By Tan Mei Ling*:
In today’s evolving world of climate change, depleting natural resources, economic uncertainty and inequality, the onus is on leading corporations to become responsible global citizens by improving the social and environmental conditions of the societies they serve.
More than just a series of abstract philosophical principles, Bridgestone’s commitment to global sustainable practices is an intrinsic part of our 87-year heritage as a company that was founded on our founder Shojiro Ishibashi’s belief “that a business that contributes to its society and country will be forever profitable.”
Recognising that the best companies not only perform for their stakeholders but also contribute to a better world, we have made sustainability an integral part of our business as defined in our CSR commitment: ‘Our Way To Serve.’ Serving Society with Superior Quality is the guiding principle that is reflected across the entire life cycle and value chain of our products, and in our mission to improve the safety and lives of the people across the world, environmentally, economically and socially.
As a one of the world’s leaders in tyre manufacturing, our business decisions are always made with an eye on the environmental implications. We are strong advocators of the protection of primary forests and the restoring of deforested areas, particularly those used to cultivate natural rubber, to their natural state, whenever possible and feasible. Bridgestone is actively involved in the International Tire Industry Project, which is managed under the umbrella of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), collaborating with other industry players to identify and address the potential human health and environmental impacts associated with the life cycle of tyres.
Our mandate for sustainability not only inspires us to become good stewards of the society and the environment, but also empowers us to make changes that will have a positive and lasting impact on the communities within which we have become an intrinsic part of. To this end, Bridgestone has prioritised its economic, social and environmental sustainability initiatives under ‘Mobility,’ which focuses efforts on improving access to smart and safe transportation; People, where building healthy and resilient communities has become national initiatives across the world; and Environment, which makes balancing business operations with responsible environmental stewardship an important priority.
With Asia’s mounting social and economic pressures of growing populations, the path to a sustainable future has to begin with the socio-economic transformation of local communities and economies. Our long-term mission therefore is to influence, collaborate and support the external and internal stakeholders in each country to address the issues of poverty, lack of access to education, shortage of skilled manpower, public health and the devastating impact of climate change, to bring about the change that is needed in the development of the next generation. While it is a long journey of transformation, it is encouraging and heart-warming to see how our efforts in Indonesia and India are making headway by our teams, who have been working on the ground to help disadvantaged communities.
Bridgestone was among the first international companies in Indonesia to respond to the government’s quest to address the problem of skilled manpower shortage. Over the last 38 years, we have been helping youth realise their fullest potential through a two-year vocational education and training residential programme, the Loka Latihan Keterampilan Bridgestone. This has been aimed at equipping Indonesian youth with in-demand technical and vocational skills, to prepare them with the ability to excel in a competitive workplace, through the cultivation of discipline and self-confidence.
Our commitment to the sustainable protection of the environment in Indonesia also brought together the combined might of employee volunteerism and community participation to build a natural defence barrier against the impact of typhoons, flooding, erosion and other natural hazards affecting the remote coastal area of Muara Gembong, one of the largest mangroves, reforestation initiatives to date. These efforts have won Bridgestone international recognition at the recent 10th Annual Global CSR Summit 2018 in three categories: Best Country CSR Excellence Award (Gold), Best Community Programme (Silver) and Excellence in Provision of Literacy and Education (Silver).
The building of healthy and thriving communities has also been central to the work we have been doing across India, a key initiative of which has been in the development of Comprehensive Health Care Camps. From creating awareness in people towards personal health and hygiene, the programme has over the years evolved to the promotion of healthier lifestyles, disease prevention and the provision of curative care. Our focus here has been to provide care to meet the basic clinical needs of pregnant women, adolescent, children and elderly citizens, all of which have been managed in close coordination with the public health departments, panchayats, village development committees, rural health workers etc. We also took up the gauntlet to promote better vision care through Eye Check-up Camps for drivers and school children across India, and also to drive breast cancer awareness through the Pink Valve Cap fund raising campaign for the purchase of a Fluobeam-ICG fluoroscopy imaging device for Tata Memorial Hospital.
One thing that we have been particularly proud of is the mission critical spirit of employee volunteerism. Only through the selfless efforts of Bridgestone’s colleagues who have contributed time, money and professional skills to support our programmes will we be able to realise our community engagement initiatives.
Driving sustainability as a global leader in today’s context goes beyond that of just doing good for the environment. For Bridgestone, it carries the responsibility of being the vanguard of ethical practices across the countries that we operate in by putting into place stringent procedures to strengthen management and governance fundamentals. This is already in place across six major areas: Compliance and Fair Competition that allows us to build ethical responsible business and decision making practices across all our operations; Business Continuity (BCP) and Risk Management where we are always prepared to protect our people, property and profits; Human Rights and Labour Practices where ethics and diversity builds trust; Industrial Hygiene and Safety of which there is no compromise on standards; and Quality and Customer Value which upholds our CSR commitment of Serving Society with Superior Quality.
Over and above that, the price of progress and how businesses affect the environment and its natural resources is an escalating global concern that cannot be ignored. We have therefore taken an important step towards realising Bridgestone’s goal of using 100 percent sustainable materials by 2050 with the launch of our enhanced Global Sustainable Procurement Policy, which will be rolled out globally across all our operations. This demonstrates our commitment to driving sustainable procurement practices that will create long-term environmental, social and economic benefits through the realisation of sustainable supply chains that respect human rights, water use, land use, conservation, health and safety.
The key to making this work is Seijitsu-Kyocho, which translates to Integrity and teamwork; we recognise that to achieve true and lasting sustainability across the supply chain will take time and effort. This will involve continuous education, active engagement and collaboration with our partners, suppliers and employees to make sure that everyone is aligned with us on our procurement mission of developing efficient and accountable practices that respect environmental standards.
We at Bridgestone understand that we have a mission to Serve Society with Superior Quality, to bring about a sustainable change, not just for today, but for the betterment of future generations. For this to happen our efforts must be far-reaching and collaborative, within and beyond the industry, to employ innovation and technology that will improve the way people move, live, work, and play.
(*Tan Mei Ling is CSR Manager of Bridgestone Asia Pacific)