Ⅰ. Approach, Policy, and Structure
1. Basic Policy
As we realize sustainable growth through Ajinomoto Group Creating Shared Value (ASV), the Ajinomoto Group engages in the SDGs and other efforts related to the international consensus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies. In doing so, we recognize that all business activities must be premised on respect for human rights. We support international standards for human rights including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up, and the United Nations Global Compact. Further, we have established our own Ajinomoto Group Shared Policy on Human Rights. This policy is based on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and ensures that as a corporate group that conducts business globally, all of the Ajinomoto Group companies, and officers and employees respect internationally recognized human rights and comply thoroughly with international human rights obligations and related laws and regulations of the countries where we operate. In addition, we encourage our business partners and other related parties (including upstream suppliers) to support this policy and respect human rights, and work together to promote respect for human rights.
Ajinomoto Group policies are approved by the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee before being signed by the president and CEO.
[ Attachment ] Ajinomoto Group Priority Human Rights Issues
- Elimination of discrimination
The Ajinomoto Group does not engage in discrimination, harassment or any other affronts to the dignity of individuals on grounds of race, ethnicity, national extraction, religion, creed, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, or other identifying characteristics.
- Prohibition of child labor and forced labor
The Ajinomoto Group does not accept any form of child labor, forced labor, bonded labor, or human trafficking.
- Respect for fundamental labor rights
The Ajinomoto Group respects fundamental labor rights including freedom of association, workers’ right to organize and collective bargaining rights.
- Adequate provision of wages and reasonable working hours
The Ajinomoto Group provides all employees with adequate wages and reasonable working hours.
- Ensuring a safe working environment and promoting health and well-being
The Ajinomoto Group provides a safe, hygienic and comfortable working environment and endeavors to promote the health and well-being of all workers worldwide.
- Support for work-life balance
The Ajinomoto Group understands the importance of work-life balance and endeavors to make this possible for workers across the globe.
- Contribution to building a more diverse and inclusive society
The Ajinomoto Group strives to enhance diversity by respecting the diverse characteristics and perspectives of each individual so that workers all over the world can flourish regardless of factors such as race, nationality or sex. The Group also works to support, empower, and protect the human rights of members of vulnerable, marginalized or under-represented groups, such as people with disabilities, migrant workers, or LGBT people.
- Safeguarding personal information
The Ajinomoto Group adheres to the Act on the Protection of Personal Information and applicable laws and regulations and we are committed to proper safeguarding of all personal information we handle.
The Ajinomoto Group pursues ESG and sustainability initiatives that include respect for human rights, mainly through the Sustainability Advisory Council, a subordinate body of the Board of Directors, and the Sustainability Committee, a subordinate body of the Executive Committee. The Sustainability Committee and the Sustainability Development Department create roadmaps regarding human rights initiatives, offer proposals, and provide support to incorporate sustainability into business plans. These two bodies report to the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors.
Discussions Regarding Human Rights in Board of Directors, Executive Committee Meetings
|October 17, 2022||Executive Committee||Approval of revisions to the Group Shared Policy on Human Rights|
|October 28, 2022||Board of Directors||Report on revisions to Group Shared Policy on Human Rights|
Discussions Regarding Human Rights in the Sustainability Advisory Council and Sustainability Committee
|April 19, 2021||Sustainability Committee||Sustainability promotion structure, materialities
FY2021 Identified important organization-wide ESG risks and opportunities
|June 1, 2021||Sustainability Committee|
|July 29, 2021||Sustainability Committee||Shared initial risk assessment results
Plan for a human rights impact assessment in Brazil
|October 8, 2021||Sustainability Committee||Identified priority raw materials based on human rights risk assessments
Initiatives to engage in responsible employment of foreign workers
|November 9, 2021||Sustainability Committee|
|April 28, 2022||Sustainability Committee||Report results of the Brazil human rights impact assessment
Report results of the 2022 human rights risks assessment
|July 21, 2022||Sustainability Committee||Revised Group Shared Policy for on Human Rights and Suppliers|
|November 2, 2022||Sustainability Committee|
|October 27, 2022||Sustainability Advisory Council||Well-being as a human right
⇒ Included in the report to the Board of Directors
|February 2, 2023||Sustainability Committee||
Ⅱ. Human Rights Due Diligence
1. Ajinomoto Group Human Rights Due Diligence
In accordance with the UNGPs and the Group Shared Policy on Human Rights, the Ajinomoto Group engages in dialogue and consultation with stakeholders, and collaborates with third-party organizations* that are experts in human rights. In this way, we ensure respect for human rights for all stakeholders (employees, business partners, local communities, customers, etc.) across the Ajinomoto Group value chain (including within the Ajinomoto Group). We encourage human rights due diligence beginning with regular (every four years) country-specific human rights risk assessment of raw material procurement, production, and sales across all businesses.
