When the earthquake and tsunami struck the Tohoku region in Japan on March 11, 2011, many companies wasted no time in showing their support and getting involved in surveying the situation and aiding in recovery.
While the meltdowns at the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture added a new layer of complication to relief efforts in affected areas, Fuji Xerox did its best to overcome those challenges to provide support and assistance.
One of the things that the Roppongi, Tokyo based multination printer vendor did was partner with an NPO, Japan Platform, to provide printing assistance and free rental of multifunction devices for other NGOs.
The arrangement came about on May 23, which was only two months after the disaster and reasonably speedy, considering how long it can sometimes take for a large corporation to carry out a decision in some cases.
Fuji Xerox corporate social responsibility (CSR) department planning group manager, Kouichi Nomura, attributes the genesis of this collaboration to former Fuji Xerox president, Toshio Arima, who is the chairman of Japan Platform.
“Even before the disaster, we had a good relationship with the organisation and knew of their capabilities,” he said.
“So immediately after the earthquake struck, we discussed with our top management team what we could do in the affected areas and this led to a prompt decision.
Nomura says that Fuji Xerox’s existing relationship with Japan Platform is what enabled the collaboration to pick up steam as early as the end of the March, just weeks after the disaster had occured.
The other reason behind Fuji Xerox partnering with Japan Platform was the group’s reach and influence, as it is one of the biggest platforms organised by Foreign Minister of Japan and has partnerships with many of the other popular NGOs.
With this activity, Fuji Xerox provided free rental of approximately 100 multifunction devices to the NGOs allied with Japan Platform, as volunteers had to rely on printouts in those early days of the disaster, as electronic communication was down in many of the affected areas in Tohoku.
The printer vendor followed up that initial move with a partnership with another NGO, Civic Force, on July 27.
For this activity, Fuji Xerox decided to send 230 of its new employees to assist affected communities in the Tohoku area.
According to Nomura, the choice of Civic Force for this activity was due to their reputation of being an NGO that is “professional, swift and effective” in delivering relief services during domestic natural disasters.
“They already had experiences and knowledge in that area, as well as strong relationship with the disasters areas, which made them the logical choice in this case,” he said.
Nomura adds that for this activity, Fuji Xerox relied on Civic Force chairman and founder, Kensuke Onishi, to provide suggestions and advice on how the vendor’s staff could be of the most use in relief efforts.
As for why Fuji Xerox felt it was necessary to send its own employees to assist in the restoration and recovery efforts, Nomura says it was about getting a better understanding of the scale of the disaster.
“Through the experiences of the volunteers, we wanted them to see with their own eyes what is happening in the Tohoku area,” he said.
“We also wanted them to come up with their own initiatives on what we can do to assist the areas.”
The activity was so successful that Fuji Xerox would maintain a continuous volunteer dispatch from September through to March 2012.
When explaining the vendor’s decision to continue this activity over several months, Nomura points out that the afflicted areas still needs support even after 16 months following the disaster.
“We cannot just stop our support there,” he said.
The other reason was that Fuji Xerox found itself fielding numerous requests from its employees to participate in the volunteer activities as well.
This led the company to organise another volunteer trip for this year’s new employees in June, with more than 250 of them sent to recover important official documents left in the Tohoku area.
“Any documents that were recovered and were damaged were cleaned, scanned and stored as digital copies,” Nomura said.
A year and a half after the events of March 11, the activity is still going strong and Nomura says that Fuji Xerox is planning another trip to Tohoku for employees this month.
“We’re now thinking about whether we should continue carrying out such support for another two to three years,” he said.
According to Nomura, this is only the beginning when it comes to Fuji Xerox’s support of Tohoku’s recovery.
“We will continuously support the afflicted areas and people by dispatching volunteers, but also will more focus on initiatives utilizing our business resources,” he said.
“As sightseeing and fishing are important industries in the afflicted area, we hope to help those industries recover using our technologies.”
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