Overview of Sojitz Human Rights Initiatives
Sojitz established the Sojitz Group Human Rights Policy in 2017. We then positioned our previous Medium-term Management Plan 2020 (FY2018–FY2020) as a preparation period for building a framework for our human rights initiatives. We began by conducting a review of our approach to risk evaluation and identifying high-risk business areas. We then confirmed that ongoing risk management measures were being implemented throughout the Group and established a PDCA system to ensure continuous improvement. Under the current plan—Medium-term Management Plan 2023—we will deepen our PDCA efforts and build upon our existing initiatives to further disseminate Sojitz Group policies and raise awareness regarding human rights issues.
Sojitz Group Human Rights Policy
1. Our commitment to respect human rights
The Sojitz Group strives to create value and prosperity by connecting the world with a spirit of integrity. We believe that respect for human rights is an integral foundation for creating what we call “Two Types of Value” —value for both our company and society — and for meeting the expectations of our stakeholders.
As a general trading company, the Sojitz Group buys, sells, and trades goods from all over the world, provides manufacturing and sales services for a wide range of products, plans and coordinates various projects, invests in a multitude of business fields and conducts financial activities. In undertaking these business activities, we recognize our responsibility to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts and to seek to prevent or mitigate adverse impacts to which we are directly linked.
We commit to respecting human rights as set out in the International Bill of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and to carry out our business in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
2. Our People
The Sojitz Group - in accordance with international human rights standards as well as its Group Statement - is committed to promoting, among the executives, staff and employees of Sojitz Group, the prohibition of discrimination, respect for diversity (including with respect to race, nationality, ethnic origin, beliefs, gender, social status, religion, age, mental and physical disability, and sexual orientation), as well as responsible labor practices including prohibition of child or forced labor, prevention of corruption, provision of a safe labor environment, payment of minimum wage and ensuring appropriate working hours. The Group supports freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
3. Conducting human rights due diligence
The Sojitz Group is committed to assessing actual and potential adverse impacts on the human rights of our stakeholders in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We will strive to prevent, mitigate and account for adverse impacts. Where it is necessary to prioritize our actions, we will prioritize action to address the most salient potential risks to our stakeholders.
The Sojitz Group shall comply with local laws and regulations in conducting its business activities. Where laws or regulations in a country conflict with international human rights norms, the Group will seek ways to honor international human rights standards. In making decisions on responses to be taken, we will seek opinions from credible third parties.
The Sojitz Group recognizes the importance of dialogue with our employees, workers and external stakeholders who are or could potentially be affected by our actions, and we are committed to engaging in such dialogue with stakeholders on human rights issues related to our business.
4. Specific Issues
Indigenous Peoples： When undertaking business activities in areas in which indigenous peoples reside, the Sojitz Group will acknowledge the unique culture and history of indigenous peoples and show consideration for their rights as set out in both local and national laws as well as in international standards such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention No. 169.
Employment of security companies： To avoid complicity in human rights abuses committed by security providers, the Sojitz Group supports the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR), which guide companies in how to operate within a framework that ensures respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
5. Our Business Partners
The business activities of the Sojitz Group are possible due to the cooperation of various stakeholders including suppliers and other business partners. For the Group to meet our responsibility to respect human rights, their understanding and cooperation are indispensable. The Sojitz Group is committed to working with and encouraging our business partners to uphold the principles in this Policy.
In the event that we identify an alleged human rights abuse outside of the Sojitz Group but linked to our business activities, including in our suppliers and other business partners, upon confirming the situation the Group will ask relevant parties such as suppliers and other business partners to take measures to address the human rights issues.
* For further information on our expectations of our suppliers and other business partners, including our policy concerning cases of material breach, see our Sojitz Group CSR Action Guidelines for Supply Chains.
Key Sustainability Issues (Materiality)
Sojitz has chosen “respecting the human rights of people involved in its businesses” as one of its Key Sustainability Issues (Materiality) and has established a set of common standards in accordance with international human rights standards for use at all Sojitz Group companies. Sojitz ensures that its employees are educated on human rights issues and has declared its commitment to maintaining respect for human rights throughout its supply chains, including with its business partners.
|Sojitz respects the human rights of people involved in its businesses.
This applies not only to Sojitz employees, but also to everyone affected by its businesses throughout its supply chains. Should there be any instances of child labor or forced labor, Sojitz will rectify them.
