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Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012

Firms expand scope of corporate responsibility with programs for kids


With the concept of corporate social responsibility having become more or less "common sense" in Japan in recent years, some major firms have expanded the scope of their activities by organizing interactive outreach programs for children.

Going beyond merely making environmentally friendly goods or mobilizing employees for volunteer activities, the companies are hoping their new approach will spark students' interest in future careers with them, while also publicizing the firms' products and services.

In late August, Intel Corp.'s Japanese unit, Intel K.K., gave a group of fourth- through sixth-graders and their parents a hands-on presentation about how to assemble computers at its Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, office.

"Now, connect this cord to the motherboard," the students dressed in lab coats were told as Intel staff showed them how to piece the components together.

After successful connections, the computer screens lit up children's smiling faces as they tested their handiwork by searching the Internet.

An 11-year-old girl who took part in the session with her father said with a smile: "I want to use the computer to research and investigate many things, and become a weather forecaster in the future to contribute to society."

Before wrapping up the event, the group of about 20 took part in a video conference with Intel officials at the company's Tokyo headquarters, during which the students presented ideas for future computers.

"As a company, we hope to contribute so that children can acquire the ability to think by themselves," said Koji Ogata, head of Intel K.K.'s educational program department.

Beverage maker Suntory Holdings Ltd. is another company that conducts educational programs for young children. Its activities focus mainly on sustainable water resources, which are essential to Suntory's business.

Suntory's "mizuiku" (water education) program for third- through sixth-graders aims to teach kids about the importance of water and the major role forests play in the water cycle.

Launched in 2004, the "Outdoor School of Forest and Water" program has been held in forests near Suntory's mineral water plants in Kumamoto, Tottori and Yamanashi prefectures. Each year, it attracts about 1,000 participants.

By taking children and their parents on hikes through "natural water sanctuaries," the program aims to show participants how forests replenish water sources while stressing the importance of protecting the environment.

Shiseido Co.'s student events focus on skin care and confidence. The company held one such event for a group of fifth- and sixth-graders and their parents at its Tokyo headquarters in August.

In a room lined with washbasins, Shiseido staffers showed the 90 participants facial cleansing techniques to help them combat skin problems that often arise during puberty.

"We hope that by knowing the right way to wash one's face, the children can grow up without being troubled by skin problems and thus become individuals who are confident in themselves," said Hatae Kaneko of Shiseido's corporate social responsibility section.

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