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2024 New Year’s Greeting from President (Hitoshi Kawahara)

President and Representative Director Hitoshi Kawahara
President and Representative Director Hitoshi Kawahara

Happy New Year! On behalf of the Kuraray Group, I would like to make a few comments as we step into 2024 together.

Last year, most restrictions on our daily lives and the economic measures that had been in place since 2020 in response to COVID-19 were eliminated. As a result, face-to-face meetings and international travel resumed, approaching pre-COVID levels. However, rather than return to life as it was, we sought to discover a “new normal” in our daily lives and work, embracing the digitalization that advanced dramatically under COVID.

In regard to the environment, 2023 was likely the warmest year in recorded history with heatwaves occurring around the world, reminding us that global warming measures are a pressing issue.

Looking at the world, the situation in Ukraine shows no signs of ending, and the relationship between the US and China remains tense. Furthermore, a new conflict erupted in the Middle East in October, increasing geopolitical instability.

As for the economy, interest rates and inflation continued to rise in many industrialized countries, and the recovery of the Chinese economy was much slower than expected. We therefore had the benefit of a weak yen, but overall, the environment surrounding our business has been challenging and is expected to remain so in 2024.

Amidst these difficult conditions, this year marks the mid-point of PASSION 2026 leading to the 100th anniversary of our company. It is the third year of the five-year Medium-Term Management Plan.

Now is the time to check the progress of our plans across the company. If there are strategies and measures that require modification as a result of changes over the past two years, we must revise them as soon as possible and promote the actions and initiatives to be taken during the remaining three years. For some important topics such as “Business Portfolio Enhancement,” we will hold in-depth discussions not only on the original plans, but also with our sights set beyond the PASSION 2026 period.

In regard to the three “Our Challenges” raised in PASSION 2026, I trust everyone is aware through Kuraray Xchange and other means of communication that progress is being made. Cross-organizational functions such as the Corporate Sustainability Division, the DX-IT Division and the Innovation Networking Center are taking the lead and involving all divisions and Group companies. Achievements in 2023 include establishing a new technology platform, launching a DX talent development program and expanding our portfolio sustainability assessment (PSA) program. Thanks to the efforts of all departments involved and the support of everyone in the company, we are making steady progress in addressing companywide challenges. However, as with anything that requires changes to thought processes, it is easy to fall back into old ways the moment we relax and forget to pay attention. I therefore ask everyone to take ownership of the three “Challenges.” Maintain interest and proactively participate so that we can continue with the reforms, quickly tackling issues we can address in the short-term, and steadfastly working on the medium and long-term challenges.

The progress of PASSION 2026 in each division and company varies, with some implementing measures more quickly than planned or expected and others being forced to reconsider their goals due to changes in the environment. To achieve the goals for FY2026 set out in PASSION 2026, we must execute policies to improve our capital efficiency, concentrate resources into the right areas and grow more quickly.

The lifestyle changes and increasing awareness of environmental issues I mentioned earlier should lead to many new business opportunities for us. We must take care not to miss these opportunities and act boldly and proactively without being bound by conventional ways and thoughts. We must always be ready to move quickly so we can grow our business further.

I hope that through these actions, we can demonstrate to our internal and external stakeholders that we are a sustainable company that has both the ability to execute our mission to “develop new fields of business using pioneering technology that improves the environment and enhances the quality of life throughout the world” and to grow towards 2026, the year of our 100th anniversary, and well into the future.

In December last year, we announced internally and externally the results of the investigation into the 2018 fire at Kuraray America’s EVAL plant.
An initiative for this fiscal year is to share an understanding of the underlying causes of the incident and promote measures globally so that such major incidents will not happen again. “Safety is the cornerstone of everything we do” at all production and R&D sites and offices throughout the world.

I would ask each one of us to sharpen our awareness of safety and engage in our work, aiming for a company that is safe and without accidents so we can together create “a safe workplace and a company in which everyone can work with confidence.”

I ask you all for your cooperation and diligent efforts.

In closing, I’d like to state that my vision is of a favorable cycle where each member of the Kuraray Group grows by upholding high ethical values and consistently acting with a strong sense of responsibility. The company, as the sum of its members, presents itself as a good corporate citizen creating value for society and growing together with its people.

I ask all of you to think and act without fear of failure. In this way, I believe the Kuraray Group will continue to be a vital and dynamic corporate entity that generates innovation throughout our industries and organization leading us to great success.

I wish everyone in the Kuraray Group worldwide and their families a healthy, happy, and prosperous year.

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