2. Basic Concepts
Our approach to establishing a UNGPs-based management system covering the value chain from an external perspective emphasizes the following two aspects: Comprehensiveness and depth.
It is essential to strengthen cooperation with suppliers and other business partners. To this end, we are developing our own questionnaires and information systems to create a foundation for information gathering and dialogue.
We intend to establish a management structure that enables us to identify human rights issues though direct dialogue with rights-holders and to promptly address the issues identified.
The Ajinomoto Group Human Rights Due Diligence Process
|Fiscal year||Ajinomoto Group Initiatives|
|2011||Established Human Rights Committee under the Business Conduct Committee|
|2012||Conducted internal interviews by department based on ISO 26000 to identify the state of human rights issues|
|2013||Created Supplier CSR Guidelines based on the Ajinomoto Group Basic Purchasing Policy to clarify CSR requirements across the supply chain|
|2014||Added human rights as a category within the Ajinomoto Group Principles → Clarified our basic policy on human rights initiatives|
|2015||Began basic country- and region-specific research to identify potential human rights risks within the Ajinomoto Group|
|2016||Conducted human rights-related training and awareness-raising activities for group employees at the meeting to consider AGP (Ajinomoto Group Principles)|
|2019||Conducted a human rights impact assessment in Thailand (on-site interviews with supply chain partners in the seafood processing and poultry industries); disclosed report|
3. Identify and Assess Adverse Impacts
The Ajinomoto Group periodically reviews (every four years) the human rights risk assessments across all businesses for each country involved in raw materials procurement, production, and sales. In countries, regions, and agricultural products where risks have been identified, the Ajinomoto Group conducts on-site visits and engages in direct dialogues with rights-holders. Through this, we assess the impact on and situation of human rights of stakeholders affected by our businesses (employees of business partners, local residents, NPOs, etc.). We consider actions to prevent or mitigate human rights issues identified through these efforts.
(1) FY2018 Human Rights Risk Assessment and Human Rights Impact Assessment
1) Human Rights Risk Assessment
Using the Verisk Maplecroft Human Rights Risk Database, we identified and analyzed human rights topics with the advice of an external expert, Caux Round Table Japan (CRT Japan). We identified Thailand and Brazil as high-risk countries for the food industry. High-risk issues identified included occupational health and safety, child labor, and forced labor.
Report of the FY2018 Human Rights Risks Assessment (CRT Japan)
2) Human Rights Impact Assessment (Direct Dialogue with Rights-holders)
- Human Rights Impact Assessment in Thailand (2019)
With a particular attention to the seafood processing and poultry industries, we visited manufacturing plants and aquaculture farms involved in the Ajinomoto Group’s value chain. We also engaged in dialogues and interviews with international NGOs and National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, as well as industry associations in the seafood and poultry industries and migrant workers.
Although the legal system in Thailand is well-developed, it became clear that the remedy mechanism was insufficient (response under consideration).
