The NGK Group achieved record high net sales and profits in fiscal 2015. We believe this to be largely attributable to the steady increase in competitiveness of our conventional businesses and smooth growth of our new businesses, in addition to positive external factors such as the booming automobile and semiconductor markets and generally weaker yen.
Our goal is to achieve sustainable growth on top of making short-term profits. To this end, since fiscal 2014 we have been undertaking the new/reformed manufacturing structures initiatives designed to enhance our competitiveness as a manufacturer over the medium to long term. The initiatives have been progressing well, steadily improving productivity at each production site through such measures as introducing a cutting-edge production line for our mainstay product, ceramics for automotive exhaust purification. In addition, since 2013 we have been implementing the "2017 Challenge 30" project aimed at spawning new products and businesses to underpin the Group's further growth. The project's goal of boosting the proportion of sales of new products among total net sales to above 30% by fiscal 2017 is expected to be accomplished ahead of schedule.
Although we are projecting a decline in net sales and profits in fiscal 2016 due to the negative impact of the market environment, a stronger yen, and a temporary increase in costs including those for production capacity expansion, demands are expected to grow in the subsequent few years, mainly in our core businesses. It is crucial for us to be prepared to fully embrace these demands in our bid to achieve sustainable growth.
The NGK Group's corporate philosophy upholds, "NGK products and technologies must create new value and contribute to the quality of life." It always has been and will be our solemn social responsibility to leverage the technologies we have fostered as a manufacturer to develop and deliver products needed by society. One of our strengths lies in our diverse spectrum of proprietary technologies, including ceramic technologies. Our top priority agenda under the new Five-Year Environmental Action Plan launched in fiscal 2016 being "to make environmental and social contributions through our products," we are proactively promoting the development and proliferation of products that benefit the environment.
For example, NGK's HONEYCERAM® ceramics for automobile exhaust purification is adopted in roughly one in every two vehicles sold around the world. Our mission as a manufacturer of such a widely proliferated product is to fulfill our supply responsibility by securing high quality and sufficient quantity. To this end, we are making aggressive
investments in facilities and technological development to strengthen and stabilize our production systems.
Furthermore, we are also reinforcing our marketing activities in order to accurately pinpoint existing needs in society. Marketing specialists are deployed in each business group to explore new development themes in coordination with the New Business Planning Division.
NGK signed the United Nations (UN) Global Compact in April 2015. Seeking to identify social issues of an even larger scale and help solve them, going forward we will investigate how our technologies can contribute to the world in consideration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN in September 2015.
Social responsibilities that need to be fulfilled by the NGK Group are diverse, ranging from those associated with safety, the environment, and quality, to those concerning appropriate corporate governance, supply chain management, and contribution to local communities. In addition to earnestly tackling these responsibilities head on, we must also attach importance to encouraging each and every employee to fully demonstrate their spontaneity, and must value them as the driving force of our growth.
The NGK Group's roughly 20,000 employees come from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, and 60% of them work outside Japan. We are aiming to build systems and mechanisms that allow our diverse teams stationed at various business units around the world to flourish and develop on the basis of mutual respect and inspiration. We have already embarked on a revision of our personnel system for the purposes of increasing opportunities for young and mid-career employees to take on higher-level challenges, enabling older employees to continue working with peace of mind, and allowing female employees to demonstrate more of their capabilities. The NGK Group is determined to focus on human resources development and the accommodation of increasing diversity toward the goal of becoming a genuinely global corporate group that can compete on the world stage.
In September 2015, NGK admitted to violating U.S. antitrust laws and other regulations in some business transactions related to ceramic substrates for catalytic converters, and accepted a plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. In recognition of the seriousness of this situation, we improved our compliance structure in an effort to prevent a recurrence through enhanced compliance system and thorough training with regard to antitrust and related regulations targeting our Board of Directors and all our employees. Furthermore, we have established a Business Ethics Committee to investigate any fraudulent practices that could have a material impact on management and introduced the Hotline, a whistle-blowing system for dealing with improper behavior, thereby accomplishing our reinforcement efforts for our compliance structure by the end of fiscal 2015. However, in addition to such mechanisms, it is also crucial for each and every employee to be vigilant and alert to any irregular behavior or legal violation, and to help create a corporate culture where such misconduct can be openly pointed out. We believe that creating a workplace environment where there is good communication and people feel free to report and share any minor matters is the key to preventing any recurrence.
Ever since NGK started out as an insulator manufacturer in 1919, the company has diversified its businesses in response to the needs of the times to pursue development. We will continue to unify our group-wide efforts to keep launching new technologies and products with a strong commitment to addressing social needs and issues. We ask for your continued patronage and support.