Developing the environmental MOTTAINAI brand for a recycling-oriented society

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The word MOTTAINAI connotes the 3Rs of environmental practice, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, and it also encompasses Respect for irreplaceable global resources.
Dr. Wangari Maathai, former Assistant Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources of Kenya who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contributions with the Green Belt Movement,(*) a tree-planting program in Africa, has called for the worldwide dissemination of the beautiful Japanese word MOTTAINAI as a shared watchword for environmental protection.
Since its launch, the MOTTAINAI Campaign has been developing in various ways as a worldwide movement that seeks to build a sustainable and recycling-oriented society and to broaden the reach of lifestyles that do not place a burden on the global environment. At present, it is also widely recognized as a recycling-oriented, environmental brand.

  • *The Green Belt Movement
    Launched by Wangari Maathai as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in 1977, the Green Belt Movement is an afforestation project with more than 100,000 participants, mostly women. To date, they have planted 40 million trees on the African continent, including Kenya. By advancing the movement, Dr. Maathai has not only protected the environment; she has also worked on poverty eradication and improving the status of women. In recognition of significant contributions to the democratic movement in Kenya, she was awarded the first Nobel Peace Prize for work in the environmental field in 2004.

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1. Launching the MOTTAINAI Project

The impetus for the project dates back to February 2005 when Wangari Maathai came to Japan for events organized in connection with the Kyoto Protocol. At the time, Dr. Maathai first learned of the longstanding spirit of ‘mottainai’ among the Japanese in an interview with the Mainichi Newspapers. Deeply impressed by this spirit, Dr. Maathai began to use it as a keyword for raising global awareness about the need for environmental protection. Proposing MOTTAINAI as part of the lingua franca for environmental protection, the Mainichi Newspapers launched the MOTTAINAI Campaign Office in March 2005 to embody Dr. Maathai's idea.
Subsequently, the Mainichi Newspapers invited ITOCHU to partner in the project, recognizing the depth of our longstanding relationship with the content industry, including film production. Believing that we could assist with the licensing know-how, including brand and content businesses, which we have developed over many years, and understanding this as an opportunity for us to fulfill our corporate social responsibility (CSR) and help protect the environment through this project, we announced our involvement in July 2005. Below is a description of how the Mainichi Newspapers and ITOCHU divide their roles in the MOTTAINAI Campaign Office.

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The Mainichi Newspapers is responsible for periodical publicity in the newspaper and acts as point of contact for managing the MOTTAINAI trademark and donations to the Green Belt Movement promoted by Dr. Maathai. ITOCHU sponsors and manages events, acting as point of contact for both MOTTAINAI brand product licensing and sponsoring corporations. For MOTTAINAI brand product development, the conditions are that the product must address at least one of three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) that comprise the concept behind the brand, as well as Respect, and that part of the sales of licensed products be donated to groups engaged in environmental conservation activities such as the Green Belt Movement for afforestation in Africa established by Dr. Maathai.

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As specific examples of product development for the brand, we might list household goods made from recycled materials such as towels, rugs and mats or shopping bags, chopsticks and water bottles for personal use, as well as collaboration with Globe-Trotter T&E Inc. on the MOTTAINAI TOUR travel program for deepening awareness and understanding of global environmental issues through local activities and experiences. In addition, in June 2009, we announced the MOTTAINAI Umbrella project.
With the cooperation of celebrities such as the model Moe Oshikiri and the comedy duo Audrey, we have attracted a lot of attention for the initiative to develop the practice of carrying your own umbrella and reusing plastic umbrellas.
In addition, following on from the program to promote the spread of green home appliances promoted by the government, ITOCHU offers environment-conscious products under the MOTTAINAI brand as a point exchange provider for Mokuzai Points (“wood usage points”) that promote the development of rural areas through forest conservation and Energy-saving Home Eco Points designed to spreading the adoption energy-saving household appliances.

2. Increasing the MOTTAINAI Brand Penetration

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ITOCHU has a range of initiatives underway to raise recognition of the MOTTAINAI brand. A prime example is the launch of a website that publishes the blogs of celebrities who have endorsed MOTTAINAI and reports on the activities of the MOTTAINAI project. (The official MOTTAINAI homepage is http://mottainai.info) We also sell MOTTAINAI Campaign goods through the website.

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The MOTTAINAI Flea Market, held continuously since April 2007, also helps to promote and bolster the MOTTAINAI brand image. This event is unlike ordinary flea markets, as a portion of the fees paid by participants for a stand is donated to the Green Belt Movement, and the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) are practiced by collecting second-hand clothing, books, used cooking oil, plastic umbrellas and other usable resources. In addition, a Kid’s Flea Market designed especially for children to engage in both buying and selling is held each month, providing children with the opportunity to learn about the value of goods and money. By collaborating with consumers who have considerable interest in the environment through initiatives such as this one, we also improve brand recognition by word of mouth.

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Finally, a few words about future developments. Further growth in the licensing business by expanding collaborative networks with corporations in a range of industries and business categories is bound to lend impetus to the MOTTAINAI initiative. We aim to develop the MOTTAINAI brand on a global scale to spread the spirit of MOTTAINAI, a sentiment advocated by Dr. Wangari Maathai and one that resonated with former Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva, whom ITOCHU invited to speak in Japan in October 2015.