I want to work for a company I can be proud of to my family.”… “I said NO to ITOCHU’s cooperation with Israel! One Employee’s Thoughts | FRIDAY DIGITAL

I want to work for a company I can be proud of to my family.”… “I said NO to ITOCHU’s cooperation with Israel! One Employee’s Thoughts

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A group company of the company I work for had a business partnership with a company that leads the Palestinian genocide…

On February 5, ITOCHU Corporation, a major general trading company, announced that it would terminate its memorandum of understanding for cooperation with Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest military contractor, by the end of February.

The incident began in March 2011, when ITOCHU, its group company ITOCHU Aviation, and Japan Air Craft Supply formed a business tie-up with Elbit Systems.

From there, a protest demonstration was held in front of ITOCHU Aviation on December 15, 2011, and as the protest spread through X (formerly Twitter) and other media, especially among students and other young people, signatures demanding that ITOCHU cancel the deal spread. However, ITOCHU refused to accept the approximately 25,000 signatures in person on January 15. This added fuel to the fire, and the criticism grew even greater, resulting in ITOCHU’s decision to cancel the transaction.

By the way, did you know that “people inside” the ITOCHU Group were involved in the spread of these protests?

I was attracted to the ITOCHU Group because of its philosophy of “sampo yoshi,” which means, “In business, the seller, the buyer, and the seller’s business are inseparable. This is a philosophy that says, ‘Good business is only good if it not only satisfies the seller and the buyer, but also contributes to society.

The “middleman” of a group company issued a statement criticizing the company

X account name “Yon”-san. On January 19, he made the following statement, which attracted a lot of attention.

I wrote this statement as an ordinary employee of ITOCHU Group companies, saying that I think it’s not good enough as it is, but I don’t know what to do. I wrote my thoughts as an ordinary employee, so if you agree with me, please DM me. I want to work for a company I can be proud of for my family. I protest as an employee of the ITOCHU Group #SANPO YOSHI #ITOCHU should cut ties with ELBIT

Still, it must be quite risky and courageous for a “middleman” of a group company to criticize the company. Why did he make such a statement? We interviewed Mr. Yon.

I myself had only been following the world situation somewhat on the news every day, and had never participated in any demonstrations or protests before.

But as I watched the media and learned about the genocide in Gaza, and the unbearable visuals of so many small children’s lives being taken, I felt compelled to do something about it, since I have a preschooler at home.

So I followed people on X who were sending out information about Gaza and the protest action, and I went to draw a single tear at the Tears of Blood action in Shibuya. It may have just been self-satisfaction, but I felt like I had to do something.

‘That’s totally different from our corporate philosophy…’…

In fact, at that point, he had no idea of ITOCHU’s involvement with Elbit, and X had originally been mainly a daily tweet.

What attracted me to the ITOCHU Group was its philosophy of ‘sampo yoshi.

This philosophy is that a business is only good if it not only satisfies the buyer and seller, but also contributes to society. I felt a sense of guilt and awkwardness.

Especially as I saw ITOCHU being criticized in harsh tones on X, I began to feel as if I was being criticized as well, even though I was not doing anything wrong. ITOCHU is a popular company among students and attracts the attention of foreign investors, but I wondered if I really wanted things to continue as they were.”

Many children are still suffering in the Gaza Strip (PHOTO: AFLO)

As ITOCHU came under criticism on social networking sites, what was the reaction of those around him?

I honestly feel that not many people were aware of the situation at first. I think it was around January 15, when ITOCHU refused to accept the signatures, that I actually felt the spread of protest.

Around that time, boycotts by companies such as FamilyMart, which is also a member of the ITOCHU Group, began to appear, and I felt that there was a certain number of people who were aware of the situation among the group companies.

However, I didn’t have a chance to meet anyone who wanted to take any action because of that. In terms of the reactions of those around me, many people seemed to have an image of activists who hold demonstrations or sign petitions as “radical activists.

Apart from the reaction within the company, Yon’s communication as a “person in the middle” generated a huge response on social networking sites.

I was very surprised. “I was very surprised. With the negative image of ITOCHU, I was afraid that I would be slammed if I claimed to be a member of ITOCHU.

Of course, some people said things like, “If you work for a company, there are all kinds of things that happen,” or “If you don’t like it, just quit the company,” but I received only two or three such comments.

I think people felt the importance of speaking up from within more than I had expected.

However, the only “person inside” the company who agreed with Yon and sent him a DM was a member of a group company.

He has been taking more action than I have, making inquiries to the sustainability-related departments within the company and participating in the protest demonstration held in front of the company’s headquarters. We were able to share each other’s situations and thoughts, and it was reassuring to know that even one of us has friends.

I myself have always posted anonymously, and although I tried to explain the impact of ‘this business is not good,’ internally, I couldn’t find any real friends with whom I could discuss the essence of the issue. I didn’t get any counter-arguments, and the prevailing response was something like, ‘I hope you’ll be at peace soon.

However, people who work for a major company are aware of the company’s policies and position in society to some extent, and they know that they are part of it. I want to work for a company that I can make my family proud of. That is why I think it would be nice if employees could speak up when something happens.

I wonder if there was any risk of it becoming a topic of conversation within the company, or of people looking for the culprit.

At first I thought that the company might find out about it because of something like my IP address, but so far nothing has happened.

I knew that if they found out, they would ask me a lot of questions, but I wasn’t doing anything wrong or bad, so I was confident there.

Besides, since I was a flat employee, I wouldn’t be demoted, nor would I be transferred to the left or anything. There was an openness there.”

It was a relief to know that this was a company that could correct its course in the right direction.”

So, ITOCHU achieved its long-held goal of terminating business with Elbit.

I was surprised. But there was a part of me that believed that they would make this kind of decision, so I was glad that I did not choose to give up and keep quiet, or give up and change jobs.

At first I also thought that if things were not going in the right direction, I could quit the company. When I read ITOCHU’s announcement, I realized that it was not a protest by us citizens, but that a much larger force was influencing the company. I was relieved to learn that change is possible even with outside influence, and that ITOCHU is a company that can look at society and the world and correct its course in the right direction.

Finally, when asked what has changed as a result of this action, Mr. Yon said, “I think it is important that we have a voice from the inside this time.

I don’t believe that ITOCHU made this decision because I raised my voice from inside the company, but when I think that my voice and my signature may have had about 0.001% of the reason for the decision, I realize that the idea of one citizen changing a large company, society, or the world is not something that is only in novels or other media, but something that is being made in the present. I felt that it is not just a story in a novel, but an ongoing history that is being made.

Some people say that it is useless for a single citizen to say something, but I felt that it was not useless at all. Not only speaking out from inside, but also signing the petition, connecting with various people on SNS, and drawing a single tear were all major changes for me, and the way I see the world has changed.

Unfortunately, more than four months later, the Israeli genocide continues. It is not the end because the ITOCHU Group has backed down, but I will continue to do what I can to bring an end to this nightmare as soon as possible, even if it is just for a second. I will continue to do what I can to bring this nightmare to an end as soon as possible.

Yon continues to use X to send out various messages in order to stop the massacre in Gaza and to oppose discrimination of all kinds.

  • Interview and text by Wakako Takou

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