Face CASE29 Face

“Our real mission isn’t to clean beaches. It’s to train people not to make trash and pollute the ocean.”

Takashi Sugifuji, President of Honda Sales Sugifuji Co., Ltd.

Takashi Sugifuji, President of Honda Sales Sugifuji Co., Ltd.

Hard work and effective tools inspire a movement

 “It must've been about seven years ago when I went to see what was going on, not knowing anything. I wore a suit and dress shoes 'cause I didn’t even think of helping. When I got there, there were five Honda associates cleaning the beach. No one said a word. They just worked, sweating away in the hot sun. A few worked by hand, others used equipment they had brought. When they finished the beach looked brand new, like a completely different beach. I was impressed, but also ashamed of myself for standing there the whole time and not helping.”
 Describing his first encounter with a Honda beach cleanup was Takashi Sugifuji, president of Honda Sales Sugifuji Co., a Honda sales company that operates the Honda Cars Nanaonaka dealership in Nanao, Ishikawa.
 Back when Sugifuji had no connection to the beach cleanups, he received an email one day from the Honda head office. The email notified him that Honda was planning to bring its equipment to a beach in Nanao and clean it in preparation for a beach volleyball tournament scheduled to be held there, and invited him to come watch. Sugifuji thought it an odd business errand, but decided to check it out anyway. This was the head office, after all. “And when I got there, it hit me—like a gong.”
 What simply amazed Sugifuji was not just the hardworking dedication and focus of Honda’s small team, but also the incredible utility of Honda’s equipment, which sifted out even the smallest bits of litter and left behind a carpet of pure white sand.
 “I’ve lived here for a long time, so I’ve seen marine debris change over the years. Now there are more things like broken glass and hypodermic needles. I would never walk barefoot, out of fear of stepping on something. So to see the beach go from that to being clean enough for beach volleyball in less than a day, how could I not be impressed? It made me think, no other company could do something like this. Only with Honda technologies and products would this be possible.”
 After that day, an idea sprouted in Sugifuji’s mind: Honda came and cleaned the beach this time, but shouldn’t we locals be doing the work to protect our own coastline? Shouldn’t we lead the effort and make sure to keep it going?

Toshiaki Shintani, Assistant Manager, Philanthropy Office, Japan Administration Division

Toshiaki Shintani, Assistant Manager, Philanthropy Office, Japan Administration Division

Dealerships are well positioned for leading the effort

 “That was back when the Philanthropy Office was still organizing cleanups and the Beach Clean Caravan travelled the country cleaning beaches. Mr. Sugifuji just happened to see us at one of those cleanups,” said Toshiaki Shintani, Assistant Manager in charge of beach cleaning activities in the Philanthropy Office of Japan Administration Division.
 “The initiative was started in 1999 by a group of volunteers at the Motorcycle R&D Center, whose goal it was to clean Japan’s beaches with their own hands. That was phase one,” Shintani explained. “But that effort ran aground since it wasn’t official R&D Center work and it was trying to respond to requests from all over Japan. When the Philanthropy Office heard this, it decided the initiative needed to be run as an official Honda philanthropy program, and took up the cause of contributing to society through beach cleanup activities in 2006. The Philanthropy Office took charge of management, while the R&D Center provided technology development and equipment construction. That was phase two.”
 In phase two, the Philanthropy Office took requests from municipalities and sent staff and a large truck full of equipment to beaches around the country. The R&D Center took part in these activities by providing equipment and technical support.
 It was right around this time that Sugifuji stumbled on a Honda beach cleanup.
 However, new problems arose as the initiative grew and gained momentum.

Cleaning a beach using a Honda beach cleanern

Cleaning a beach using a Honda beach cleaner
 “The organization we had at that time wasn’t capable of running a national initiative,” said Shintani. “Also, communication with local communities and residents is the most important aspect of carrying out philanthropy activities across the Honda Group. The closest points of contact between Honda and local communities are Honda dealerships, so the idea came up that we needed to switch to a form of organization where dealerships and Honda Group companies assume a leadership role.”
 As a result, in 2009 the organizational roles were changed so that dealers associations (organizations made up of Honda sales companies) in each prefecture took charge of organizing and running the cleanups, with the Philanthropy Office providing support.
 Shintani: “Before phase three, we asked dealer associations in prefectures around Japan if any of them wanted to host beach cleanups. In Ishikawa, Mr. Sugifuji was the very first to volunteer. His voice rang loud and clear.”

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