The Suntory Group has been conducting Natural Water Sanctuary Projects in order to preserve water resources and biodiversity.
Natural Water Sanctuary Projects
The Suntory Group uses a large amount of groundwater in the manufacturing of its products. To maintain the sustainability of that groundwater, from 2003 we have been signing medium- to long-term contracts that last decades with governmental bodies and with forest owners in each region where we operate, and have been. conducting activities aimed at preserving and recharging water through our Suntory Natural Water Sanctuaries.
Suntory strives to conserve forests that protect the future of water and life on Earth; to this end, we engage in Natural Water Sanctuary projects that also contribute to the long-term sustainability of our core businesses, including soft drinks and alcoholic beverages . In our forest conservation activities, we carry out thorough scientific investigation and research that provide the basis for the formulation of science-based plans and targets most suitable for each specific location. Furthermore, to make these activities even more sustainable, we support human resources development and environmental education of next generations that will inherit technological know-how and knowledge towards, with the overall goal to improve water cultivation and to enhace biodiversity preservation.
From “Water for Suntory” to “Water for the Society”
To support Natural Water Sanctuaries, the Suntory Institute for Water Science first of all performs the analysis of water composition, as well as, the survey of landscape, subsurface geology, the factory and wells in the surrounding areas and other parameters to determine the groundwater cultivation area used for the plant. We calculate the area of forest considering the characteristics of the land, and then enter into forest development contracts with the cooperation of forest owners. The term of the contract is set to more than 30 years enabling us to engage in activities from a mid- to long-term perspective.
In 2009, we set a mid-term goal of expanding forest area required to nurture groundwater so as to recharge the amount used at Suntory production facilities in Japan, and in 2013, we successfully expanded protected forests area to about 7,600ha, which exceeded our goal. In 2014, we set a new target for 2020 to expand the areas of the forests to 12,000ha in order to recharge twice as much, groundwater as will be used in production facilities in 2020, thus not only satisfying Suntory’s own needs, but also contributing to society. As of March 2017, there are 20 Suntory Natural Water Sanctuaries across 14 prefectures in Japan with a total of approximately 9,000 ha, managed according to the characteristics of each forest.
※1When there contracts and agreements with different durations, the longest duration is given.
※2Automatically renewed every 5 years.
※3In Nagaokakyo, Kyoto, we are a member of the Nishiyama forestry development promotion committee and we are cooperating in local forest preservation activities with people in the community. The area of the forests subject to this activity is not counted as part of our total Natural Water Sanctuary area.
Forest Cultivation Forecasting Several Decades to Several Hundred Years -- Natural Water Sanctuary's Ideal Form
Approximately 70% of Japan’’s land mass is said to be covered with forests, but not all forests are healthy. To improve forest conditions, Suntory established the following objectives for the Natural Water Sanctuaries and continues to work with local communities in a variety of ways.
<Natural Water Sanctuary Development Targets>
①Forests with a great capacity for cultivating water resources
Forest ground gently receives rain that gradually penetrates the ground and purifies the water physically, chemically and microbiologically. Forests rich in various trees and grass nurture and protect such soil.
②Forests rich in biodiversity
Forest with diverse plants nurtures an environment that is home to diverse animals. Animals and plants in the forest are a barometer of its biodiversity and health.
③Forests able to withstand flooding and landslides
Trees in the forest have roots that stretch straight into the ground playing the role of a stake and wide thin roots stretching outward that play the role of a net and grasp the ground. Having a variety of trees creates forests that do not allow movement of soil and are therefore resistant to disasters.
④Forests with great CO2 absorption capabilities
Plants absorb CO2 and create oxygen but slow growing trees are said not to absorb much CO2. We appropriately manage the forest with the aim of nurturing a forest that has high growth rate trees that easily absorb CO2.
⑤Beautiful forests where visitors can encounter nature in all its abundance
We create a space where people can gather and get in touch with animals and plants and also use it as a place for environmental education for children.
Sustainable Forest Conservation Activities for the Next Generation
Continuous preservation activities are required to preserve the health of Natural Water Sanctuaries. Natural Water Sanctuaries throughout Japan each have different characteristics and issues and thus, we engage in activities that consider 50 and 100 years ahead based on the RPDCA cycle that includes scientifically-based survey and research (Research), creation of a vision (development plan) suited to each forest (Plan), management (Do), verification of results(Check), consideration of measures for improvement (Action).
[R in RPDCA] Scientifically-based Surveys and Research
It is important to understand the characteristics of the region to make the Natural Water Sanctuary an ideal forest. In doing so, research and advice of experts in various fields such as geology, soil, vegetation, erosion control, hydrology, vegetation, birds, insects and microorganisms is indispensable. Thus, we are engaging in cooperative research using the latest technology with universities and research institutes as well as working in forest development while continuing various activities in cooperation with governments, forest owners, local residents, companies and volunteers.
[P in RPDCA] Proposals for Long-term Activity Development Plans (Vision)
We propose and establish mid- to long-term vision and development plan considering characteristic and issues of each forest based on the results of surveys from various perspectives.