Respect for International Standards
International Bill of Human Rights
International Labour Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
The Sojitz Group Human Rights Policy detailed above recognizes all human rights set out in the International Bill of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and Sojitz is committed to conducting its business activities in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact
The United Nations Global Compact was advocated by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 31, 1999. Sojitz and other companies that sign the UN Global Compact endorse ten principles in four areas (Human Rights, Labour, Environment, and Anti-Corruption) and continually work to promote them. The Sojitz Group CSR Action Guidelines for Supply Chains is based on these principles and other international standards.
|The Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact|
|Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
|Principle 3:Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
Principle 4: the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour;
Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labour; and
Principle 6: the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
|Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
Principle 8: undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and
Principle 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
|Principle 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.|
Modern Slavery Act (UK)
Sojitz Europe plc discloses information in accordance with local UK laws and regulations.
Modern Slavery Act (Australia)
Sojitz Development Pty Ltd discloses information in accordance with local Australian laws and regulations.
The Sustainability Committee aims to support sustainable growth for Sojitz Group by establishing company-wide sustainability-related policies and goals, constructing frameworks for implementation, organizing, and working to monitor and promote progress for each policy.
The Corporate Sustainability Dept. is a specialized department that serves as the Secretariat of the Sustainability Committee, cooperating with related departments within the Group to promote sustainability-related initiatives throughout Sojitz Group.
Risk Management by the Sustainability Committee/Reports Submitted to the Board of Directors (Supervisory Body)
Sojitz Group classifies and defines the many risks associated with our businesses according to our Basic Code of Corporate Risk Management, and we establish a risk management policy and management plan for these risks each year, based on a resolution by the Board of Directors. (See this page for details.) Among these risks, countermeasure policies and initiatives regarding environmental and social risk (including risk related to climate change) are deliberated by the Sustainability Committee. These policies and initiatives may then be put into action following a report to the Management Committee and Board of Directors.
Sustainability Committee Members (Current as of June 20, 2023)
Asterisk (*) indicates a Director
Double asterisk (**) indicates a Representative Director
The Sojitz Group promotes its initiatives in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights while referencing the International Bill of Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
Establishment and Sharing of Policies
The Sojitz Group Human Rights Policy and The Sojitz Group CSR Action Guidelines for Supply Chains have been established based on the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact. We share these guidelines with our suppliers and Group companies and ask for their understanding and compliance with all policies.
Frontline Employee Awareness Raising
Dialogue with Sojitz Group Companies
In an effort to raise awareness of Sojitz Group policies and of relevant issues facing Sojitz Group, Sojitz President and CEO Masayoshi Fujimoto wrote a letter to all Group company presidents emphasizing the importance of consideration for human rights and requesting their compliance with Sojitz Group policies. All Sojitz Group company presidents endorsed the letter, pledging to uphold Sojitz Group policies in June 2021. Sojitz has positioned FY2021 as a year of dialogue, and held dialogues with all Group companies through interviews and seminars.
Interviews with 28 Group companies in high-risk business areas
In FY2020, Sojitz selected a sample of 28 Group companies that were found to fall within high-risk business areas based on case studies of past environmental and human rights risks provided by UK NGO Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. The members of management responsible for the 28 Group companies held one-on-one meetings with each company’s president, discussing human rights risk-related trends and incidents. The Sojitz executives used each meeting as an opportunity to share knowledge on the relevant risks found in each business area.
Seminar for 136 Group companies in low- to medium-risk business areas
Sojitz held seminar-style dialogues with management responsible at Group companies that do not fall within high-risk business areas. The seminars were an opportunity for Group company leaders to review Sojitz Group’s policies, share information regarding risk-related trends and incidents, and raise awareness throughout Sojitz Group.
In order to foster understanding of sustainability within Sojitz Group, we regularly conduct e-learning on changes in social trends related to sustainability and the response to environmental and human rights issues required of companies today. Around 5,000 Sojitz Group members* worldwide take these e-learnings each time they are made available.
*Employees and executives at Sojitz Corporation, nine major Sojitz Group companies, and Sojitz overseas subsidiaries
In light of the Australian Modern Slavery Act which was put into law in January 2019 and the UK Modern Slavery Act which was amended in March 2020, we conducted an e-learning at target Australian and European operating companies in FY2020 about the Sojitz Group CSR Action Guidelines for Supply Chains in order to promote understanding and familiarity with local laws and regulations at overseas bases. The CSR Action Guidelines for Supply Chains define Sojitz Group’s approach to environmental and social issues within our supply chains and human rights issues such as modern slavery.