- Human Rights Impact Assessment in Brazil (2021-2022)
With a particular attention to the sugarcane and coffee bean industries, we conducted dialogues and interviews with manufacturing plants and farmers involved in the Ajinomoto Group’s value chain, international NGOs, national human rights institutions, and industry associations. (Conducted online due to COVID-19)
Although the legal system in Brazil is well-developed, it became clear that the remedy mechanism was insufficient. Furthermore, although mechanization is progressing in areas where Ajinomoto Group procure the materials, it became clear that human rights risks are high in areas where a lot of manual work is done. (response under consideration).
(2) FY2022 Human Rights Risk Assessment and Human Rights Impact Assessment
1) Human Rights Risk Assessment
The second human rights risk assessment was conducted in the same way as the first assessment, using the Verisk Maplecroft Human Rights Risk Database and reflecting advice from CRT Japan. We identified Southeast Asia and Brazil as high-risk countries for the food industry. High-risk issues*1 identified included occupational health and safety, child labor, modern slavery (forced labor), and discrimination. We also identified the following risks based on evaluations of priority raw materials*2 sourced by the Ajinomoto Group. Based on these results, the Ajinomoto Group held discussions with external experts and identified sugarcane in Indonesia and coffee beans in Vietnam as industries and countries with high human rights risks. Human rights impact assessments in these areas are currently in progress.
*1 Risks assessed: child labor, decent wages, appropriate working hours, discrimination, freedom of association, modern slavery, occupational health and safety, and land grabbing
*2 We prioritized the following five raw materials in our human rights risks assessments.
|Raw Materials Assessed||Coffee||Sugarcane||Soybeans||Shrimp||Palm Oil|
|High Risk Issues||
2) Human Rights Impact Assessments (Direct Dialogue with Rights-holders)
- Human Rights Impact Assessment in Indonesia (Supply Chain of Sugarcane Molasses) （February 2023）
In September 2022, the Sustainability Development Department in Ajinomoto group and CRT Japan started a scenario analysis for a human rights impact assessment of sugarcane in Indonesia, while monitoring the situation of COVID-19. In October, we developed a plan for a human rights impact assessment in Indonesia.
- Prior explanation to management of Ajinomoto Co., Inc. and the local subsidiary in Indonesia (November and December 2022)
- Human rights impact assessment of the supply chain of sugarcane molasses, Indonesia (February 27th and 28th, 2023)
- Visit to the Surabaya region, Indonesia by third-party CRT Japan and Ajinomoto Group sustainability and procurement representatives as part of efforts to enhance traceability in the region
- Visits to the Ajinomoto Group manufacturing factory, trader, sugar mill, and farmers along the Ajinomoto Group’s sugarcane supply chain to conduct direct dialogues
Report of result from CRT Japan (March 10th, 2023)
- Draft report on human rights impact assessment of the supply chain of sugarcane molasses in Indonesia prepared by CRT Japan
Information sharing within the Ajinomoto Group (April 2023)
- Feedback of the assessment results to the local subsidiary in Indonesia
- Initiated consideration of specific future action plans
- Human Rights Impact Assessment in Vietnam (Supply Chain of coffee bean) (April 2023)
We went into the local coffee bean industry supply chain and conducted dialogues and interviews with farmers, exporter and local coffee company.
〈Summary of results〉
No serious violations of human rights, such as forced labor or child labor, were found within the scope of this time.
On the other hand, some points to be improved were found in the method of contracting short-term workers during the coffee harvest season and the occupational health and safety management method of exporter. (Response under consideration)
4. Prevent or Remedy Adverse Impacts, and Monitor and Assess Effectiveness
(1) Human Rights in the Value Chain
The Ajinomoto Group Shared Policy for Suppliers provides our expectations for suppliers necessary to fulfill our corporate social responsibility and to contribute to sustainable societies. The intent of this policy is to avoid causing or contributing to adverse impacts on human rights by companies or organizations with whom the Ajinomoto Group has business relationships. We address such impacts should they occur. We also strive to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts linked directly to Ajinomoto Group businesses, products, or services through business relationships, even if we do not contribute to such impacts.
