Kazuhito Suematsu is on secondment at Princes Limited (Princes), a long-standing British food and drink manufacturer that Mitsubishi Corporation (MC) acquired in 1989. Suematsu's mission is to help transform Princes and encourage colleagues to take on new challenges, but how has he defined "new value" of the Company?
Princes, with its 140 years of heritage, has developed a wide rage of food and drink operations in the UK and in mainland Europe. I was seconded from MC in 2016, and in 2018 I was appointed as member of the board.
Since joining the MC Group in 1989, Princes has continuously expanded its operations. By around 2015, however, the company had gradually hindered its flexibility due to its size and increased compexity, which slowed its response to consumer's ever-changing needs. This began to deteriorate the company's financial performance, so by the time I arrived, the company had just begun to consider how to transform its business model in ways that would make it better and swifter in adapting to consumer needs.
The company took the right approaches such as restrucuting organization and consolidating manufacturing sites, but I felted that many colleagues were increasingly worried about the future state of the company. In the meantime, I also felt the significant influence of MC's guiding philosophy, the Three Corporate Principles within Princes during various conversations with my colleagues.
The duty of any company to help enrich society through its business may seem obvious, but revisiting MC's corporate philosophy got us started on creating a new vision for Princes, and after numerous conversations with various colleagues, we came up with one: "Proudly helping families to eat well without costing the earth."
The fundamental question for Princes was determining its purpose. Each colleague took this personally and gave it a great deal of thought, and I was very pleased with how in-depth their discussions on the matter were.
The UK went into lockdown in March 2020 due to COVID19 pandemic, and during the lockdown people were only been able to purchase daily necessities. Many businesses are feeling the pinch, and Princes is no exception. Pressure and stress on our supply chain, absenteeism and new social distancing protocols at manufacturing sites have all had massive impact on our operations. Even so, each and every one of our colleagues has been determined to ensure that people continue to have access to invaluable food supplies.
Deep at the heart of that commitment is Prince's mission to help the society. We are also providing the kind of assistance that should be expected as food manufacturers, including donations to healthcare workers and food banks, and free deliveries of daily necessities to people who are vulnerable to COVID19. The pandemic has reminded our colleagues of their sense of mission, and I am convinced that the pride they feel in working for Princes have been reinvigorated.
Before coming to Princes, I was seconded to several other companies, and I have worked in a variety of countries and industries. Such experience has made me realize that we can leverage our businesses in ways that will help to solve social challenges, and that expanding our networks and solutions to other countries and industries can give us great strength. At present, I am working on broadening my experience and connections here at Princes, but looking into the future, I hope to continue working with like-minded professionals to turn ever-changing business environment into growth and achieve MC's three-value mission.*
*Simultaneous creation of economic, societal and environmental value