In FY2022, we conducted an e-Learning on "Managing Human Rights Risks in Supply Chains" for Sojitz executives and employees (including seconded employees) at Tokyo HQ to foster an understanding of the external environment and the Group’s policies and initiatives. In FY2023, we will conduct an e-Learning with the same content for executives and employees of all Sojitz Group companies, as well as overseas subsidiaries and overseas branches, to promote understanding.
Seminar on Human Rights Risk
|Seminar on Human Rights Risk
Speaker: Masataka Nagoshi
Climate Change and Sustainability Services (CCaSS) Manager (as of 2017), EY Japan
Sojitz Group Sustainability Handbook
Identifying Sojitz Group’s High-risk Business Areas
As there are a variety of human rights issues that exist in supply chains, we believe it is important to prioritize our efforts to address human rights issues in business sectors where our analysis has revealed that urgent action is needed.
To this end, we have analyzed NGO data bases on high-risk business areas in order to identify high-risk business areas to prioritize and conducted surveys and evaluations of the status of measures taken to address risk throughout Sojitz Group and our supply chains, including those of our suppliers.
Risk Assessment PDCA Cycle
Under the supervision of external consultants, we inspect our internal initiatives and confirm new issues to ensure that the actions taken throughout the Sojitz Group to address risks are sufficient.
In addition, direct communication is practiced with Group companies to spread awareness and promotion of initiatives targeting our wide-ranging supply chains.
As part of its human rights risk initiatives, Sojitz implements the following PCDA cycle in order to review the measures in place for addressing new issues that arise each year.
- ・Identify new issues
- ・Conduct comprehensive survey
- ・Based on survey results, add new issues to list of previously identified high-risk business areas
- ・Hold dialogues regarding new issues with departments conducting businesses in relevant high-risk business areas
- ・Establish framework for human rights due diligence (including on-site surveys) in preparation for a potential major incident
We implement this PDCA cycle while incorporating insights gained through dialogues with Group members and external consultants, and we strive to maintain a high level of awareness of human rights issues throughout the Group, identify new risks, and deepen our PDCA efforts each year.
Sojitz implements the following initiatives for educating Group members on Sojitz Group policies and raising awareness for the issues that arise throughout our risk management activities.
- ・Each Sojitz Group company submits a written document confirming that they are effectively promoting understanding regarding human rights and raising awareness among frontline employees
- ・The Corporate Sustainability Dept. conducts direct dialogues with each Group company
- ・Employees complete e-Learning courses (in Japanese and English)
For new investment and loan projects, we require the department applying for investment and loan approval to complete an “Environmental and Social Risk Checklist.” Using the checklist, the department confirms that they have conducted the required due diligence and taken the all necessary measures to deal with all risks including potential environmental and human rights issues.
Sojitz conducts human rights due diligence, including on-site surveys, for wood procurement business, and will expand the scope of these efforts moving forward.
Formulation of Individual Policies
To complement the Sojitz Group CSR Action Guidelines for Supply Chains, Sojitz has formulated policies related to high-risk areas where social standards are being developed, particularly lumber, minerals, and palm oil. Sojitz organizes its policies in regard to these areas, and action is being taken based on the established policies.
Risk Assessment (Wood Procurement)
From among Sojitz Group’s approximately 1,500 wood-related suppliers, we narrowed our scope to wood from countries with high country risk or from suppliers from whom Sojitz Group has purchased the most wood in terms of monetary value. This wood was then checked under the supervision of WWF Japan for 1) whether it could be traced back to its place of origin and 2) suitability of forest management (whether the forest is subject to environmentally/socially-conscious forest management).
Improvements, Remedy Measures, and Disclosure of Results
Risk assessments of high-risk areas performed in the year ended March 31, 2023, found no issues with the measures taken at Sojitz Group companies or across the Group’s supply chains. Ongoing improvements through a PDCA (plan–do–check–act) cycle as well as timely and appropriate disclosure will be pursued in relation to these areas while incorporating input from external specialists.
