Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Shiseido Way: beautiful, cute and animated

I was intrigued to read Shiseido's Social Report. I came accross the fact that they had issued a report, and had a sudden surge of nostalgia caused by several years working in the cosmetic industry, time spent in Japan, and the reverence earned by shiseido as a master cosmetic innovator and developer, using the most expensive raw materials and producing the classiest and most predigious line of products. So how do they do on CSR, i asked myself, after the nostalgia has subsided.

Straight to website, download PDF.
Darn. It's in Japanese. Now why would that surprise me? Well, their CSR website is all in English. Couldnt they have been 無理がきく ? (that means willing to go the extra mile). (I hope!). And produce the report in English ? Wonder what proportion of Shiseido customers are not Japanese speakers? (I know a little Japanese, domo arigato). A quick trip to corporate data shows that 63% of their business is in Japan.

OK, let's take a quick look at their web. Straight to the gut. Stakeholder dialogue. Shiseido has an interesting model here. Once a year, it seems, they invite experts and hold a facilitated discussion which is fully transcripted on the website. This is a nice approach, interesting to hear what appears to be the unedited comments of stakeholders. I looked into how Shiseido dialogues with customers, and found quite a range of ways to sollicit customer feedback, including "chatterbox", where employees talk to customers in an on-line live chat enviromment. it's GREAT fun. Why ? Because it offers "The ability for participants to transform themselves into cute animated characters keeps the interview enjoyable." I think i would be a cute animated CSR consultant.
But the nice, and i think, rather unusual thing about this is that the site also gives examples of where Shiseido has modified products and packaging design as a result of consumer feedback. The value of dialogue proves itself once again.

Their report is a self declared GRI B. That self-declared thing again. Must do a post on that.
It's sort of assured - by one of the stakeholder panel participants - but there is no indication that this is anything more than an informed opinion rather than a full verification or assurance process.

The thing that strikes me most about the Shiseido web report is that it's a little like going back in time. Inside one of their nano-capsules. Their approach to CSR is really about doing good - making people feel happy because they can be beautiful by spending a lot of money on shiseido products and receiving expert advice on how to use them. Shiseido has a very benevolent approach, and works to provide products for all types of skin concerns and "irregulaties "etc. What i miss is any sense of materiality. What's material to Shiseido ? What about their role in the beauty industry which creates manipulated and distorted views of women in the name of beauty ? To what extent are they perpetuating myths about beautiful people to drive sales, that creates the sort of society where women feel they have to be stereotypically "beautiful" to be valued ? what about pricing ? What about animal testing ? What about manufacturing conditions?

And while we are on a feminist roll, Shiseido employes over 6400 female beauty consultants (and 6 males). 276 of a total of 1798 managers are female. 15%. Amazing really. The Company sells to women. Makes products for women. No way of knowing how many women are on the Board or in the executive suite. But wouldn't you have thought that there would be a few more capable women available to assume some leadership responsibility ?

Anyway, all in all, i can't help but feel a little positive towards Shiseido. (Is it that nostalgia again ?). their report seems an earnest attempt to reflect a basically solid csr position and a genuine attempt to do the right thing. Modern CSR would suggest they ought to be doing a little more soul-searching to review those areas which are more difficultly material, and also expand the scope and depth of their reporting .

For the time being, sayonara . Or, as they say in Japan, bai-bai.


Yael said...

Thanks for great article on Shiseido! Do you know whether the company supports any good causes? Political ones? Within Israel perhaps?

elaine said...

hello yael, thank you for reading the blog and for commenting. You can read more about shiseido's good causes here :
their activities support art, health and social welfare, and environment. Not aware of anything directly political or in Israel.
warm regards, elaine

aresh said...

Very grateful for your report. Shiseido/Cle de Peau Beaute are approaching us through a publicity firm to:

...To celebrate this collection, Cle de Peau is mounting an exhibit of the photos, which will be offered for sale with the proceeds going to More Gardens! Further, we will be holding a cocktail party in honor of the exhibition which will be attended by some of NYC's top tastemakers, socialites and art industry representatives.....

Your report along PETA were a breath of fresh air amidst a barrage of google links of promotionary steps (many in the right direction solar, recycling etc). It seems to me Shiseido has some key inner root changes in women's rights and animal compassion to work through alongside global warming. Thank you, always welcome to visit community gardens if you are in NYC, Peas and prosperity.

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