Sojitz Corporation


2016 Entrance Ceremony for New Employees – President’s Address

Apr. 1, 2016

Ladies and gentlemen, congratulations on joining our company today. My name is Yoji Sato, and I am President & CEO of Sojitz Corporation.

At last year’s new hire ceremony, I said that, “I look forward to you living out the remainder of your time as a student without regrets, and seeing you make a fresh start at the entrance ceremony next April.” Let me start off by saying that I and the rest of the employees at Sojitz are overjoyed to see your healthy faces at this ceremony today.

You 114 will be joining the company today. This is the first time since we became Sojitz that our intake has exceeded 100 new recruits. Moreover, for you, this day is one on which you gain irreplaceable comrades in the other recruits joining Sojitz alongside you.

<Achieving Your Goals and Dreams>
When I asked HR what responses they had received when asking what goals you hope to achieve at Sojitz, the most common answers were:

1) I want to create infrastructure in developing countries.
2) I want to help spread Japanese technologies and Japanese standards of quality around the world.
3) I want to free children around the world from poverty.
In the days when I first joined the company, “overseas” still felt like a far-off place to most. I am surprised by how nowadays, each new employee’s goals are simultaneously personal aspirations as well as global aims in line with the social requirements or standards of today.

What are the social expectations placed on businesses today? One example is “ESG.” Some of you may already be familiar with “ESG” (“Environment,” “Society,” and “Governance”), which presents a new angle from which stakeholders can evaluate companies, separate from financial statements. ESG standards measure a business’ impact on the surrounding environment and society, as well as demonstrate how positive social impacts are highly valued in the business arena.
As I previously mentioned, you all have diverse goals you hope to realize in the future. Keep in mind these goals will be evaluated from an ESG standpoint as well. Even if your personal goal is to become, say, president of the company, there is nobody out there who would want to be president of a company viewed negatively by society. This brief example illustrates the relationship between businesses and society which exists today.

Our corporate statement says that “Sojitz Group creates value and prosperity by connecting the world with a spirit of integrity.” I hope that you will pursue your individual goals without losing your ambition to give back to the society and world which makes it possible for us to conduct our business.

Furthermore, as new members joining the Sojitz Group, there are two essential things that you will need to remember.

<Securing the trust of those around you>
My first piece of advice is something that I am always telling Sojitz employees: earn the trust of the people around you.

I joined the company with the hopes of living abroad and seeing Japan from an overseas perspective. However, I was first assigned to the Accounting Dept. in Nagoya, which held little connection to our work overseas. I was blessed with many wonderful colleagues, and I think the reason I am now in the position of managing the company is because I gained the trust of those around me—one by one— through my work.

I imagine your greatest concern now is which department you will be assigned to at the company. However, no matter which department you are placed in, if you work with passion, act with integrity, and gain the trust of those around you, I believe you will be presented with opportunities to take on new challenges. Trust isn’t earned overnight.  
Regardless of your department, I hope you will stay true to yourself and take on your work with an upright and honest attitude.
<Maintaining a global perspective and striving for self-improvement>My other piece of advice is to always maintain a global perspective and strive for self-improvement.
Right now, you stand poised at the starting line of a career which will see you doing business with the world. Be proud of this fact and prepare yourself accordingly.

Looking back to 2008, the Lehman crisis exerted a substantial impact on the world economy beginning in the U.S., the world’s largest economic power. The effects extended to Japan, where the Nikkei average fell by 50%. The U.S. economy has since recovered, and once again leads the world economy. In China on the other hand, the country’s double-digit GDP growth rate before 2010 has given way to a slowing Chinese economy which has impacted developing economies and the world’s resource markets.

As globalization continues to progress, the business environment is in a state of constant, rapid change. The 2015 fiscal year has seen these changes exert a great impact on the businesses of major trading companies, including Sojitz. As members of a trading company, it is absolutely necessary you direct your attention towards such changes and look ahead to anticipate events as much as possible, so that you can act preemptively to transform these obstacles into new business opportunities.

“Learning” is the one tactic that makes foresight possible. You must continue to develop yourselves in order to realize your goals. You will be receiving your assignments momentarily, but I want you to remember that what I have said stands true no matter which department you are placed in.

Understand that we are competing on a global stage, and as Sojitz employees, I want you to remember to “always maintain a global perspective and strive for self-improvement.”
Lastly, I would like to speak a little about Sojitz’s history.
Tomorrow the last episode of NHK’s morning serial drama, Asa ga Kita, will air. The main character is based on Asako Hirooka. Her husband, Shingoro Hirooka, was one of the founders of Japan Cotton Trading Company, one of Sojitz’s predecessors. Japan Cotton Trading Company imported high quality cotton from India and contributed to the development of the spinning industry in Japan—a contribution deeply rooted in the founders desire to make Japanese society more prosperous. The founders of Sojitz’s precursors—founder Yone Suzuki and head clerk Naokichi Kaneko of Suzuki & Co., Ltd., as well as Katusjiro Iwai of Iwai & Co.—were the first to take on the pioneering spirit of the West, building up a new set of enterprises that promoted industry and raised Japan’s stature in the world. Remember that Sojitz Group originated from the high aspirations of our founders.  

I extend my congratulations to all you—here’s to your good health, that you may earn the trust of those around you and develop into a contributing member at this company and in society.


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