May 19, 2022 3:55 PM EDT
Kengo Sakurada, Group CEO of Sompo Holdings, Inc.

CONTENT FROM SOMPO HOLDINGS

Despite all our efforts to build a better world, global instability is on the rise. The pandemic persists. Russia has invaded Ukraine. The tests we are facing include dealing with unknown viruses, fostering cooperation among nations with different values, and acting to halt climate change. However, many of the tools we used to overcome problems in the past are falling short today. With this “history at a turning point,” the most critical mission of business leaders is to address social challenges. We must change the world for the better through our businesses.

My country Japan is a country contending with serious issues: an aging and declining population, lack of diversity, and a paucity of innovation, among others. Its public debt is ballooning, and its economy has been stagnant. Considering our difficulties, one might question what advice or wisdom a Japanese business leader could offer the world. Yet, Japan has also achieved much to be proud of. It remains the world’s third-largest economy, and its strengths include hi-tech manufacturing, and soft power such as animation, culture, and, cuisine.

This mix of challenges and achievements makes it all the more necessary for business leaders to think deeply about the future. We can play a crucial role in charting our direction, in solving social issues and in creating values.

As a key to concrete action, I would like to offer the Japanese concept of “Seikatsusha.” Essentially, “Seikatsusha” means that as individuals we are all multifaceted. If asked, “what kind of person are you?” what would you say? I am a CEO of a company, and a member of the Japanese Prime Minister’s advisory board. But I am also a citizen who loves Kendo and a consumer who buys gifts for my lovely grandchildren. We are more than our job titles. We can’t be defined by demographics alone.

As an individual “Seikatsusha,” business leaders should pursue traditional economic growth, but also growth that enhances people’s security, health, and well-being. They must strive for the sustainability of the earth and human society. The fruits of growth must be available to all. This aligns with another Japanese concept: Bushido. As described in my book Bushido Capitalism, Bushido is a code of conduct that prioritizes the common good, and emphasizes the balance between self-interest and altruism.

In Japan, SOMPO is working to address a global social issue: an ageing population. We are doing this through our nursing care business. Nursing care places a heavy burden on the elderly, and on the caregivers. Elder care is a challenge for society as a whole. My goal is to create sustainable nursing care and, more than that, foster healthy ageing where people stay vital and happy to the end; the Japanese concept called “pin koro.”

Through digital technology, data and co-creation with various partners SOMPO is generating new solutions in many fields. SOMPO does not reap large short-term financial returns from the nursing care business. But its actions are as “Seikatsusha,” contributing to a sustainable future and people’s well-being. SOMPO is trying to prove that solving problems and providing value to society are profitable and sustainable.

Today, stakeholders are demanding that business leaders commit to solving social issues by leveraging the strengths of their enterprises. We should heed their calls. Business leaders must act to realize a better future for all through their work and their companies. Because the fate of the world is everyone’s business.

More Must-Read Stories From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com.

Air Conditioners Will Only Make the Climate Hotter
Tesla Co-Founder JB Straubel on Fixing the Battery Problem
Borge Brende Discusses the Role of World Economic Forum
Lawyer Naomi Koshi Is Empowering Japanese Women in Business
The Future of Our Planet Rests in the Quality of Our Soil
EDIT POST