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Hiroshima for Global Peace

[Interview] “Active Peace” & “SDGs” Initiatives “Sumitomo Mitsui Banking”

 This series of article will talk about the initiatives led by corporations that participated in the “2020 Hiroshima Business Forum for Global Peace”, which discussed the relationship between business and peacebuilding from many different aspects. This time, we discussed the direction Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) is taking, with their Corporate Planning Department Sustainability Promotion Manager Tatsuya Takeda.

●Company Policy
 In April 2020, our company established the “SMBC Group Sustainability Pledge” as the guiding principles in our efforts to build a sustainable society. In this pledge, sustainability was defined as “building a society where everyone in this age may pursue economic prosperity and happiness, and pass on such a society to future generations” and this resonates with the “Active Peace” concept that was the theme of the “2020 Hiroshima Business Forum for Global Peace”. As for active peace, it not only means no wars or disputes but also no systemic violence. However, many parts of the world are still struggling with many issues such as poverty, oppression, and social exclusion.

 We started the “GREEN X GLOBE Partners (GGP)” initiative to address these issues. This is a community run by SMBC Group to find solutions for environmental and social issues. The reason we started GGP is to “spread the ‘awareness’ and ‘opportunity’ to solve environmental & social issues”, work together to find solutions to issues that cannot be solved by a single organization or individual, and become the starting point for such actions. We believe that as a financial institution, we are well positioned to connect businesspersons from various industries and create networks to support them in this endeavor. Starting by inviting our clients, we now have over 190 participating partners. 

 The activities of GGP are widely reported on this website ( Apart from financial issues, we also take on a wide range of themes, such as “Thinking Ethical Issues in AI”. In particular, there is a high level of interest in the “Sustainability x Community” series that focuses on the community and discusses the relationship sustainability has with it; for example, the online event in July had more than 400 applicants. We believe we are succeeding in giving many people the opportunity to think about social issues.

●Initiatives to achieve SDGs
 Instead of approaching the issue from the traditional framework of SDGs, we are exploring ways to establish issues we need to prioritize (materiality) as a corporation and take steps to solve them, ultimately contributing to achieving the SDGs. In 2014, SMBC Group chose 3 issues to prioritize, that is “Environment”, “Community”, and “Future Generation”. Comparing them with the SDGs, Environment relates to (7. Affordable and Clean Energy) and (13. Climate Action), Community relates to (1. No Poverty) and (11. Sustainable Cities and Communities), and Future Generation relates to (4. Quality Education), (8. Decent Work and Economic Growth), and (9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure). Additionally, at the same time as our sustainability pledge, we have also established a 10-year long term plan until 2030, called “SMBC Group GREEN X GLOBE 2030”. We are currently taking steps towards achieving the goals in this plan.

 Firstly, in terms of the environment, we are focusing on providing “Green Finance”. Our target amount for financing towards sustainability as of April 2020 was 10 trillion yen, but following the government’s carbon neutral pledge, we have increased that amount to 30 trillion yen. We are also aiming to reduce our own company’s greenhouse gas emission to virtually zero by 2030. As for the community aspect, other than the GGP, we are also running an agricultural proof-of-concept by cultivating rice and onions in Akita, producing Japanese rice wine from the harvested rice.

 For the future generation, our group company SMBC Consumer Finance regularly conducts financial & economic education for high school and university students through the “PROMISE Financial & Economic Education Seminar”, which reached a cumulative attendance of over 1 million as of February last year. As a group, we intend to provide programs that include but are not limited to finance to 1.5 million people in the next 10 years.

●Our position with regard to climate change
 One of the major issues currently got attention is climate change, and our company is also taking initiatives to tackle this issue. People might wonder why a financial institution is taking steps towards achieving carbon neutral. As a financial institution, we also invest in industries that emit large amounts of CO2 such as oil & gas, so if we allow social structures to continue in the current destructive trend, we may face terrible consequences as investors in the future. To minimize such impacts, we need to find out the CO2 emissions of the companies we invest in and cooperate with them to find ways to lower their emissions and turn things around.

 Climate change is often discussed in the GGP and we have appealed many Japanese SMEs have pleaded with the industry as a whole to think of it as an issue that affects us all as individuals. When contemplating the issues related to transmission lines, “local production and consumption” seems to be the most environmentally friendly solution. As working remotely has become common due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe that it will also accelerate the return of focus to local communities. There will be a gradual shift from the current centralized economy system to decentralized economies, greatly increasing the level of responsibilities local authorities need to take on.

●Our Thoughts on Hiroshima
 We believe Hiroshima has both the right and responsibility to promote the active peace theme. History is important in everything we do, so we also looked back at our company’s 400 years of history when establishing our sustainability pledge and asked ourselves “What is it that only we have the ability to convey?” While Hiroshima may have an unfortunate past, Hiroshima’s unique background also enables it to convey to the world a resounding message that holds greater significance when promoted by none other than Hiroshima. As the importance of local communities grow in the future, we expect Hiroshima to be a model case that will be replicated by other local authorities. 

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation
Corporate Planning Department Sustainability Promotion Manager 
Tatsuya Takeda

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