The Ajinomoto Group is committed to monitoring, preventing, and correcting adverse human rights impacts at suppliers and business partners throughout our value chain as we head toward the year 2030. To this end, we began using Sedex* in 2018, gaining an overall picture of our suppliers. We also introduced our own version of a self-assessment questionnaire in 2019. As part of measures to further strengthen our efforts for suppliers based on the UNGPs, in 2022, we created our own list of questions, Compliance Questionnaire of Guidelines for Ajinomoto Group Shared Policy for Suppliers (QAPS), based on Supplier Guidelines. Using QAPS, we will identify risks related to governance, human rights such as forced labor and child labor, occupational safety and health, etc., on a regular basis for existing suppliers and when contracting with new suppliers. Through this process, we engage in dialogue with suppliers to continuously prevent, remedy, and monitor human rights issues.
(2) Human Rights of Foreign Workers
In 2020, we voiced our support for the Tokyo Declaration 2020 on Responsible Acceptance of Foreign Workers in Japan formulated by the Global Alliance for Sustainable Supply Chain (ASSC) regarding the recruitment of foreign workers under Technical Intern Training Program or those with Specified Skilled Worker visa, and we have requested that our suppliers create an environment in which foreign workers can be active in their work. In fiscal 2021, we participated in the development of the Responsible Employment Guidelines for Migrant Workers as Technical Intern Trainees and Specified Skilled Workers in Japan as a member of the CGF Social Sustainability Working Group.
Based on these guidelines, we visited and held dialogues with supervising organizations and registered support organizations related to the technical intern trainees employed by domestic Ajinomoto Group companies. Through these efforts, we confirm that technical intern trainees and specified skilled workers are appropriately paid and provided support in their work and daily life.
We also regularly visit sites where foreign workers are employed, mainly in domestic Ajinomoto Group companies, to understand and confirm working and housing conditions. We regularly hold direct dialogues with foreign workers and other on-site employees with responsibility for foreign workers to identify and remedy human rights risks.
Currently (as of March 2023) there are foreign workers from 12 countries who speak 11 different languages working at DELICA ACE Corporation, an Ajinomoto Group enterprise. We also employ foreign technical intern trainees and foreign workers with Specified Skilled Worker visa. In order to tackle complex communication issues that arise as nationalities and languages become more diverse, we are implementing the following original initiatives, focusing on improving the work environments of foreign workers and promoting their success in Japan.
(1) Use of Multilingual Translation System DAMS※ and Video Manual tebiki
Beginning in 2020, we implemented videos with on-screen information and text. These videos allow foreign workers to check and view notices in their native languages from the General Affairs Departments, such as health checkups, as well as information on operational procedures and quality, safety and health points on their production line. The information and video manual are updated on a daily basis and the system allows us to monitor if the foreign workers have viewed the material or not. Previously, we displayed posters in Japanese (hiragana) and explained matters orally in Japanese, which often lead to miscommunication. However, this initiative has deepened their understanding, improved motivation and work efficiency, and reduced problems in quality, safety and health.
(2) Bridge* Employees *Human resources who act as a ‘bridge’ between foreigners and Japanese
The one-way communication approach of the multilingual translation system DAMS and the tebiki video manual did not allow us to properly understand the feelings and concerns of our foreign workers. To facilitate two-way communication, we began appointing Bridge Employees in 2022. Bridge Employees are foreign workers (from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Myanmar) with high Japanese language and communication skills, who have also studied at DELICA ACE Corporation as technical interns. Those appointed work to facilitate communication between Japanese and foreign workers. They are in charge of timely interpretations, translations of notices, and training, and attend regular meetings several times a month with Japanese managers where they speak about work comfort from the perspective of a foreign worker. They additionally communicate information to members who have less experience in the country and follow up with them on their work. In addition, by utilizing their own experiences of living in Japan and having them take on other roles as senior members, they are able to increase their motivation to work.
