This custom article was originally published on in January 2024.

The Japanese convenience store, or konbini, gained wider global renown during the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Athletes and journalists, shut out of eateries due to the pandemic, discovered a magical culinary world in these mini emporiums dotting the country. They raved on social media about boxed meals, exquisite wrapping, and egg salad sandwiches of “inexplicable deliciousness.” One awed traveler thought these bright, clean havens might be the “happiest place on earth.” 1  With so much buzz, a konbini visit has become a must with foreign visitors to Japan.
But for locals, convenience stores are part of their everyday, providing necessities as much as joy. They are open long – most of them for 24 hours. They stock a vast array of items, not just food and drinks but household items from cosmetics to socks. And they offer an expanding range of handy services.

A standard konbini has an ATM and a multifunction printer, allows you to receive and send parcels, pick up tickets for concerts, and even pay taxes and utility bills as well as print out various official certificates like resident records. For many living in remote areas, or those unable to visit banks or government offices during their opening hours, these are essential lifelines.
All of this is the culmination of 50 years of evolution to meet changing customer needs since the first 7-Eleven store opened in Tokyo in 1974. Including these 7-Eleven convenience stores in Japan, the Seven & i Group operates 85,000 stores worldwide, serving 59.9 million customers per day.
But the real question now is how to make this onward march of convenience sustainable and just for all. That is exactly the key challenge which one of the world’s largest retailers has set its sights on.

信頼と誠実さを伴う進化 信頼と誠実さを伴う進化

“Our times demand us to respond to both environmental and human rights issues sincerely and not just in a temporary or superficial way,” says Junro Ito, Senior Managing Executive Officer, Representative Director, Chief Sustainability Officer for Seven & i Holdings and the son of the founder of the Seven & i Group, Masatoshi Ito. “This reflects our corporate creed to be a sincere company trusted by all stakeholders through dialogue and, based on this foundation, to respond effectively to changes in the world.”
The Seven & i Group is a diversified global retailer with convenience stores as its core business, with annual sales of 17.8 trillion JPY in FY22, and more than 167,000 employees.
The 7-Eleven brand comes from the Southland Ice Company, a chain of Texas icehouses, which pioneered the modern convenience store in 1927. Japanese retailer Ito-Yokado, jointly with Seven-Eleven Japan, acquired a majority stake in Southland Corporation (currently 7-Eleven, Inc.), the licensor of the 7-Eleven brand, in 1991. Today, 7-Eleven, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Seven & i Holdings. Throughout its history, the brand has adapted to changing lifestyles and consumer needs, and spearheaded notable innovations for the convenience store sector.

The company’s US brands have become well-known for their self-service soda fountains, famous Slurpee beverages, and fresh food such as pizza. Now, the brand offers a shopping experience that utilizes the latest digital technologies such as delivery service 7NOW and app-based reward program 7Rewards to create a highly convenient shopping experience.

コンビニエンス(利便性)の持続に向けた包括的な取り組み コンビニエンス(利便性)の持続に向けた包括的な取り組み

To achieve its next phase in sustainability, Seven & i Group surveyed and conducted dialogue with more than 5,000 customers, business partners, franchisees, employees, and investors to uncover its key materialities.
The themes cover the environment, working conditions, diversity, and community issues that are particularly relevant for retailers – all harking back to the company founder’s principle that building trust with dialogue is the foundation for all successful business, explains Ito.

In 2019, the company announced targets for four environmental areas: reduction of CO2 emissions; measures against plastic waste; measures against food loss and for food recycling; and sustainable procurement.
To reduce food loss, the company has, for example, developed rice strains that remain tasty even when refrigerated, more kinds of frozen foods, and improved the airtightness of packaging. To reduce plastics, thinner and alternate packaging as well as storefront reverse vending machines for collecting PET bottles have been introduced, among other initiatives.

“In the face of climate change and global population growth, sustainable sourcing for food will become critical. As general retailers, we are closest to consumers and have strong influence over the value chain. That entails a significant responsibility towards sourcing sustainably and respecting human rights,” says Ito.
The Group also conducts CSR audits of suppliers by a third party on issues related to human rights, labor and environmental aspects.
Food retailers which must use extensive refrigeration are among the most energy-intensive small businesses, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. They are responsible for some 2% of global electricity use, higher than data centers, according to the International Energy Agency. 2 
To reduce such emissions, Seven & i Group is working on various initiatives, including installing solar panels and energy-saving equipment in stores, as well as trialing 100% renewable energy across its store operations.

It has also aligned its approach to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures’ recommendations and is participating in the international initiative “RE100”, which aims to make the electricity used in business activities 100% renewable energy. In US markets, it is committed to piloting EV stations and increasing that percentage of renewable energy used in its stores.
Beyond emissions from its stores, leading global retailers like Seven & i Group can also have an outsized impact on reducing food-related greenhouse gas emissions, which comprises a third of total global emissions and comes from food transport, packaging, processing, agricultural production and land use. 3 
That applies to ESG goals more generally. As a McKinsey report argues, these food retailers are “ubiquitous… integral to local and national economies, often being the largest private employer in an area” and thus able to “both influence consumer choices and collaborate with farmers, suppliers, and even other grocers.” 4 

世界規模を目指しつつ地域に根差す 世界規模を目指しつつ地域に根差す

However global the group’s vision and impact becomes, the commitment to focusing on each customer and community remains unwavering.
“We are expanding our global value chain with the aim of becoming ‘a world-class retail group centered on food,’ but as retailer, we must never forget the concerns of every customer who lives and works in local communities,” explains Ito.
“While numerous global enterprises do business around the world, there is no such thing as a global consumer. Our consumers live in their own communities, with their own familiar customs and cultures. We will continue to stive store by store toward solutions for important social issues such as the environment and human rights, based on the spirit of ‘think globally, act locally.’”