Samsung’s Outlook Gets Blurry

Every year, Samsung Electronics habitually issues a voluminous ‘sustainability report’, which is full of statistics on the corporate, societal and environmental achievements of the South Korean technology giant. Since 2009, when the company launched its ten-year plan every year, the sustainability reports always talked about the firm’s progress towards its lofty goals called ‘Vision 2020’. These goals have namely been concerned with pushing annual revenue to reach about $400 billion and to become one of the top five brands of the world. Therefore, when the company released its sustainability report for 2015 on Friday, it came as quite a surprise because it was silent on these aims.

For the first time since 2009, Vision 2020 wasn’t mentioned in the annual business wrap-up of the company nor its letter from the CEO. Similarly, there weren’t any customary measurements that showed Samsung’s progress towards achieving its goals. As far as other respects are concerned, the 160-page report covers the usual ground, featuring sections on green management, sustainable innovation and corporate governance. Updated figures were also offered by Samsung on its workforce, which included 320,000 employees in about 84 countries.

42% of these employees were women, which is a considerably high watermark for the firm, even though Korean women amounted to just 27% of this total. No immediate comments were provided by a Samsung spokesman about the omission of Vision 2020 from the latest sustainability reports. However, lack of mentioning could indicate a waning appetite at the company for the towering ambitions outlined in Vision 2020. These ambitions had envisioned a technology giant roughly the same size to Microsoft Corp, Google Inc., and Apple Inc. combined when measured in terms of annual revenue.

In contrast, if the recent months are any indication, Samsung has shown an inclination towards getting rid of the weaker parts of the sprawling operations of the conglomerate and instead focus on areas where the company has the opportunity of turning a bigger profit, which doesn’t necessarily mean racking up more sales. The shift comes when the reins of the company are being taken up by Lee Jae-yong, the third-generation heir who is expected to be the chairman one day. Of course, it is also a possibility that Samsung doesn’t want to play up Vision 2020 a after a year when there was a decline in annual sales for the first time in recent memory.

The sales reduced to $190 billion, which is a long mile away from the $400 billion target that the company had set in Vision 2020. In the meantime, the company is on track in terms of branding as long as it can keep its momentum going. Samsung’s brand ranking had been number 19 when the company had introduced its Vision 2020 in 2009. Since then, the company has made progress and it has managed to reach the number 7 spot. After being mum on Friday, Samsung did issue a statement on Monday in which it said that its vision remained unchanged and the company was working according to the scheduled plan.

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