By  on August 10, 2012

Hisayuki Suekawa, president and chief executive officer of Shiseido Co. Ltd., flew from Tokyo to an out-of-the-way neighborhood in northern Manhattan Monday to lend a hand in helping his New York staff plant a cherry tree outside a public elementary school.

The 20 or so Shiseido volunteers, led by Shiseido Cosmetics America ceo Heidi Manheimer, had joined forces with members of the New York Restoration Project in cleaning up the green space and planting the tree at the PS 5 Ellen Lurie school adjacent to a park along the Harlem River Esplanade at Dyckman Street and Harlem River Drive between Inwood and Washington Heights.

It was all part of a worldwide effort by the Tokyo-based beauty giant to celebrate its 140th anniversary through the individual initiatives of Shiseido subsidiaries in 89 countries and areas.

The project undertaken by the New York team was to plant cherry trees in response to consumers posting wishes for the world as part of a virtual tree constructed on the company’s Facebook page. For every 140 wishes posted, Shiseido promises to plant a tree.

Manheimer said that there has been enough response so far to plant 11 trees, all of them earmarked for New York. A total of 45,800 employees are doing projects around the world.

“We exist and we continue to exist because our customers and society have supported us for these 140 years,” Suekawa said through a translator. “We started this program because we really wanted to express our gratitude and do something for communities and also for people around the world.”

Manheimer noted that the mission is “to work within our countries and really focus on our core values: the organization’s focus on women, the environment, arts and culture.”

The environmental requirement was filled Monday at PS 5; the cultural facet came Thursday in Brooklyn, when Shiseido employees were scheduled to visit a nursing home to administer hand massages, do manicures and perform a Japanese specialty — singing karaoke. “This was the customer’s request,” Manheimer quickly added.

“Within each of the areas we have local businesses, it is up to them to decide what they would like to do,” Suekawa added. In Japan, junior high school children are invited to the office to get a taste of work life. In Taiwan, makeup artists, hairstylists and students compete to hone their beauty skills. In Italy, artists vie to have their artwork displayed on a building wall for a year.

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