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Local Love Is the Driving Force. What Should a Company Be for Children and the Future?

Feb 9, 2022

Shinko Real Estate Co., Ltd., based in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, has been engaged in a variety of CSR activities as part of its efforts to create a sustainable local community and society since even before the SDGs became widely known across the world. We interviewed Takehiko Okuhashi, General Manager of the General Affairs Department, and Mei Kawaguchi, both of whom are in charge of CSR activities. Born and raised in Kobe, both were full of love for their hometown and a desire to contribute to their local community.

We Made Someone Happy, Which Alone Makes Our Love for the Community Even Stronger

Dormitory, a property of Shinko Real Estate
Dormitory, a property of Shinko Real Estate

――First of all, could you tell us about the CSR activities of Shinko Real Estate?

Okuhashi

We call ourselves a comprehensive lifestyle-related company that continues to grow as an entity helpful for people’s lives in a wider range of areas, and we conduct our core businesses of real estate, such as housing and urban developments. The CSR activities we conduct to fulfill our social responsibility as a company are an important initiative for that purpose. We are working under the following four major themes.
The first is child development and environmental activities. We plan and organize painting contests and workshops for elementary school children.
Next comes our community and social contribution activities. We make it a habit to clean up the area around our offices and also actively participate in various events hosted by the local community association.

The third theme is providing reliable services. Placing the highest priority on the confidence of our customers, we have established a system that can coordinate the entire process, from land acquisition to construction, sales, and post-occupancy management, in order to strive every day to maintain and improve the quality of our services.
The fourth is the Shinko Real Estate’s CSR Fund. This is a support program for organizations engaged in community and social contribution activities. Through this program, I have learned about various activities, and I’ve deepened my interest in social issues.

Kawaguchi

Participating in community festivals and cleaning activities as a member
Participating in community festivals and cleaning activities as a member

――When did you first become involved in CSR activities?

Okuhashi

That was 2011. We’ve been in business for more than half a century, and this is because of the people in our community. To show our gratitude in a tangible way, we started with a cleaning activity.

When I joined the company and learned about a wide range of activities, I was quite surprised.
I’d been looking for a job that would enable me to contribute to my hometown of Kobe, so I’m happy that I can get involved beyond the real estate field with so many people in the community.

Kawaguchi

Okuhashi

I’m also from Kobe, and my reason for joining the company is almost the same as hers.
The cleanup activities have given me more contact with the people living around us. I don’t remember exactly when it was, but one day a restaurant owner in the neighborhood said loudly to me, “Thank you!” That smile still sticks in my mind, and I remember well that I realized then I was giving back to the community, even just a little at a time.

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――How have the employees reacted?

Basically, the General Affairs Department is responsible for the planning and management of CSR activities, but members from departments participate in those for each particular activity.
Doing something different from their usual work changes their perspectives and leads to information exchanges between departments, and many of them look forward to interacting with children as well.

Kawaguchi

Okuhashi

At the CSR Promotion Council meeting, representatives from all departments take part in reporting on the year’s activities, and they exchange many opinions, and ask questions like, “Is there anything we can do for the elderly?” or “What can we do to help children, who will forge the future?”
I feel that a culture of wanting to contribute something to the local community has taken root.

Over the years, the painting contest has grown into an event creating a sense of unity with the community

the painting contest
          

――Are there any particular activities to which you are strongly attached?

I remember helping out at summer festivals before the coronavirus pandemic and visiting elementary schools to hold workshops for children so that they could discover the advantages of their hometowns by taking pictures. All of the activities were fun.
I’m currently in charge mainly of the painting contest, so if I have to pick one activity, I’d be most attached to this one.

Kawaguchi

Okuhashi

The Future Town, Dream Home, Children’s Art Contest marked its tenth anniversary in 2021. At the beginning, the number of entries was less than 100, but it has been increasing every year and finally exceeded 2,000 this year.

――How do you solicit entries?

First, we make flyers and posters for the contest, and with the cooperation of the local board of education, we distribute these to elementary schools in Kobe City before summer vacation.
The entry period lasts until mid-October. After that, we go through the first to third screening process and hold the award ceremony in early February.

Kawaguchi

Okuhashi

All employees and executives participate in the screening process. For the final screening, we display about 200 works that have passed the process in the conference room, and our executives vote on them.

