Becoming a Role Model for “Sustainable Community Building” through Industry-Academia-Government Collaboration: The Challenge of ZOZO and Chiba City
Friendship Management Dept.
Mayor of Chiba City
Ph.D. student at the Department of Humanities and Studies on Public Affairs in the Graduate School of Humanities and Studies on Public Affairs at Chiba University
With “Fashion Connects and Leads us to a Sustainable Future.” as its sustainability statement, ZOZO aims to create a world where people can continue to enjoy fashion forever. One of our key actions is: “Contribute to sustainable community development.”
In creating a sustainable community, nurturing the younger generation, especially in cultivating “entrepreneurship” - the spirit of creating new businesses and embracing challenges without fear of risk - becomes essential.
Under these circumstances, Chiba City, where ZOZO is headquartered, has launched the “Chiba Entrepreneurship Education Consortium Seedlings of Chiba” (hereafter referred to as “Seedlings of Chiba".) This consortium primarily focuses on entrepreneurship education for elementary and junior high school students.
ZOZO participates in Seedlings of Chiba and has held classes on the road and collaborated with industry, academia, and government sectors to promote entrepreneurship education for the next generation.
By forming a tripartite alliance among industry, academia, and government, how will the future of the community be forged?
Through a roundtable discussion with UMEZAWA Takayuki, Director of ZOZO Friendship Management Department; KAMIYA Shunichi, Mayor of Chiba City and Chairman of Seedlings of Chiba; and GUNJI Hinano, a launch member of Seedlings of Chiba, and a Ph.D. student at the Department of Humanities and Studies on Public Affairs in the Graduate School of Humanities and Studies on Public Affairs at Chiba University, we explored the initiatives for building a sustainable community.
Empowering the Young to Change the World
— In Chiba City, collaborative educational initiatives among industry, academia, and government are being actively pursued. One such initiative is “Seedlings of Chiba,” in which ZOZO participates. What led to the establishment of this program?
Kamiya : The present era is often referred to as the “age of no definitive answers.” To thrive in such times, we believe it is essential to foster the abilities to take on challenges, expand one's own thoughts to the surrounding environment, and find value through collaborative learning. Recognizing that these skills cannot be fully acquired through school education alone, we initiated “Seedlings of Chiba.”
With Chiba City's population projected to peak in the early 2020s and then decline, we need to boost our local economy and create job opportunities to prevent this decline from accelerating. To address these “local challenges” and ensure sustainable growth, we need individuals who can think for themselves and derive solutions. With “Seedlings of Chiba,” we aim to nurture such young talents to shoulder the city's future.
We sought cooperation from ZOZO because we perceive it as a company brimming with “entrepreneurship” to change the world with its own hands. ZOZO has continuously generated innovative services, drastically transforming the conventional image of “work.”
We believe that if the youth, who are yet to enter society, can get a touch of ZOZO's identity, they might unleash their inherent potential to its fullest. With this in mind, we reached out to them.
Umezawa : At ZOZO, we have set a goal to connect with one million young people under the age of 20 by 2030 and contribute to the revitalization of local communities. We believe that as a company, it is our responsibility not only to provide excellent value to our customers and colleagues but also to establish connections with the younger generation and positively impact the local community.
Being approached by “Seedlings of Chiba” is a source of great joy and fulfillment for us as well.
“Creating a Better Society through 'Imagine the unexpected. Chart the unexplored. '”
— What specific initiatives does “Seedlings of Chiba” undertake?
Gunji : We have adopted the slogan, “Make Future Blooms (Adults) Cool,” and with the organizational philosophy of 'Realizing Chiba as a town where children cultivate the ability to earn,' we have implemented various initiatives.
To foster entrepreneurship among children, our staff visits schools to conduct classes, plan and run programs that allow students to learn about the workings of companies and the economy through simulated experiences, and hold symposiums to expand the consortium's philosophy.
In collaboration with ZOZO, we have organized On-Demand-Delivery Classes and conducted workshops for middle school students to rethink their school uniforms, the identity of their school, and the things they want to protect. This opportunity to challenge and transform existing norms has been an invaluable experience for them.
Kamiya : “Standard” is, in other words, “common sense.” Therefore, changing the standard can be seen as an “unconventional” act at that point. However, such an act holds the potential to evolve into a significant move for society, effectively turning the “unconventional” into “common sense.”
Changing the established way of thinking is a necessary action for society.
I believe there was significant meaning in the students taking the initiative to implement this themselves. It would have given them a sense of, “We can design society based on our thoughts and beliefs.”
Umezawa : Thank you. We have a motto called “Souzou no Nanameue (Imagine the unexpected. Chart the unexplored.),” which represents the unique essence of ZOZO. It emphasizes the importance of venturing into areas no one else has dared to explore. This spirit has been pivotal in enabling us to introduce unprecedented services and foster a distinct culture unlike any other company.
When we conduct off-site classes on career education and discuss the “ZOZO WORKSTYLE” we often witness the eyes of children light up, and educators express their admiration. Although our initiatives have just begun, we are committed to leveraging ZOZO's strengths in fashion, technology, and more, to provide maximum support to the next generation of young people.
Making Chiba City a Role Model for Local Governments
— Looking back on your past efforts, can you tell us what you expect from ZOZO going forward?
Gunji : Moving forward, I hope ZOZO continues to exemplify what it means to be a “cool adult.”
Many ZOZO employees stand out with their unique fashion and hairstyles, different from the typical working adult. I've also noticed their active involvement in community clean-up activities, truly embodying their role as active community members. Their tolerance, cooperative and positive attitude in every endeavor truly epitomizes the “cool adult” image.
Children grow up looking up to the adults around them. Having such individuals close by means that children are more likely to become cool adults themselves, capable of thinking and acting independently in the future.
If this cycle continues, Chiba City will become a town filled with “cool adults.” Imagining 10 or 20 years from now, I believe Chiba City will evolve into an even more vibrant community.
Kamiya : If ZOZO continues to pioneer world-changing initiatives right here in Chiba City, nothing could make me happier.
ZOZO has launched several globally competitive services, from the development of the “ZOZOSUIT” to the recent launch of their Production support service “Made by ZOZO.” Additionally, organizing international events like the PGA TOUR tournament “ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP” proves their global outreach isn't limited to just business.
Even though ZOZO operates globally, they value their local roots and collaborate with us. Such companies, I believe, are rare on the global stage.
Umezawa : ZOZO has been based in and grown in Chiba. We've received immense support from the local community over the years. We remain committed to Chiba and hope to give back, even if gradually, for the generosity we've been shown.
Kamiya : Chiba City has always been vibrant in its civic activities. Looking at its history, the city has consistently taken on challenges relevant to its times, whether it's the reclamation of the sea to create the Keiyo Industrial Zone or pioneering large-scale conventions by constructing Makuhari Messe. Chiba has always been a region full of energy.
In such a region, there are many individuals with entrepreneurial spirit. When people with entrepreneurial mindset come together across public and private sectors, and young talents join in, Chiba can truly become a role model for local governments.
I hope that we can continue to join hands and together, elevate Chiba City as a “sustainable community.”