(3) Lease of One Cellphone Per Person
We lease one cellphone to each foreign technical intern trainee and implement a system where they can consult with supervising Japanese staff about any worries or problems they experience in daily life. This allows us to not only thoroughly respond to their physical or lifestyle concerns, but also to any issues with housing and community.
5. Information Disclosure, Education, and Training
In 2019, the Ajinomoto Group conducted e-learning trainings for group officers and employees on What are Human Rights? and Business and Human Rights.
Since that time, we have conducted regular e-learning trainings for group officers and employees on business and human rights such as forced labor and child labor, as part of our activities to communicate Ajinomoto Group Policy within the Ajinomoto Group.
Compliance with Laws and Regulations on Respect for Human Rights in Each Country
The Ajinomoto Group adheres to human rights laws and regulations in each country as we develop our business globally.
- Compliance with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010（CTSCA）
The Ajinomoto Group has disclosed the following statement from related local subsidiary regarding the California Transparency in Supply Chains Acts of 2010, which was enacted in California, USA.
6. Dialogue with Stakeholders
The Ajinomoto Group holds regular dialogues with human rights experts and stakeholders, sharing and communicating our initiatives externally as case studies to further our efforts to respect human rights and to obtain expert opinions.
In fiscal 2021, the Ajinomoto Group held dialogues with leading overseas experts in human rights to exchange opinions and use new insights for human rights due diligence activities.
In fiscal 2022, we held the following dialogues to strengthen and communicate Ajinomoto Group human rights initiatives.
- Regular meetings with CRT Japan
We hold monthly meetings with CRT Japan, which reviews, from the viewpoint of society, the matters that need to be addressed to prevent human rights issues in the Ajinomoto Group as well as gives us advice as appropriate when any urgent issues arise.
- Information exchange with suppliers at supplier briefings (December)
- Ajinomoto Group initiatives were featured in the Fiscal 2022 Human Rights Training Video for Companies, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice (December)
- Ajinomoto Group initiatives were featured in the Fiscal 2022 CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and Human Rights Seminar, commissioned by the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Osaka venue)
- Ajinomoto Group initiatives were featured in the Seminar on Guidelines for Respecting Human Rights in Responsible Supply Chains, Etc., commissioned by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Sapporo and Fukuoka venues)
1. Grievance Mechanism
The Ajinomoto Group established several consultation and reporting offices within and outside the group to promptly and appropriately address damage resulting from adverse human rights impacts. Each consultation office strictly protects whistleblower’s privacy, and related departments work together to appropriately address and resolve the situation.
Ajinomoto Group Hotline
This is an internal whistle-blowing hotline for Ajinomoto Group employees (regular, part-time, and temporary employees, etc.) and executives.
Considering the ease of access for people of many nationalities working at group companies, in 2023 we unified our traditional domestic and global counters, enabling access in 22 languages.
The whistleblower can choose between real name and anonymity.
Business Conduct Committee of Ajinomoto Co., Inc. is responsible for conducting surveys and responding in cooperation with related organizations.
The Ajinomoto Group established the Supplier Hotline in fiscal 2018 as a contact point for reporting from suppliers. The hotline is designed to detect and correct suspected violations of laws and deviations from the Ajinomoto Group Policy (AGP) by Ajinomoto Group executives or employees.
Hotline for Foreign Workers
The Ajinomoto Group has been participating in an advisory capacity since the 2020 establishment of the Japan Platform for Migrant Workers toward Responsible and Inclusive Society (JP-MIRAI) created by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) together with other stakeholders including companies, lawyers, and NGOs. This aims to resolve issues faced by foreign workers undergoing technical training and those with special skills. In fiscal 2022, we participated in the Consultation and Relief Pilot Project for Migrant Workers launched by JP-MIRAI. Moving forward, we intend to expand this system to cover the whole supply chain and utilize it in the early detection of issues with labor and human rights.