 2009 held on Dec. 10-12 last year. At Tokyo Big Sight, firms and environmental groups conducted environmental events cooperatively. Borrowing the booth of AEON, the members of my seminar were expected to introduce the Fair Trade campaign by distributing pamphlets and doing a demonstration (presentation). It was challenging for students to perform part of their seminar activities in front of many visitors to the large event, and I think the event period was fulfilling for them. I am proud of my seminar students, who produced unexpected results, as supervising professor. I would like to express my thanks to the staff of AEON, who provided us with this opportunity while sharing the purpose of promoting Fair Trade with us.

Ⅲ Outcome of education

As a characteristic of my seminar, students determine a research theme, beating their brains out. As they determine a theme by themselves, they must complete it responsibly. Some think that a theme of a seminar should be determined by a supervising professor and students learn advanced technical knowledge. I do not deny this opinion. However, I believe that it is important to emphasize the independence of students by allowing them to research the subjects they have selected by themselves rather than those assigned by supervising professors. I also need to keep learning from individual researches, rather than forcing students to study my specialized subject, and interact with students while keeping some tension. By pursuing the theme determined by students, I can find the chance to discuss with students bilaterally rather than unilaterally. I think this is the merit of my seminar differing from other seminars. In this light, my seminar is student-centered.

Another characteristic of my seminar is the production of collaborative papers. The ultimate goal of my seminar is to make students summarize what students have learned by writing a graduate thesis with utmost effort. However, research is not conducted by a single person. It should be an intellectual creation activity for achieving research goals based on the discussions by collaborative researchers. From this perspective, it is important to write a paper with seminar-mates while fulfilling their own roles.

Another important thing is the existence of the seminar chief, who leads such active seminar activities. Especially, Ms. Mai Kobayashi, a student in 2009, was outstanding among seminar chiefs so far, and she was educated in FLP (Faculty Linkage Program; the university-wide program for learning some subjects, such as environmental issues, in an interdisciplinary manner) in Chuo University. The independent learning attitude and activeness nurtured in the FLP program stimulate students of my seminar to a significant degree. In this light, the outcome of my seminar means the outcome of the FLP program of Chuo University.

Ⅳ To draw the scheme for the future society

It seems that after the subprime loan crisis, the Japanese society has been stagnant due to the worsening of deflation and job shortage, etc. In this social situation, it is difficult to expect young people to have dreams. However, I hope that in the present age, students keep their dreams and hopes, at least. My job as educator for the foreseeable future is to draw the scheme of a rich future society without allowing the students of Chuo University to lose their dreams or hopes. In the rapid growth period, all we had to do was to just follow the trend of the times, but current students, who will go into the workforce, need to design a new Japanese society. The present age may be a historic turning point comparable to the Meiji Restoration. The modern university education has the mission to bring personnel who can tolerate changes into society. Chuo University also needs to meet the needs of society sincerely. From this viewpoint, the outcome of seminar education is expected. The students and teaching staff of Chuo University have to draw the scheme of a rich future society in Japan and make daily efforts step by step in cooperation with one another. My seminar is one of such steady efforts.

Kappei Hidaka
Professor of Business Administration, Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University
Born in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1956. Graduated from the Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University in 1979. Served as assistant of the Faculty of Commerce since 1986. Serving as professor of the Faculty of Commerce and the Graduate School of Commerce, and also as executive director of Japan Association for the Comparative Studies of Management.
Classes in charge: Theory of multinational corporations, study of international management (graduate school), practices, etc. My current research themes include sustainable society and business administration, the current situation of and problems with Fair Trade businesses, the problems with environmentally-friendly transportation systems and the automobile industry, global cities and multinational corporate management, etc.
Shintaro Akahane, Keiji Natsume, Kappei Hidaka, Globalization and Theory of Business Administration-business administration in BRICs in the 21st century, Minerva Shobou, 2009
Japan Association for the Comparative Studies of Management (compiled), Companies and Society, Bunrikaku, 2006, printed in Chapter 14
Masayuki Tokushige and Kappei Hidaka (edited and authored), Globalization and Multinational Companies, Publication Division of Chuo University, 2003