[P&D in RPDCA] Use of Aerial Laser Measurements
In surveys and development of the Natural Water Sanctuaries, we are using aerial laser measurement, which is the latest geomorphic analysis technology, to increase accuracy and efficiency.
We are able to measure three-dimensional geomorphic data in minute detail by using helicopters and UAV (often called drones) in addition to Cessna planes that are able to fly along complex land formations. We are able to understand topographical information that cannot be seen on conventional topographic maps and aerial photographs to fully grasp the topology even in steep areas that are difficult to reach.
Through the use of this type of data, we heighten the accuracy of various surveys and analyses in addition to making research and development activities more efficient.
[D in RPDCA] Development activities by professionals
Each forest is managed according to their own development activities (initiatives) based on the development plans. Forest management covers a wide range of tasks such as tree thinning, clearing underbrush and making strip roads. We also share the activity policy with local forestry cooperatives, foresters and commissions to utilize the required high-level technology as well as properly conduct forest management in the set period of time.
・Tree thinning and pruning
Appropriate tree thinning and pruning is done in artificial forests of cedar and cypress so light can get through the forest. Through this, various plants and broad-leaf trees can grow to recover rich vegetation. The debris from tree thinning work is valued and used as a by-product through means such as in soil retainers in forests or as timber transported from cultivated forests※.
※The Suntory Group calls wood material made from activities to nurture sustainable water and forests “timber from cultivated forests”
・Making Strip Roads
Strip roads and foot ways are necessary in surveying and developing the forest. We are able to execute activities with even greater accuracy by not only transporting timber out on these roads but also changing the frequency devices are used for surveying and forest management as well as actual exploration. Natural Water Sanctuaries promote roads that are kind to nature and that are long lasting so that these routes become one with the surrounding environment. Roads that blend in with nature are not only used by people but also by various animals such as for a hunting ground for birds of prey like eagles and hawks, functioning as part of the habitat for animals living in the forest.
・Measures against harmful animals
The damage caused by an overpopulation of deer around Japan trampling the grass and eating all of the bark is vast. We trim trees to let light into the forest, but the vegetation and low hanging leaves that are all eaten by the deer makes biodiversity scarce and also causes soil erosion and landslides. As some of the measures to address this issue in the Natural Water Sanctuaries, we have installed protective fences around vegetation to keep the deer out as well as protected the surface soil by growing vegetation and small trees the deer do not like to conserve the biodiversity and prevent soil erosion. We will also search for ways to protect the quality of plants more efficiently by conducting behavioral studies of the deer.
・Making seedlings and planting trees
In cases tree planting is necessary as a measure against grazing deer, plants from different land may break the ecosystem so we take care to use seedlings from seeds collected from the local area with respect for the region.
[A in RPDCA] Monitoring and Subsequent Surveys
We are monitoring and evaluating whether the development we have introduced is properly contributing to the conservation of the forest. We confirm whether changes have occurred and review plans as necessary especially in terms of groundwater, soil, birds, and vegetation. We need to be able to flexibly respond to these types of natural changes to engage in sustainable activities.
Supporting the Education of Human Resources Who Work in Forest Development
The same activities cannot stay limited to the Natural Water Sanctuaries, but need to spread throughout Japan to revitalize forests around the nation. Therefore, Suntory widely publishes the results of its research activities related to the Natural Water Sanctuaries. In addition, we are conducting courses, practical training and Natural Water Sanctuary forums to develop human resources in the field of Natural Water Sanctuaries so that we may communicate the techniques and know-how necessary to develop forests such as more efficient quality development and road building techniques.
Using Groundwater Flow Simulations
One of the main purposes of the Natural Water Sanctuary activities is improving the water cultivation function of forests.
As a way to evaluate the success, Suntory has been trying quantitative evaluations of groundwater cultivation using groundwater flow simulations since 2006. We are deepening our understanding of groundwater we cannot see with our eyes by trying groundwater flow simulations that show us how the groundwater flows and how long it takes this water to get back to our factories, which is then combined with information from local surveys.
These results are reflected in our development plans to create more effective water resource cultivation.
Preservation of Biodiversity
The ecosystem of the forest forms a pyramid supported by soil and plants at its foundation. A healthy ecological pyramid needs a wealth of diversity in the soil and vegetation to survive.
The business activities of the Suntory Group that use water and agricultural goods as their primary ingredients is supported by this healthy ecosystem. The Suntory Group recognizes the protection of this ecosystem as its inherent duty and it is expanding a wide range of activities to preserve the natural environment that supports biodiversity.
In addition to executing management plans by always monitoring biodiversity even in our Natural Water Sanctuaries, we have been participating in the Nippon Keidanren Japan Business and Biodiversity Partnership since January 2011 and took the initiative to work toward building a society with a wealth of biodiversity.
Biodiversity in a Natural Water Sanctuary from a Bird's Perspective
One of the main purposes of the forest development of the Natural Water Sanctuaries is the revitalization of the rich biodiversity and experts carry out wild bird research every year (insect and animal research is also periodically conducted).
