From a Civilization of Greed to a Civilization of Altruism
Chairperson Masami Saionji, President Hiroo Saionji, it is indeed a great honor to receive the 2014 Goi Peace Award.
I am humbly grateful that I have been selected to receive this honorable award despite the great number of people around the world who are contributing to world peace. I have always had the utmost respect for the work of the Goi Peace Foundation. In particular, I have for a long time been deeply moved by the peace movement put forth by Mr. Masahisa Goi—on whose philosophy this organization was founded—which called the whole world to come together around the prayer words May peace prevail on Earth.
There are many, many prayers in this world, but I can think of no other prayer words so filled with love and compassion as the words May peace prevail on Earth—words that are written on peace poles placed throughout the world. More than delivering even the most eloquent speech, I believe that there is no deed so noble as wholeheartedly offering this simple prayer.
This has been my belief ever since I was young. And for this reason, as a business manager I have strived to base my management on the pure and beautiful spirit of altruism, keeping in mind what is best for others, for the community, and for the world.
In 1959, when I was 27 years old, seven colleagues and I established the Kyocera Corporation. Establishing a new company is like paddling a tiny boat out into the raging ocean without a compass. In those circumstances, all I had to rely on were the bonds I had with my colleagues. In order to solidify these bonds, before the company was launched we prepared a document that summarized the significance of establishing the company. In it we wrote: “In solidarity with each other, we seal in blood our wish to do good for others and for our society.” I remember actually making this pledge with our signature and our seal in blood.
We developed the company not for our own selfish interests, but for the good of all the stakeholders and of society as a whole. Through the profits made from the business, we would contribute to the welfare of others. We were young engineers, just 27 years old, pledging this high-minded ideal with our seal of blood and boldly announcing it.
Kyocera started from a small factory with no capital, but it grew rapidly, and at present, the company boasts sales of more than 1.4 trillion yen. It has grown into one of the leading electronics manufacturers in Japan, thanks to the sincere-minded wish we had back then.
Then, in 1984, at the age of 52, I started the DDI Corporation, which is now KDDI. Here, too, the driving force behind its success was the sincere wish to benefit others and benefit society. At that time, the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation monopolized the telecommunications industry in Japan, and because of this the charges and fees for telecommunications were extremely high. My hope in entering the market was to reduce the charges and fees that people in Japan were paying. That was my reason for establishing DDI.
At that time, Kyocera was still small, and challenging the giant NTT was considered reckless. Companies all over Japan were very hesitant about it. They thought: “That company has 4 trillion yen in sales. Since the Meiji era (1868-1912), they’ve been using state funds to run telephone lines to every household in Japan. You can’t possibly challenge a company like that.” It was an area that no one ventured to step into. But I felt that for the sake of the people, we had to reduce the cost of communications, and I embarked on this noble cause. With no experience or knowledge, I resolved that I would undertake this task.
However, I did not make my plan public right away. For about half a year before I actually entered the marketplace I asked myself: “Are you doing this for the right reason? Are you not just thinking selfishly?” Every night, I interrogated myself: “Do you really have a pure motive in entering the telecom market? Are you not just trying to make yourself look good to society?” Eventually, after repeated questioning, I felt confident that I had a good motive, and that I was not being selfish. And from there I wasted no time in entering the telecom business.
All the employees of DDI shared the pure-minded aim of working not for their own profit, but for the good of others. They truly wanted the business to succeed, and they worked extremely hard to make it happen. Through their sincere motivation and tremendous efforts, and with the backing of our stakeholders, we garnered the support of an extensive customer base. Today, KDDI also includes the mobile telephone company ‘au’, and has achieved sales of 4.3 trillion yen. It has grown into a massive corporation.
I have one more example to share. Starting in 2010, at the age of 78, for about three years I was involved in the restructuring of Japan Airlines (JAL). There were three main reasons why I took on JAL’s restructuring: to help revive the Japanese economy, to safeguard the employment of JAL’s staff, and to make air travel more convenient for people. In a chivalrous sprit, so to speak, nearing the age of 80 I assumed the chairmanship of JAL without any compensation, and I resolved to put all my energy into rebuilding the company.
