At Ricoh Netherlands, then known as NRG Benelux B.V., two Afghan employees expressed concern about the worsening social situation in his native country, even after the regime collapse of 2001. They suggested that the company could do something to help rebuild their country and benefit its future. In response, the company explored various possibilities for social contributions in line with their business, and decided to help Afghanistan by improving educational opportunities for children. Accordingly, the company donated 75 recycled copiers for duplicating learning materials, most of which were lost during the war. For the next 18 months, the company made careful preparations, selecting appropriate devices for use in rugged conditions and establishing a repair and maintenance system. Finally, in September 2003, Ricoh copiers started operation at schools in Kabul.
Rather than stopping of the donation of copiers, this project opened new possibilities. The establishment of a company to handle machine repair and maintenance generated employment opportunities, contributing to economic independence. Moreover, news media organizations picked up the story and drew attention to the project, resulting in new appreciation for the importance of corporate social action programs. The project also became a source of pride and created a closer bond between employees. In 2005, the company decided to donate an additional 75 recycled copiers to Afghanistan. This new initiative was highly evaluated by governmental agencies, the United Nations, and NGOs, which also acquired some copiers. By 2007, Ricoh’s business share grew to 60% in Kabul. Thus, something that started as a social contribution developed into a successful business endeavor.
Ricoh’s founder Kiyoshi Ichimura formulated the company’s three basic principles, “Love your neighbor. Love your country. Love your work.” He believed that when a corporation is truly valued by society, prosperity follows as a natural result. The project in Afghanistan is a good example of this belief. At Ricoh, we want to provide continuous social action programs in line with our business, rather than merely offering temporary support. Ricoh’s commitment to this approach is growing stronger. For example, we are considering holding workshops to explore the current conditions and challenges facing low-income populations at what is termed the Base of the Pyramid (BOP). We are also evaluating social action programs to help bridge the “digital divide”＊ between people with easy access to digital and IT resources, and those with limited or no access at all. Moreover, in October 2010, Ricoh started conducting on-site surveys at a village in northern India. We will carry on with these efforts, seeking to simultaneously make contributions to society and assure business growth. Ricoh envision a sustainable society that transcends the limitations of individuals, countries, and companies.
＊“Digital divide” refers to the educational, employment, and/or financial gap between those who can utilize IT including personal computers and the Internet and those who cannot.