Sompo Holdings Group CEO Davos 2020
Kengo Sakurada, Group CEO of Sompo Holdings, Inc. Photographer: Hisayoshi Osawa
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Making Business Indispensable to the Sustainable Society

Kengo Sakurada, Group CEO of Sompo Holdings, Inc. Photographer: Hisayoshi Osawa 

The theme of Davos 2020, "Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World," highlights one of the biggest challenges faced by private companies: As a key stakeholder in today’s economy, how do we create value for society as a whole?

From the perspective of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we can see how technology influences the way we answer this question.

That’s because technology is the source of our greatest proxgress. It also reflects the best and worst of our potential. For example, the steam engine helped power the Industrial Revolution. Many benefits came from its use and from related technologies like the steam locomotive. On the flip side, industrialization also led to inhumane living and working conditions, severe pollution problems related to urbanization, and a growing distrust between capitalists and workers.

In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, advanced technologies such as AI and machine learning amplify this potential for positive and negative outcomes. AI can greatly augment human intelligence, but its misuse can have severe implications – expanding the social divide, contributing to job loss, eroding privacy. Ethical and fairness issues arising from misapplying genome editing reveal the dark side, which is greater than what we’ve seen in previous technological revolutions.

What society expects of business in this fourth era of industry is to deliver solutions that transform the dark side of technology. To do this each company should redefine its value and employ advanced technologies to maximize both economic growth and social value. It is more important than ever before to “make a company not only valuable, but indispensable, to the sustainable society.”

During the World Cup Series, it was widely covered by the media that Japanese football fans tidied up the stadium after the matches. One reason for this could be the invariant traditional Japanese philosophy where people value the duties and privileges as community members and emphasize public interests at the expense of the individual. In this way, compromising one’s integrity and ethical values would be considered shameful.

Japanese companies have faced protracted hard times even though seeking greater business efficiencies to manage today’s challenges. I have recently been revisiting the value of this traditional Japanese approach, which could help us overcome the dark side and achieve sustainability. I believe that an altruistic attitude based on this philosophy can drive the pursuit of profitability for all stakeholders, including our own.

In line with this philosophy, SOMPO has arrived at a corporate vision of “A Theme Park for Security, Health and Wellbeing.” A theme park, in our view, provides a shared experience that benefits both individuals and the community.

SOMPO started as an insurance group. Our conventional business is to compensate damages in case of accidents. We have taken a step forward, providing new forms of services to enrich the lives of our customers by promoting their happiness and wellbeing.

One example of this is our partnership with Palantir Technologies. Together we’ve formed a new kind of a consultancy. The idea is to help businesses apply insights gathered from big data and advanced analytics to operate in a sustainable way, ultimately enriching lives and improving society.

In the nursing care business, SOMPO facilitates “human-oriented” happiness by providing services that improve customers’ quality of life (QOL). We aim to develop personalized interventions, where big data analysis can bring comfort and happiness to customers.

Japan finds itself in the position of being an “advanced” country in terms of confronting serious challenges such as a decreasing population and aging society. By employing wisdom informed by the Japanese philosophy and using technology responsibly, SOMPO can help tackle these issues and contribute to the sustainability of Japanese society and, consequently, of the world.

Developing solutions for people’s happiness is the purpose of SOMPO. This makes SOMPO “not only valuable, but indispensable.”

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