STC Newsletter Vol.1: Lion and Igarashi Paper SDGs

Lion aiming to solve environmental challenges

In this quarterly Newsletter, STC introduces Japanese companies who work on sustainable activities for environment and local communities. In Vol.1, we cover a large  global corporation, Lion, and, a family owned paper manufacturer in Fukui prefecture, Igarashi Paper.


Lion Corporation is a leader in the Japanese healthcare industry that produces and sells products such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and hand soaps. Founded in 1891 as Tomijiro Kobayashi & Co. on the banks of the Yanagihara River in Kanda, Tokyo to trade in soap and match raw materials, the company marks its 130th anniversary this year. The consolidated group employs 7,452 people, with flagship products that include Clinica Advantage toothpaste, Kirei Kirei medicated foaming hand soap, and Top Platinum Clear laundry detergent.

A look at earnings for the fiscal year ending December 2020 (January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020) shows consolidated sales up 2.3% from the previous year to ¥355.352 billion, and operating profit up 47.7% to ¥44.074 billion.

We will now examine the Group’s efforts toward sustainability and achieving SDGs.

Sustainability Material Issues to achieve SDGs

In 2018, Lion identified Sustainability Material Issues toward achieving its management vision of “becoming an advanced daily healthcare company” and contributing to the SDGs by backcasting, i.e., planning by working backwards from the society envisioned for 2030. The Group’s Sustainability Material Issues are for both Lion and society and, with the goal of helping to realize a healthy future for people and the planet, the choice of these issues was informed by the broad perspectives of business, environmental and social sustainability. In identifying these issues, we comprehensively considered the entire value chain and Lion’s stakeholders to understand the risks and opportunities they represent. In 2020, we set new the Sustainability Material Issues and objectives for 2030 as a vision for the Lion Group in 2030.

In addition, Lion established its Sustainability Promotion Council, comprising all its executive corporate officers including the president, as a mechanism for reinforcing sustainable management. The decisions of the Sustainability Promotion Council are reported to and discussed by Lion’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors and then reflected in the business activities of business execution department, a structure which also reinforces Lion’s corporate governance.

Sustainability Material Issues and Objectives for 2030 | Lion’s Sustainability | Sustainability | Lion Corporation

In particular, the Group has positioned “Promoting Environmental Initiatives for a Sustainable Planet” and “Creating Healthy Living Habits” as issues of top priority.

Sustainability Material Issue (1) “Promoting Environmental Initiatives for a Sustainable Planet”

To achieve Promoting Environmental Initiatives for a Sustainable Planet, Lion established in 2019 the LION Eco Challenge 2050, a set of long-term environmental objectives, to contribute through its business activities to the accomplishment of worldwide goals in response to global-scale environmental problems such as those identified by the Paris Agreement and the SDGs.

Next, we will introduce the actual efforts Lion is making for Promoting Environmental Initiatives for a Sustainable Planet.

Lion is actively promoting the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle) and the use of renewables.

Efforts to reduce include making laundry detergent, fabric softener, kitchen detergent, and so on more concentrated to make the container compact, reducing the amount of container and packaging materials.

Efforts to reuse include making more refillable products. By being refilled, the original containers can be reused. The refill packages are also lighter and take up less volume compared with the original container and will reduce household waste.

Efforts to recycle include use of recycled PET plastic in laundry and kitchen detergent containers.

[The Top Super Nanox bottle is made of 100% recycled PET]


Additionally, Lion is collaborating with Kao Corporation on the recycling of refill packs (film packaging) to help realize plastic packaging resource circulation in society.

Efforts to use renewables include working to reduce the environmental burden through the use of waste paper pulp (raw material for paper taken from used paper such as newspapers) in containers and packaging for products such as powdered laundry detergent, and for some products, using biomass plastic derived from plants.

Toothbrush Recycling Program

 Since 2015, Lion has partnered with TerraCycle Japan in an initiative to collect and recycle used toothbrushes in cooperation with many schools and local governments across Japan.

Anyone can participate in this program by registering in advance as an individual, school, or other organization. A collection box is set up at each location to collect used toothbrushes, after which a designated carrier comes to collects them. The collected toothbrushes are then reborn as products such as flower planters.

Participants are awarded points according to the weight collected, which can be exchanged for recycled plastic products such as planters made from used toothbrushes, or to make donations toward things like educational or community support.


As of January 21, about 780,000 used toothbrushes have been collected at 760 locations nationwide, with plans to continue this program in the future.

Coexisting with Nature

 Through the act of “washing,” Lion has always been deeply involved with water. Lion is therefore always proactively involved in water resource conservation activities.

Since a lot of water is used at the plants to clean equipment as well as for heating and cooling during the manufacturing process, Lion has also implemented a wastewater recycling system at its Chiba Plant since 2016(which uses the most water among its plants). This system allows recycling of wastewater from production processes without discharging into the environment. Wastewater treatment facilities have also been introduced to enable greater purification of sanitary facility wastewater and wastewater from purification treatment facilities than was previously possible for better removal of nitrogen (a source of marine eutrophication).

