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Kappei Hidaka

Kappei Hidaka [profile]

Social Products Change Society

Kappei Hidaka
Professor, Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: Business Administration

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1. Association for the Promotion of Social Products

In July 2012, the Association for the Promotion of Social Products (APSP) was established. It aims at achieving a sustainable society through activities promoting and encouraging the use of social products with scholars, certified accountants, business persons, and other intellectuals/professionals led by President Yasuhiro Eguchi (Professor, Department of Intercultural Communication, Gakushuin Women's College) and Vice President Hiroshi Matsuno (Professor, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Chiba University).

The vision of establishing this association is "improving the world through promoting social products," which is an idea that the association will contribute to building a better society through the selection and consumption of better goods. I am very sympathetic to this vision, and decided to join the association.

The association drives the following projects to realize this vision.

The first is the Social Products Award project. As Japan's first program for recognizing fine social products, this project creates environments that facilitate the participation of individual citizens in building a better society, and it supports firms and groups that are actively engaged in the production and selling of social products by broadly providing information on social products.

The second is the Social Products Sociality Audit project. This is an attempt at contributing to the promotion of social products by auditing the sociality of goods and services supplied by firms or groups as a neutral third party and disclosing its result to citizens.

Other planned programs include consultation activities such as the Social Marketing/Social Products Development and Training project and the Social Business Development Support project, as well as forums and seminars as part of the activities for promoting and raising awareness of social products.

2. Significance of social products

According to the definition by the association, social products are tangible or intangible subjects (goods or services) supplied by for-profit-organizations and non-profit organizations that deliver benefits to individual consumers as well as to the society as a whole, and that contribute to realizing a sustainable society. These include, in particular, ecologically friendly goods and services, organic products, fair-trade products, and products associated with charitable donations.

Aeon, for example, sells a fair-trade chocolate product. This commodity, whose development our seminar was also involved in, is manufactured at an Aeon-cooperating plant with imported cocoa beans produced in the Dominican Republic. Having received a certificate from the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), this chocolate improves the producers' life circumstances by guaranteeing to them a purchasing price that is higher than the international market price of cocoa beans. In addition, while excessive pesticide spraying or child labor generally tend to prevail in cocoa or coffee bean farms, the practice of fair-trade may bring the benefit of preventing such antisocial maneuvers. Purchasers of this chocolate, on the other hand, also enjoy opportunities to buy safer and more secure food. In this sense, fair-trade is the very effort for encouraging the use of goods and services that embody sociality through the alliance between producers-most of whom are poor planters in developing countries-and purchasers-rich consumers in wealthy nations and emerging economies-to alleviate the disparity between developed and developing countries.

Related to the fossil fuel depletion crisis and the global warming caused by CO2 emission, the auto industry is embroiled in competition to develop post-gasoline vehicles. Amid this circumstance, hybrid automobiles that combine an internal-combustion engine and an electric motor are attracting attention domestically and internationally. This type of vehicles is not just a product with efficient fuel consumption. In the case of Toyota, an in-car monitor supports the driver's ecological driving through a Harmonious Driving Navigator. The more ecological the driving, the more points the driver earns, and the accumulated points can be donated to the Heritage for the Future project implemented by the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan. Such an effort by Toyota makes hybrid vehicles a social product.

In this way, social products are a business model in which social significance is given to each of the elements that a business comprises, including procurement of materials, production processes, distribution channels, and after-sales services, along with specific products and their features.

3. Why social products?

Do you know the term Triple Bottom Line (3BL)? Purportedly created by a British consultation company, this term simply means that an enterprise must be evaluated from a comprehensive point of view, including not only finance but also environmental and social aspects. In this era of business management focusing on shareholders' benefit, businesses naturally tend to be assessed with evaluation criteria placing a disproportionate emphasis on profitability. On the other hand, global environmental issues are becoming more and more severe, and the disparity in income and living conditions is expanding in both wealthy nations and emerging economies. In such a time, therefore, evaluating the sociality of enterprises is extremely important as an assessment criterion for carving out a new era.

As consumers, we have been purchasing goods by selecting ones based on their features, performance, and prices. In Japanese society today, in addition, our purchasing behavior is most motivated by reasonable prices and benefit under the long-standing deflationary economy. In the future, however, I believe that we need viewpoints on how the product is manufactured and how it works as an established business, instead of determining the value of the commodity only by its price. Even when a product looks good, it might conceal antisocial elements in its materials or manufacturing process. In order to promote social products, therefore, it is most important to cultivate ethical consumers who take the lead in purchasing goods with greater sociality, and opinion leaders who play a role in disseminating information on better products into the society. I expect that such efforts would help create a mature consumer society that is wealthy in the true sense of the word.

Kappei Hidaka
Professor, Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: Business Administration
Born in 1956 in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Graduated from the Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University, in 1979. Became a research assistant, Faculty of Commerce in 1986, and currently a Professor, Faculty of Commerce and Graduate School of Commerce, Chuo University; a permanent board member, Japan Academy of Business Administration; and a managing director, the Association for the Promotion of Social Products (APSP).
Teaches Studies on Multinational Enterprises, International Management (the graduate course), seminars, etc. Current research interests include the sustainable society and business administration, the current situation and challenges in the fair-trade business, the environment-conscious transportation system and issues for the auto industry, and global cities and multinational enterprise management.
Publications: The Japanese Economy and Japanese Enterprises at the Crossroad [Kiro ni Tatsu Nippon Keizai / Nippon Kigyo], (co-edited with Masayuki Tokushige, Chuo University Press, 2012)
Globalization and Business Administration Study: Business Administration Study for BRICs in the 21st Century [Guro-barize-shon to Keieigaku: 21 seiki ni okeru BRICs no Keieigaku], (co-edited with Shintaro Akahane and Keiji Natsume, Minerva Shobo, 2009)
Business & Society [Kaisha to Shakai], (edited by the Japan Association for the Comparative Studies of Management, Ch. 14, Bunrikaku, 2006)