Around the time of the screening process, employees talk about the works they’re interested in, and I’m excited that the event has attracted a great deal of interest within the company.

Kawaguchi

the painting contest
           

――Do you proceed with the screening and awarding processes only within the company?

Okuhashi

No, we also have people from related companies and government agencies involved in the processes. What’s more, art experts participate in the screening process.
We always ask a Kobe newspaper publisher, a local company like ours, to run an ad to announce the call for entries, and they’ve reserved a space under the banner, “For Children.”

The Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, near our head office, also cooperates with us to exhibit all of the entries every year.
We often keep in touch with the curators, and this year we’re discussing how to arrange 2,063 works, the largest number ever.

Kawaguchi

Okuhashi

After considering how to hold the exhibition during the pandemic, we had to cancel the award ceremony last year, but we were able to hold the exhibition with infection control measures in place. We received comments and words of appreciation from visitors such as, “I was feeling gloomy during the pandemic, but the children’s paintings made me feel positive.” So, I strongly felt that holding the event was something great.
It has become a joint effort of Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe City, and other local communities, and I feel the positive response to no small extent.

The parents are also very pleased. We delivered award certificates and extra prizes to winners last year, and we received very kind words of appreciation while sharing the joy with all those involved.

Kawaguchi

Each individual’s real-life experience ties the organization and community together and brings bright hope

――How do you feel about the significance of CSR activities as someone involved in this area?

Okuhashi

In the Shiki Theatre Company’s project to invite children to their performances, a project supported by the Shinko Real Estate’s CSR Fund, Shinko Real Estate employees, acting as venue staff, help those who attend.
Some become energized by the children’s facial expressions as they happily stand in line before a show and by their excitement and emotion afterward.
I believe that each employee’s accumulation of such experiences will surely become an irreplaceable, intangible asset for us since our basic premise is to coexist with the community.

Participate in the Program with Shiki Theatre Company which invites children to the theater
Participate in the Program with Shiki Theatre Company which invites children to the theater

I hope that many people will know that Shinko Real Estate is not only dealing with real estate but also conducting various activities while seriously thinking about the revitalization of the region, so that it will become easier than ever to create connections with people working for the future. Also, I’m hopeful that as these new connections continue to grow, we’ll be able to create an even larger chain of connections and a virtuous cycle that will help realize a sustainable society.

Kawaguchi

――Thank you very much. You are conducting very fulfilling activities rooted in the local community along with your employees, aren’t you?

Okuhashi

Since we’re conducting so many activities, I must admit that we sometimes get busy with our work. However, we don’t believe that simply donating money or outsourcing tasks will fulfill our original purpose; rather, we believe that having many employees participate, interacting with the people in the community, and seeing their happy faces will help our employees in charge of town development develop a better attitude to their work.

With members who participated in the World Autism Awareness Day event
With members who participated in the World Autism Awareness Day event

――Your business is closely linked to your community engagement, isn’t it? I feel that your company shares similarity with Tokyo Century, whose corporate philosophy is to create an environmentally sound, sustainable economy and society, which is highly compatible with the SDGs. About three years have passed since your company joined the Tokyo Century Group. Tell us what you expect from the Group going forward and what you want to work on.

After becoming a member of the Group, I had opportunities to participate in study sessions on public affairs. It provided me with other companies’ case studies, in turn enabling me to review my way of working, and I felt that I was able to acquire a new perspective. I’d like to continue to absorb experiences and know-how that I don’t have and give these back to the community and the Group as a whole.

Kawaguchi

Okuhashi

Shinko Real Estate requires a sensitive response to consumer psychology. So, keeping in mind the importance of the B2C perspective that only our company can offer, I’ll continue to contribute to the Group’s development.
I’d also like to learn about the sustainability of the Tokyo Century Group and reflect it in my corporate activities rooted in my love for the community while continuing to support the development of the city and the peace of mind of its people.

Takehiko Okuhashi

General Affairs Department

Born in Kobe. Joined Shinko Real Estate to get involved in the revitalization of the Kobe City. Since then, he has worked in real estate sales and development, and he currently serves as general manager of the General Affairs Department.

Mei Kawaguchi

General Affairs Department

Born in Kobe. She handled secretarial work right after joining the company and has been in charge of general affairs, CSR, and public relations since 2018. She is also one of the senior managers of the painting contest.

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