“A project created by all citizens of Osaka Prefecture”A retail business from Osaka “repaying the favor” to the post-expo future: Vol. 1
(From the left, Ms. Yoshida, General Manager Nishida, Ms. Shimamoto, and Mr. Takahashi, Sustainability Promotion Department)

“We want to take on the challenge of creating something that only a retailer native to Osaka can do.” H2O RETAILING (H2O), which owns Hankyu Hanshin Department Store and also operates a wide range of supermarkets, is working with residents to produce benches from wood grown in Osaka and to disseminate information on the project via web media. What is the “vision” behind the title “Envisioned Bench – The Cycle of Life”? A company that has been pursuing the social role of the retail industry will provide an answer at the Expo.

In April 2023, a new sales space was opened on the 8th floor of Hankyu Umeda Main Store. Its name is “GREEN AGE.” When you step in, a refreshing aroma occupies the space. The scent that envelops the sales space comes from thinned cypress wood grown in Osaka, which is used for fixtures such as the ceiling scaffold and chairs.

“How should we express the symbiosis with nature, which is the concept of GREEN AGE, throughout the sales space? GREEN AGE was an uncharted territory for both the staff and the company.”

Tetsuya Nishida, General Manager of Sustainability Promotion Department, reflects on the project.

In addition to protecting the natural environment, as a retailer business native to Osaka, they also wanted to contribute to the sustainable development of the region. To reflect both of these aspirations, the project took a long time to complete, with the full cooperation of Osaka Prefectural Corporation for Agricultural Land Development and Greenery-Environment Promotion, an Osaka prefecture specialist company in forest maintenance and wood use.

In the retail industry, when renovating a sales space, it has been common to use an approach in which outdated interiors and equipment are discarded and refurbished. To break away from unsustainable practices, they first set the goal of creating a sales space that would last for 10 years.

After brainstorming ideas with SOUQ COMPANY, a group company that also develops store fixtures, they considered locally produced thinned wood as a candidate material. In July 2021, H2O concluded a comprehensive cooperation agreement with Osaka Prefecture and has been promoting the “Osaka Forest Circulation Promotion Project” to promote the reuse of thinned wood. They have also conducted in-house training programs in the forests of the Sennan region, where employees learn everything, including thinning, sawing and processing. However, the attempt to utilize the lumber on a large scale on the 2,300 square meter sales floor was not a simple task.

Thinned lumber is produced at the right time to thin out dense stands of trees. Therefore, schedule cannot be fixed as the timing of procurement varies depending on thinning. In addition, to maximize the strength and texture of the natural wood, they dried it naturally, but because of the high moisture content in the summer, it took longer than expected compared to artificial drying. They were particular about the manufacturing method, avoiding the use of nails as much as possible, and incorporating traditional wood framing methods.

The response was great as the department store boasts the second largest sales in Japan on a single-store basis. In August 2023, it was selected as the first recipient of certification in the “System for Certifying the Forest Absorption of CO2/Fixing of CO2 by Wood” of Osaka Prefecture. Forests serve as sources of greenhouse gas absorption, and wood can store carbon over the long term, so this system encourages its use in buildings that will lead to the creation of another type of forests. GREEN AGE used 8.48 cubic meters of wood, far exceeding the specified amount (0.5 cubic meters), and was highly praised for its consideration of the global environment.

This series of initiatives provided the momentum that led to their participation in the Co-Design Challenge.

(Continuing into Vol. 2)

Mr. Tetsuya Nishida, General Manager, Sustainability Promotion Department
Table made in Osaka while using wood produced in Osaka

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