Overview

Cheerio Corporation Co., Ltd. is a Japanese beverage company that competes domestically. The company is a family business that has been run by three generations of the Kan family. The case examines how Daisuke Kan, grandson of Cheerio’s founder, used advocacy for LGBTQ+ inclusion as part of his strategy to reach an underserved market and to revitalize the company’s beverages business.

Course Topics:
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • LGBTQ+ Inclusion
  • Leadership
  • Marketing
  • Organizational Change

Introduction:

For most, drinking a can of soda is not a revolutionary act. Yet for Cheerio Corporation Co., Ltd. (Cheerio), a Japanese soft drink company, each beverage presents an opportunity to advocate for social change. A strong proponent of increased diversity, equity, and inclusion in Japan, Cheerio has been a particularly vocal in advocating for greater LGBTQ+ inclusion in a country that still struggles with full societal acceptance of LGBTQ+ people. In 2014, the company became a sponsor of Tokyo Rainbow Pride, an annual LGBTQ+ parade held in the nation’s capital, becoming the first Japanese company to provide valuable support at a time when the event had only attracted the attention of a few multinational corporations and foreign embassies. Since then, Cheerio has become a top sponsor of Tokyo Rainbow Pride and has encouraged various other domestic companies to back the cause. Today, the company sponsors Pride parades around Japan and brokers connections between Japan’s LGBTQ+ activists and likeminded allies around the globe, thereby helping to catalyze lasting societal change during Japan’s pivotal “LGBTQ+ boom”. Taking a stand on LGBTQ+ inclusion risked alienating non-supporters and could have placed Cheerio at a competitive disadvantage in an increasingly competitive market. However, Cheerio’s authentic commitment to increased diversity, equity, and inclusion in Japan has ensured that its inclusivity efforts have proven equally fruitful for the organization and Japan’s disenfranchised LGBTQ+ community. The company’s struggling beverage business has been revitalized by challenging Japan’s corporate status quo and leveraging a more inclusive mindset. Cheerio now earns seven times its 2010 profits despite using 25% fewer working hours on average, has obtained a valuable recruiting edge in the highly competitive market for young Japanese talent, and has curated a unique brand image that resonates with Japan’s underserved LGBTQ+ community and younger generations. Thus, the company has proven that its brand of inclusivity is just as sweet as the products it sells.

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This case was written by:

This case was written by Stephanie Taylor and Sonal Gupta. The authors prepared this case under the supervision of Professor Sarah Kaplan, with guidance from Bonnie Lam and Vanessa Serra Iarocci and research assistance from Kevin SeongWeon Son and Carmina Ravanera. The authors are grateful for the participation of Daisuke Kan, Daisuke Ishido, Ayaka Sakamaki, and Professor Rie Kijima in this project.

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