Sojitz uses ISO14001 as its standard for environmental management. The ISO14001 standard is generally applied to a company’s environmental activities. However, Sojitz uses the same systems for management to monitor its human rights-related efforts and makes regular reports to the Sustainability Committee.
Addressing Grievances Mechanisms
Sojitz Group will focus its efforts on the following initiatives:
■External hotline (Japanese and English available)
■Internal hotline (25 languages available)
In addition to the aforementioned hotlines, Sojitz Group is making efforts to raise awareness regarding the importance of improvements and remedial actions taken during Medium-Term Management Plan 2023 throughout the Group and for suppliers in high-risk industries.
Responsibility to Our Clients
Sojitz’s approach for maintaining food safety and security
Our company was the first general trading company to establish a Quality Assurance Office(*1) within our business division in April 2008 to handle increased consumer concern for food safety and to manage increasing food logistics risks resulting from the acceleration of globalization. We will continue to undertake effective initiatives to maintain the safety and security of food.
Please refer to the following website for more details.
Efforts within Our Supply Chains
Click on the link below for more information on our efforts within our supply chains.
Sojitz Group conducts on-site inspections of suppliers and business partners to ascertain the status of specific risk reduction initiatives in the workplace and to communicates with those partners regarding necessary improvements.
In June 2018, the Corporate Sustainability Office visited Kyodo Sojitz Feed Co., Ltd. ("KSF") in Vietnam, together with an outside specialist. KSF is a consolidated subsidiary which mainly produces and sells feed for raising pigs and chickens. Demand for meat in Vietnam is expected to continue to rise, and KSF is one of the companies contributing to the stable supply of reliable and safe food resources in the country.
The two-day, on-site inspection included discussions on sustainability with the company's management, and regarding the six focus areas* put forth in the Sojitz Group CSR Action Guidelines for Supply Chains, we were able to confirm the availability of various documentation, as well as initiatives at factories and facilities on company grounds.
KSF received an overall high rating from the outside specialist, including for its good labor management and preparation of documentation, and management quality improvement initiatives through acquisition of the GLOBALG.A.P. Certification, which certifies the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of an agricultural production business. However, the inspection resulted in the finding of a potential human rights risk in the category of "Safety and Sanitation in the Workplace" in one area of the factory. We will share this feedback in the post-inspection summary, which covers management, and will prioritize making improvements in this area.
Participation in Sedex, an Ethical Business Practices Platform
Sojitz is a member of Sedex and reports corporate information regarding labor standards, health and safety, the environment, and business ethics in accordance with international standards. Sojitz participates in Sedex as part of its efforts to build socially responsible supply chains.
Sedex is an information sharing platform run by Sedex Information Exchange Limited, an NPO with headquarters in London. The organization conducts an internationally standardized survey of suppliers around the world on the environment, society, and human rights. Through an online system, members are able to share answers to these surveys and the results of audits, reducing the burden on both suppliers and contractors. Sedex is striving for the implementation of ethical and responsible business practices in supply chains on a global level.
Spreading Awareness of Sojitz’s Human Rights Policy
In Medium-term Management Plan 2023 (FY2021 through FY2023), Sojitz will implement the following measures and awareness-raising initiatives at all Sojitz Group operating companies (183 consolidated subsidiaries, excluding special purpose companies).
- Collecting written documents confirming understanding of Sojitz’s human rights policy and relevant issues (currently, 179 documents have been collected from 183 companies for a collection rate of 98%)
- Direct dialogue with Group companies
9 affiliates in high-risk regions Dialogues completed in June 2021
19 affiliates in high-risk industries Dialogues completed in August 2021
129 other affiliates Dialogues completed in March 2022
7 other affiliates Dialogues completed in June 2022
Confirming Fields of High Public Concern
Every year, we identify fields of high public concern and conduct a comprehensive survey, including our business partners, regarding these issues. In FY2022, we identified the following issues: a.) wood/palm oil; b.) conflict minerals (gold, tin, tantalum, tungsten); c.) respect for human rights in specified regions; d.) Foreign technical intern trainee; and e.) biomass. We then conducted surveys and confirmed the status of these issues throughout Sojitz Group.
Wood Procurement Policy: Results of 2022 Survey
According to our 2022 survey, our percentage of wood classified as Level B or above reached 94%, with wood for which only traceability can be confirmed (Level C) totaling 6%. We achieved our target of 0% for wood lacking traceability (Level D) for the fifth consecutive year.