2023 President’s Message for New Employees

April 3, 2023

Congratulations on joining our team. I am pleased to welcome 135 new colleagues today: 112 members in general work position and 23 members in clerical work position.

I was at the main entrance this morning to celebrate your first step as working adults. As a regular feature of ITOCHU’s welcoming ceremony, we had cherry blossoms bursting into bloom and prepared a bright red carpet and live music for you. Today, we are able to hold a welcoming ceremony without COVID-related restrictions for the first time in four years, with the attendance of our Chairman & CEO Mr. Okafuji, Division Company Presidents, administrative officers and senior employees of your individual host departments. Following on from the previous year, the ceremony is being viewed online by your families and is displayed on a screen this time. It is great to be able to have opportunities to assemble and communicate with each other face-to-face like we are now.

Taking this opportunity of your becoming employees of ITOCHU Corporation today, I would like to share two important lessons with you.

The first is ITOCHU’s Guideline of Conduct, I am One with Infinite Missions. This is one of the most important phrases that I always think about when revitalizing and improving myself. Leaning from the mindset of merchants described by Chubei Itoh, the founder of ITOCHU Corporation, they symbolize the attitude of addressing social issues and enriching people’s lives through business activities as the mission of merchants. To rephrase, each ITOCHU employee is expected to engage in their work with a great awareness that they are tasked with the mission of taking on and solving countless social issues through the fulfillment of their assignments.

You may find yourself stuck or experience setbacks in the course of the development of your career as a merchant. When faced with difficulties, the "I am One with Infinite Missions" guideline reminds you of the importance of going back to the basics and energizes you to overcome difficulties. Please always keep this phrase in mind.

Secondly, I would like to talk about the Sampo Yoshi spirit. Recently, with SDGs becoming increasingly important in corporate management, we sometimes hear people say “sampo yoshi.” This Sampo Yoshi spirit, which is based on the idea of co-existence and co-prosperity, is a situation where sellers, buyers and society are all equally satisfied. This is ITOCHU's current corporate mission and it is rooted in the management philosophy of the Omi merchants that are typified by Chubei Itoh. It is not just a commercial spirit. It is also a harmony-oriented mindset that has been passed down as ITOCHU's founding spirit for over 160 years.

This stakeholder-centric management style supported by the integrity-based Sampo Yoshi spirit has enabled ITOCHU to earn the trust of stakeholders over many years, making ITOCHU what it is today. The operation of a business is based on trust. A business that is not based on trust will fail before long. Please consider the benefits for customers and suppliers instead of focusing on pursuing only your own benefit and pay attention to whether or not the business that you engage in contributes to society. Then you will certainly earn trust. This trust will lead to future trust-building opportunities, creating a chain of successes. In the course of the businesses that you will be involved in going forward, you will face many situations where you will need to use your judgment and make decisions. I advise you to use ITOCHU's Sampo Yoshi concept as one of the judgement criteria in these situations. Starting today, be sure to include this in the things that you keep in mind.

Today, ITOCHU has grown to be a leading trading firm that attracts public attention for its unique work-style reforms, in addition to its management strategy under Chairman & CEO Okafuji’s command, “Market-oriented perspective: Profit opportunities are shifting downstream.” The ITOCHU Corporation that you know must be one of the top three trading firms constantly fighting for the lead. However, I would like you to know that ITOCHU started as a non-zaibatsu (conglomerate) and has overcome many challenges in its transformation from a textile wholesaler in Osaka to a general trading firm, during the wars and postwar periods, experiencing various successes and setbacks.
I am holding a comic book published in March this year. It is a biography portraying the 61 years of the life of our founder Chubei Itoh. This is another book published by Diamond Inc. in December 2022 on ITOCHU’s history, from an Omi merchant to a top trading firm matching its prewar zaibatsu counterparts. Please check them out as they provide in-depth information on ITOCHU’s history and corporate philosophy.

What has helped us overcome the many challenges we faced was everyone’s hard work. The power of employees will help us overcome hardships and shape our future. As you can see, we value our employees and place importance on health management. You have joined ITOCHU today. I hope that each of you become strong employees and help ITOCHU shape its future.

You will go through an apprenticeship to become an ITOCHU merchant. What I expect you to develop, other than the acquisition of knowledge, are the interpersonal skills and sensibility that are particularly valuable in the digital era.  You must train your interpersonal skills that harness and showcase your original personal identities and styles.  Highly polished interpersonal skills will naturally charm those whom you meet and help grow your network. The next point is sensibility. I think that boosting the five senses, having lofty perspectives, and closely observing your environment will foster the ability to be one step ahead in your preparations and to capture the essence of what our customers are seeking.  These two things are skills that each of you should polish using your own styles and that will become your own strengths.
How do you develop these skills?  I believe that you do so by placing importance on conditions on-site and going and seeing them for yourselves, although it may require patient efforts. Accumulating experience by visiting sites with curiosity, seeing the conditions with your own eyes, touching them with your own hands, having dialogues with people, and closely observing everything will polish your skills and help you to become professional merchants. I want you to experience the challenges of reality on site and the pleasure of interacting with people.

Finally, some of you may feel that your school life did not go exactly the way you had wanted due to the COVID pandemic. I urge you to channel the undercurrents of your energy and passion to our business activities. ITOCHU Corporation is a company that allows you to give full play to your power. Looking ahead, we look forward to fulfilling infinite missions together with you.

I would like to close this address by once again welcoming you and congratulating you on joining ITOCHU Corporation.