I tried to appeal to the JAL staff to understand the three reasons why I wanted JAL to succeed. The employees began to understand that the rebuilding of Japan Airlines was not only for their own sake, but that there were other noble reasons—that it was for the benefit of others and society as a whole. Once they understood this, they spared no effort in cooperating in the restructuring.
As each employee’s mind began to change, focusing more on the welfare of others and society in general, the performance of Japan Airlines improved rapidly. In the first year of the restructuring, we achieved an operating profit of 180 billion yen, and in the second year, more than 200 billion yen—both record highs—and we were re-listed on the stock exchange. In the fiscal year ending March 2013, the operating profit was 190 billion yen, and in March 2014, over 160 billion yen. Profit margins in the airline industry tend to be low, but JAL is maintaining a high margin of above 10%.
Thus, as I have stated, at Kyocera, at KDDI, and at Japan Airlines, the spirit of altruism—the genuine, noble thought that I was working for the benefit of others and of society—was a driving force behind my business development.
There are some who argue that you cannot manage a company altruistically, and that business management is a matter of egoism and self-interest. And indeed, there are those kinds of managers. But people who manage based on selfish interests will never be able to maintain success over the long term. If their selfish ambitions grow without limit, it will soon lead them to failure, and will be their downfall.
On the other hand, management based on altruism—on doing what is good for others—garners the cooperation of others, bringing about development that is beyond one’s individual ability and allowing for long-term prosperity. I believe that this way of thinking applies not only to the world of business management, but is also essential for building a society that is peaceful and sustainable.
It seems that the driving force behind the development of our present day material civilization, starting from the Industrial Revolution, has been egocentric ambition—the desire for a life of greater abundance and a more convenient society. In just over two centuries—a very short time in the history of humankind—this strong desire has indeed created the prosperity of our present material civilization, but a civilization driven by selfish greed cannot go on forever.
For example, according to United Nations’ estimates, by 2050 the world’s population will be nearly 10 billion. This enormous population of 10 billion people will all want a life of abundance, convenience, and luxury. However, even now, with a population of 7 billion, we have already exceeded the earth’s capacity. Is it even possible for 10 billion people to secure the minimum necessities for survival—food, water, resources and energy—to say nothing of having an affluent life?
It is not only a question of food and resources. Environmental problems, regional conflicts, disputes between states or religions—almost all the crises of modern civilization originate from our own selfish greed. However, no matter how much humanity may wish for a more convenient and plentiful life driven by selfish ambition, it is clear that our development is limited by what the earth can tolerate and provide, and the time when we will reach that limit is not far off. I fear that if our current way of living continues, our present civilization will eventually collapse and humanity will be brought to ruin.
The great ancient civilizations that human beings created in the past all flourished at one time, yet exist today only as ruins. Why is it that such advanced civilizations suddenly disappeared? I believe those ruins are warnings to our modern civilization.
Then, what kind of civilization should we aim for? I feel that the spirit of altruism—the desire to do good for others—should become the spiritual norm for humanity from here on, and that human beings must establish a civilization based on this spirit of altruism.
From a civilization based on greed and egoism to a civilization based on altruism. This is the urgent task before us. And the key to this task, I believe, is our own individual state of mind. When our civilization is based on altruism, international relations that are strained due to competing national interests will move towards reconciliation, and I believe we can prevent international disputes that arise through competition for food and energy.
In the new altruistic civilization, all living beings will be able to care for one another, help one another, and coexist in harmony. This may sound difficult to achieve, but with humanity’s collective wisdom and strength I am certain that it is possible. At the same time, this new altruistic, spiritual civilization will undoubtedly be far more advanced and fertile than the material civilization based on selfish greed that we built during the last 200 or so years. When this happens, I believe that the grand dream of a world at peace will become a reality.
Lastly, I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for arranging this wonderful award ceremony today, with so many people in attendance. I’d like to thank you all again for presenting me with this award, and I’d like to express my deepest respect to all of you and all the members of the Goi Peace Foundation for taking the lead in pioneering efforts to build a peaceful society.
I’d like to close by expressing my wish for the further growth of the foundation, and for the continued expansion of each individual’s prayers for peace. Thank you very much.