The Santen Group supports the sports for visually impaired people.
Principles for Supporting Sports for Visually Impaired People
As a specialized company dedicated to the ophthalmic field, Santen seeks to contribute to the well-being of patients, their loved ones and consequently to society according to Santen's Values. Guided by these values, Santen supports sports for people with visual impairment in order to promote society's understanding and interest in ophthalmic disorders and to foster an awareness of patient perspectives in employees. Santen aims to support, through sports for people with visual impairment, the dreams and aspirations of all people, including players with visual impairment, their families and supporters with visual impairment interested in sports.
Partnership with Japan Blind Football Association (JBFA)
Santen and Japan Blind Football Association (hereinafter, JBFA) entered into a partnership agreement, effective March, 2017. Santen enters this partnership agreement sharing JBFA's vision: "Through blind football, we hope to create a unified, borderless society for all" and its mission: "We strive to contribute life enjoyment for all the people involved in blind football." Santen supports JBFA's activities by serving as a sponsor for the Japan National Men's and Women's Blind Football teams, as a partner of the "Kids Camp (Kansai Region) " which allows visually-impaired children who have few opportunities to exercise to engage in sports, and a partner of the "Spo-iku" program which is a diversity education program for elementary and junior high schools.
Volunteer activities by employees at JBFA-hosted events
Santen employees participate as volunteers in events hosted by the Japan Blind Football Association (JBFA), including events designed to offer children with visual impairment experience in blind football and other sports, and operating blind football tournaments and championships. Participating volunteers commented: "The event provided me with an opportunity to reconsider how my work could help society, and increase my motivation for work"; "I was able to reconfirm our values and responsibility as a company dedicated to the ophthalmic field"; and "This experience has further fueled my fervent desire to contribute to patients and their loved ones." The volunteer activities have provided employees with valuable opportunities to reconfirm Santen's values.
Dialogue with JBFA
JBFA Secretary-general Eigo Matsuzaki and Santen Senior Corporate Officer Masamichi Sato in charge of CSR had a dialogue, sharing with each other their aspirations embodied by this partnership, their impressions of JBFA's activities, and their future visions.
* This dialogue was held in November 2017.
Sharing JBFA's wide scope of activity and its vision and mission
- Can you tell us how Santen came to have a partnership with JBFA?
Santen aims to be a specialized pharmaceutical company with a global presence in the ophthalmic field, so we were seeking how we could make a social contribution with a wider reach in relation to our field. JBFA is engaged in a wide variety of activities, not only promoting and enhancing blind football as a sport but also providing an opportunity for visually impaired children to experience sports and offering diversity training to the general public. We thought a partnership with JBFA would help us encourage people suffering from ophthalmic diseases and share dreams and excitement with a wider range of people. We also agreed with JBFA's vision and mission (Note 1) , which share some principles with Santen's Visions. This is the strongest reason why we decided to enter into a partnership with JBFA.
Thank you very much. What is most assuring for us is that you agree with our vision and mission, and understand our perspective of improving the entire environment surrounding people with visual and other disabilities through parasports.
The people of JBFA plan various social contribution programs for themselves, in addition to enhancing the sport, and assume a central role in activities for impaired people in cooperation with companies. We felt that participation in such activities could provide Santen employees with the opportunity to notice patients' thoughts and perspectives and help them reflect such discoveries in their work. I believe such activities will grow significantly into social contribution.
I feel happy to hear you say that. Retrospectively, we didn't have a vision and a mission like the current ones from the beginning. We had the opportunity to reconsider what we were aiming at through our activities and what we wished to do through this sport, and reformulated our vision, when we began using the term a "unified, borderless society." We had long discussions on the question of what a victory and a medal in a parasport competition mean if few in society-including visually impaired people-are aware of the fact. We then determined to have our entire society support para-athletes as they deserved, rather than just 10 national team members sharing the joy of victory, and, through activities to that end, to strive for equality between impaired and non-impaired people in workplace environments and education. After that, we designed programs one by one based on this vision, ending up with our current programs, including "Spo-iku," OFF TIME (Note 2) , and OFF TIME Biz (Note 3) .
- Note 1
- JBFA's Vision; through blind football, we hope to create a unified, borderless society for all
JBFA's Mission; we strive to contribute life enjoyment for all the people involved in blind football.
- Note 2
- OFF TIME; A hands-on experience program with blind football, targeting the general public, where participants can learn from hands-on experience offered by visually impaired lecturers about communication, team building, and diversity.
- Note 3
- OFF TIME Biz; A hands-on blind football workshop targeting companies and organizations.
Value of blind football
- I understand Mr. Sato had the first contact with blind football in the OFF TIME program.
Yes, I did. OFF TIME seemed to have been designed to have participants learn various things through experience while mixing with visually impaired people. I was very impressed that JBFA had widely spread this training program in society and enhanced it into a corporate training program, which had been covered by many media outlets, including NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai [Japan Broadcasting Corporation]). I came to believe that, if our employees could participate in such training, it would provide a good opportunity for them to recognize the importance of eyes once again and have greater pride in and increased awareness of the social significance of our company's work related to ophthalmic medicine. After that, when watching a blind football match, frankly, I was really surprised and excited at the speedy and powerful performance of blind football players, which sometimes seemed to exceed that of non-impaired athletes, and the system where impaired athletes and non-impaired athletes (goalkeepers, etc.) could play on the same field in close cooperation with each other. It was a "unified, borderless" match involving both impaired and non-impaired athletes, in the true meaning of the term. The match was really exciting. I came to firmly believe that our employees would accept this sport without having the somewhat rigid feeling of supporting the impaired.