Lion has also established volunteer and training activities at the Lion Forest in Yamanashi to foster awareness of the aquatic environment among participating employees through the maintenance of forests, a water resource. Furthermore, the company places importance on the proactive protection of biodiversity as well as regenerative and restorative efforts and has been implementing conservation activities at all sites across Japan.

Aiming for Sustainable Raw Material Procurement

Lion has established a policy to advance initiatives aimed at the sustainable procurement of palm oil derivatives and pulp and paper products.

Since 2006, Lion has been a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and has been procuring and using RSPO-certified palm oil in consideration of sustainability.

Sustainability Material Issue (2) “Creating Healthy Living Habits”

 Since its founding, Lion has sought to help consumers enjoy healthy living through the provision of products while carrying out educational activities and communication aimed at creating better living habits. In Japan and other Asian countries, Lion is engaged in initiatives that contribute to the sustainable development of society and the global environment through the areas of health, comfort and cleanliness.

Lion is currently tackling societal issues known as health disparities as a new important point of focus through the promotion of inclusive oral care. Through these activities, Lion hopes to eliminate disparities that arise from factors such as living environments, physical abilities, economic circumstances, and access to information and education. By making oral care accessible to all, Lion hopes to share with people everywhere habits that

nurture and enhance their natural ability to live a healthy life.


Currently, two actions have been announced:


One involves supporting children’s independence by conducting various oral healthcare programs at places such as children’s cafeterias (events that provide free or affordable meals to children). This action will be a collaborative endeavor between Lion and the NPOs Florence and Musubie and is expected to establish a long-term support system for children.

The other action involves switching all Indian-grown Japanese Menta canadensis used in toothpastes to those certified via strict inspections (Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform-certified mint). Current conditions are lacking in sustainable work and production for certified farming, but by procuring and continuing to purchase these certified mints, this action will help to establish a sustainable mint production system in India.

 The Lion Foundation for Dental Health was established in 1964 as part of Lion’s outreach efforts. The foundation has engaged in research on preventive dentistry, joint research in collaboration between industry and academia, design of oral examination systems, and establishment of an oral healthcare course of study at Hirosaki University. In addition, a nationwide elementary school toothbrushing event is held annually for the purpose of teaching children how to brush their teeth correctly.

A past example of the nationwide elementary school toothbrushing event

Apart from oral health care, Lion also engages in activities to promote proper hand washing habits. Children at kindergartens, nursery and elementary schools are taught the importance of hand washing. Also, Lion has created pamphlets on hygiene and health in times of disaster, and provided professionals working in restaurants, hotels, food production facilities and so forth with hygiene management information such as key points about hand washing timing and facilities, as well as other topics that is important for such professionals to know.

Igarashi Paper’s “Food Paper” made from discarded fruits and vegetables

Igarashi Paper Co., Ltd., located in the city of Echizen in Fukui Prefecture, is a maker of Echizen-style washi (traditional Japanese paper) founded in 1919. The eleven-person workshop produces produce a wide range of paper, from large-sized paper to small items, with a focus on fusuma sliding door panels and wallpaper. Their handmade large-sized “sosaku washi” created by Misako Igarashi, traditional craftswoman and wife of workshop head Kozo Igarashi, has earned praise in recent years and has been used in many facilities and stores. They are also actively engaged the in the creation of such products as “Washi Glass,” a marriage of washi and glass, as well as “Washi Akari” lighting.

Igarashi Paper has joined the effort towards sustainability with its “Food Paper,” a brand of stationery made from discarded fruits and vegetables.

Behind this effort is a shortage of raw material needed to produce washi. The yields of plants such as paper mulberry, mitsumata, and ganpi which serve as the raw materials for Japanese paper are currently in sharp decline, making it difficult to satisfy the need for raw materials.


Food Paper was inspired by a five-year papermaking experiment that young Yuto Igarashi began in the fourth grade as an independent research project. Yuto examined the results of making paper from food such as banana peels, peanut shells, and edamame, and upon seeing the results, his mother Masami commercialized the process in collaboration with Tsugi LLC, a design firm in Fukui.

Food Paper reduces food loss since almost all of the discarded fruits and vegetables are used as raw materials after removing unnecessary parts like hulls or stem ends. It can be made using the same process as for handmade washi, and is also suited for automated papermaking, so mass production is possible.

Various fruits and vegetables can serve as raw materials, including onions, tea leaves, burdock roots, grapes, carrots, cabbages, green onions, and mandarin oranges.

The product lineup is made entirely of vegetables and fruits and includes: B5-sized notebooks, message cards, shoulder bags, small containers, paper bags, and so forth. All are characterized by simple, natural colors that cannot be reproduced with artificial dyes.