The plant and animal life living in the forest will change if the typical functions of the forest can be revitalized. We believe that we can fully understand the ever-changing situation throughout the entire ecosystem supporting this life by focusing on birds of prey such as the eagles and hawks which stand atop the ecological pyramid.
Nest building and rearing of chicks by eagles and hawks at all the Natural Water Sanctuaries in Japan has been raised as a 2020 target with the purpose of advancing the development of a forest rich with biodiversity by taking the perspective of natural wild birds in the Natural Water Sanctuaries through research into these wild animals.
Hosting the Natural Water Sanctuary Forum 2016 -- Forests that Protect Water and the Future of Life on Earth
This forum started in 2011 for the purpose of sharing knowledge about the broad range of research and maintenance in each Natural Water Sanctuary. The forum held in November 2016 was the sixth conference held since its inception. We regularly invite experts in various fields to provide guidance and cooperation to offer comprehensive reports that include trial and error in the research and maintenance of the Natural Water Sanctuaries and future activity policies. We deepened the debate through interactions that included a specific exchange of opinions at a poster session.
University of Tokyo "The Wisdom of Water" (Suntory) Corporate Sponsored Research Program
Suntory Holdings Ltd. established the University of Tokyo "The Wisdom of Water" (Suntory) Corporate Sponsored Research Program in April 2008, and it has held this research program for five years. By cultivating more social interest in water, we are engaging in the various activities below with the aim of contributing to the education of research in academic fields while promoting solutions of water issues as well as developing a rich water environment.
As a few examples, we have published "Water Map of Japan" as well as included "The Wisdom of Water" on our website in addition to publishing the minutes of our program for students held in our course as "The Wisdom for Water," introducing science bars and supervising the Suntory "Water Encyclopedia," Suntory Mizuiku - Natural Water Education Program Encyclopedia" and the Suntory Mizuiku "Teaching about Water at Schools," and the creation of the "Water Drills" educational content. We also actively conduct initiatives that widely communicate "The Wisdom of Water" to society by utilizing the knowledge we have gained.
First Hand Experience with Forestry by employees
Many Group employees and their families participated in the first-hand experience with forestry as a volunteer activity in the Natural Water Sanctuaries up until 2013.
In 2014, we started to have all Group employees take part in the first-hand experience with forestry training to cultivate understanding by allowing each and every one of our employees to experience the Suntory Coexisting with Nature values themselves. By 2016, the third year of the programme, the cumulative number of participating employees was over 6,000 people.
Expanding Communication Through Environmental Advertising and Websites
We have placed environmental advertisements in newspapers and commercials on television since June 2013 with the goal of introducing the water resource cultivation activities in Natural Water Sanctuaries more widely to our customers. The television commercial "Suntory Natural Water Sanctuary (Soil Cultivation)" also received the Grand Prize in the Environmental TV Commercial category at the 17th Environmental Communication Awards hosted by the Ministry of the Environment and Global Environmental Forum.
Furthermore, we have setup dedicated web pages on the Suntory homepage to be used in various activities to introduction information such as our vision and activity examples for each forest while teaching about the Natural Water Sanctuary activities and wisdom widely to people in society.
Ikurinzai - Timber Project: Utilizing Wood Nurturing Water and Forests
※ The Suntory Group calls wood material made from activities to nurture sustainable water and forests “Ikurinzai - Timber” (registered trademark) We are advancing activities that use not only artificial forests such as cedar and cypress but also broad-leaved trees such as oak and Mongolian oak as byproducts from our forest development based on the fundamental belief that mountains and forests have nothing wasteful and a hope not to waste anything.
Internal Use of Tables and Wheelchairs Made from “Ikurinzai - Timber”
Tables fabricated using Ikurinzai - timber from cultivated forests was realized based on an idea of our employees to effectively utilize Ikurinzai - timber from cultivated forests while maintaining forests of Natural Water Sanctuaries. Today, we have installed various tables and counters that use Ikurinzai - timber from cultivated forests found in Gifu Higashi Shirakawa Natural Water Sanctuary in the employee cafeteria at the Odaiba Office and spaces of Suntory University※1.
We used Ikurinzai timber from Okudaisen Bunanomori Natural Water Sanctuary and the Kyoto Minami-Yamashiro Natural Water Sanctuary for the floors and furnishings in the Suntory World Research Center (Keihanna Science City), which was built in 2015 as a research and development site for both Japan and the rest of the world at the Suntory Group. In the Suntory Products Ltd. Kisogawa Plant, we adopted chairs that use Ikurinzai timber from the Gifu Higashi Shirakawa Natural Water Sanctuary.
Our employees are reaffirming the Natural Water Sanctuary Projects with more sensitivity in the natural environment they are able to experience each time they come in contact with the tables and chairs that use Ikurinzai timber from cultivated forests.
External Use of “Ikurinzai - Timber”
Ikurinzai timber extracted from Natural Water Sanctuaries are widely distributed through various markets with cedar and cypress materials at the core. Some of this timer is used in the construction of public institutes that neighbor the Natural Water Sanctuaries as well as for furniture. This wood offers the local people an opportunity to come into contact with the blessings of nature.