A conventional kind of support for the impaired tends to result in a divide or fixed relationship between supporters and the supported, but it seemed to me that all the people participating in both the blind football itself and JBFA's activities were sharing their delight and hard effort with each other, whether or not they themselves were impaired. I found this corresponded with the ideal state of our social contribution.
I feel grateful for your feeling so, because we were unable to do anything but say, "Blind football is great, so please support it," for some time. Around 2017, we seriously considered what blind football was useful for. Blind football should be useful to society, and if so, we can receive human, financial or physical support as a reward. We became determined not to talk about the "greatness" of blind football but to explain its "value," because we noticed that, unless we provide such great value that might possibly exceed our own capacity, nothing would return to us. Around 2009 to 2013, we desperately worked to be useful for society, and it was when we saw Mr. Sato that our efforts began to produce some concrete results, and an increasing number of people began to recognize our activities, albeit gradually.
You have raised blind football into something that can proudly provide value to society, rather than building a fixed relationship between supporters and the supported. That is why we have been able to participate in it comfortably.
CSR activities integrated into business conduct
- What have you discovered during your participation in the activities?
Participation in JBFA's activities always leads us to new discoveries. For example, children participating in the Kids Camp, who cheerfully go about their everyday lives despite their severe visual impairment, shared their energy and bravery with us. Their parents taught us about their expectations for ophthalmic medicine and pharmaceuticals, and their various thoughts. Although we had thought Santen was a specialist in eyes and ophthalmic medicine, contact with visually impaired people made us realize there were many things even employees familiar with the field of medical treatment, including MRs, did not know. This was the biggest discovery at that event.
I believe that many more employees will participate in Kids Camps from now on, and as a result, they will reconfirm our mission as a pharmaceutical company, reconsider what they should do, and become able to talk in their own words to coworkers, customers, and healthcare professionals. I believe the spread of such attitudes inside and outside our company will lead us to put Santen's values into practice.
Since Santen specializes in business in the ophthalmic field, I think volunteers from Santen in particular can feel and discover many things. Kids Camp staff members told me that they were deeply impressed with the abilities of Santen volunteers, always addressing eye issues, in taking action and responding to situations.
I believe that we will be able to cooperate with Santen in tackling the challenge of designing a system wherein MRs request that medical experts recommend participation in sports for the visually impaired, albeit gradually. According to blind football players, medical experts stop offering treatment at a certain stage, when patients can no longer be expected to have better eyesight or their failing eyesight can no longer be prevented. Therefore, I also have the impression that patients whom healthcare professionals have given up treating are impaired people. However, I believe it is important for healthcare professionals to let such patients know there are opportunities to participate in sports, through words or documents, after giving up treating them. I think this is a challenge for parasports in general. There are major possibilities for building a system to support such impaired people, using Santen's networks, in the case of the visually impaired, for example.
I completely agree with that. Previously, we also had the vague impression that those who had completely lost their eyesight were not our customers in terms of our business. But we then noticed some basic things, such as the fact that completely blind people may also have allergies and dry eyes, and therefore also have a connection to our business. Healthcare professionals are very sensitive to and have a very strong feeling of mission regarding patients' quality of life (QOL). If our discoveries brought new discoveries to healthcare professionals, and led to a better QOL for patients, it would be wonderful. It would be a good model for a CSR activity integrated into business conduct.
Since we have just started conducting activities with JBFA, we may have to wait for the results for a while. Nevertheless, I hope our activities will create a virtuous cycle for our company, medical experts and patients.
Path forward for the Santen-JBFA partnership
- In conclusion, can you review this partnership, and tell us about your current thoughts?
I have never felt regret about having a partnership with JBFA. The employees who have participated in this activity all accept their experience positively, and make good use of it in their work. To experience the concept of a "unified, borderless society" as stated in JBFA's vision and put it into practice, it is important to actually participate in their activities. I hope many more people inside and outside our company will experience JBFA's activities, even if starting with simply watching a match. I think the challenge we should tackle next will be increasing the number of blind football fans at Santen, and spreading the fandom to many more people, including healthcare professionals.
Currently, public interest in impairments and parasports is increasing toward the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. I hope this will lead to the expansion of parasports fandom.
In addition to increasing the number of blind football fans, I hope to make efforts to raise public awareness of ophthalmic disease, so that visual impairment will be eliminated through earlier diagnosis and treatment. It may take five, 10 or 100 years, but I hope we can continue to cooperate in fulfilling the dream. Meanwhile, however, people can lose their eyesight due to accidents or other reasons, so we have to create a "unified, borderless society," even if some people inevitably have to lose their sight.
I feel it is important for us to cooperate with Santen in tackling major challenges through sustained efforts. We also hope to meet public expectations by producing good results.