MUJI, a genuine sustainability or a marketing ploy?
A perspective on the Corporate Social Responsibility of MUJI
It is clear that MUJI nowadays becomes a world famous and successful corporation. With its aesthetical product design, unique brand concepts, and distinctive CSR, MUJI has integrated into our lives smoothly. This brief study was conducted aimed to interpret the MUJI CSR performance and obtain some inspirations in this dimension.
MUJI was derived from its full Japanese name “Mujirushi Ryohin”, which literally means “No label quality goods”. Launched in Japan in 1980, MUJI captured the spirit of the 90s with its no label, value-led, less-is-more concepts. It seems that MUJI was born to fulfill social responsibility. Today, it is a renowned producer of stylish, functional and affordable quality goods that are relevant to all aspects of urban living, whether at work, rest or play.
Depending on its “no logo, no brand” policy, MUJI intends to implement its philosophy of simplicity, modesty and humanity. “MUJI aspires to modesty and plainness, the better to adapt and shape itself to the styles, preferences, and practices of as wide a group of people as possible. This is the single most important reason people embrace MUJI” (MUJI, 2013).
The company emphasizes that its customers should only pay for what they can really use. So MUJI is always trying to deliver useful products that strive not to be the best but “enough.” In other words, it hopes to be the compass, which points to the necessities of life.
SUSTAINABLE VISION AND MISSION
As a lifestyle store, the marrow of MUJI CSR could be found through its vision and mission statement. Vision: MUJI means pleasant (well-designed, well-made and environmentally-friendly) products and services, and will offer the opportunity of a Pleasant Life (harmony with our neighbors and our planet) to people throughout the world. To be more specific and practical, the mission is to satisfy the customers, offer simplicity, harmony and beauty, and contribute to the greater community.
One expression can stand for MUJI’s corporate operation and that is balancing tomorrow’s sustainability and today’s profitability. The essential ideas of CSR were very well organized in its annual report (Table 1, 2, 3) and some related practices were presented below the tables.
- Participation in UN Global Compact, a global framework for sustainable growth in 2013
- Last year Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd., developer of the brand, received an Inclusive Business Leader Award at the Inclusive Business Leaders Forum 2013, organized by International Finance Corporation (a member of the World Bank Group) because of the product development projects in Kyrgyzstan, Kenya and Cambodia.
- Product Fitness 80 Campaign (2012): the big idea was well organized as exhibitions held world wide, which strongly reflected MUJI’s advocacy of “adequacy” or “self-restraint”.
- International Design Competition in China (2013): MUJI sent a call for designing an eternal product, which can be used for years.
- Quality goods and recycled products as always!
- Continue to Promote the Fair Trade Label
Indeed, MUJI is trying to achieve the sustainability through simplicity. This unique corporation has been devoting itself to bring people back to the origins and into the future.
Even MUJI incorporates considerable sustainable principles into its operations, there are still some criticisms or suggestions. Firstly, many of the products are composed primarily of unsustainable materials like plastic and polyester. Secondly, outsourcing is a very controversial strategy. Most of MUJI’s manufacturing is done in some developing countries (China, Indonesia, Vietnam and so on). At last, the company’s CSR initiatives presented online are still not convincing enough and a lot of things need to be done in order to achieve its CSR statement.
“It’s often said that in order for true change to occur in the consumer goods sphere, the approach to sustainability needs to be holistic and integrated into every aspect of business. MUJI seems to be a great example of this (Marati, 2012).” By embracing the value of moderation, MUJI’s philosophy exhibits many of the trademarks of a sustainable brand and consequently the company already built up a very positive corporate image to the public. The CSR of MUJI is in its DNA, which is more a simple approach to doing business than a marketing stunt.
In the book, Organizational Change for Corporate Sustainability, the authors (2003) defined sustaining corporation as: The sustaining corporation is one where the strategic elite has strongly internalized the ideology of working for a sustainable world. If it is a ‘for profit’ company, the organization still pursues the traditional business objective of providing an excellent return to investors, but voluntarily goes beyond this by actively promoting ecological sustainability values and practices in the industry and society generally. Its fundamental commitment is to facilitate the emergence of a society that supports the ecological viability of the planet and its species and contributes to just, equitable social practices and human fulfillment.
It is still hard to say that MUJI already get there but as a pioneer, clearly MUJI is on the way.
Attached with the PPT of this study: MUJI CSR Presentation.