Akio Sugihara, Managing Executive Officer, CPO (Chief People Officer), Group Executive Vice President

Recently, Japan has been making progress on the issue of LGBT equality. Shibuya and Setagaya Wards in Tokyo along with the regional cities of Takarazuka (Hyogo Pref.), Naha (Okinawa Pref.) and Iga (Mie Pref.) have begun to offer same-sex partnership certifications; Tokyo Rainbow Pride has seen significantly increased attendance on a yearly basis; and a handful of Japanese companies have begun to offer benefits for their employees in same-sex partnerships. But there is still a long way to go.

Here at Rakuten, where we value and encourage diversity of all types, we saw a chance to do something better than we had up until now. In fact, when I brought up the question of LGBT equality with some of our other executive managers, the most common response was not to ask about potential costs or for further explanation, but was rather along the lines of, “Why aren’t we doing this already?”

Rakuten has been a pioneer in many things, and I am proud to be able to say that we have now expanded our policies to be more inclusive, offering equal benefits to our employees with partners of all genders. From honeymoon leave to condolence payments – if a benefit is offered to male-female couples, we now offer it to all couples. We have even established a way for employees to register their same-sex partners directly with the company, so that even if they don’t live in the wards that issue same-sex partnership certificates, they can still make use of the benefits we provide.

Limited-edition rainbow designed Edy-Rakuten Point Card

Limited-edition rainbow-themed Edy-Rakuten Point Card

In addition, I saw a chance to have a broad, positive impact not only on our employees but on society around us. Coinciding with our internal policy changes, several of our businesses have announced inclusive services to reach out to our customers in the LGBT community and show our support for them as a whole. We want to recognize the areas that affect their quality of life across the range of services offered by Rakuten Group companies, from being able to find friendly venues for weddings on Rakuten Wedding to being able to share a Rakuten Card family credit card with a same-sex partner or nominate them as a beneficiary for a Rakuten Insurance life insurance policy. Meanwhile, Viber and Rakuten Edy have issued new rainbow-themed items so that LGBT people and allies alike can show their pride and support. For me, this has been a wonderful example of the unity of the Rakuten ecosystem, with so many very different services coordinating and coming together to serve our customers’ needs.

With our standing in Japan and our global vision, Rakuten is in a position to have a significant impact in society. From our founding, our key mission has been empowerment – opening up markets to even the smallest rural merchant – and I realize that our reach is not limited to business. A more equal workplace makes a better environment for everyone, and Japan still needs more voices supporting LGBT rights. Whether you are in our offices or just considering our services, Rakuten welcomes you and stands by you.