Japan’s business to be the third “sustainable” economy

By Staff Writer
January 19, 2022

Japanese policymakers have been working hard for many years to promote a sustainable and innovative society. In parallel, such efforts have also been promoted within the business community. For instance, in 2017, Keidanren, the country’s most influential economic organization comprised of 1.461 entities, has incorporated “bringing about a sustainable society” in its Charter of Corporate Behavior, and conglomerates and SME have been proactively implementing SDG-oriented business plans. But how can the economic engines of the world’s third economy boost the SDGs within Japan? Dr. Norichika Kanie, a professor at Keio University Graduate School of Media and Governance, and a leading SDGs researcher has shared his recent analysis at FPCJ (Foreign Press Center Japan).

Graphic of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals

The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the UN as a call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity for all.

The pillar of the third economy with gaining SDGs force

According to Dr. Kanie, SDGs, the 2030 commitment to achieve 17 goals “is quite flexible as the way of implementation and rules have not been decided yet.” In particular, he points out “there is an increasing number of companies working for science-based targets (SBT) to reduce CO2 emissions. For now, there are 934 companies across the globe which have their SBT validated,” and Dr. Kanie emphasizes that “Among them, 136 firms are Japanese. This figure is quite significant.” In addition, the number of Japanese companies are still on the rise as it doubled in 2021 compared to the previous year. Following this trend, Dr. Kanie highlights “Japanese companies are really getting full-fledged. They are setting very ambitious goals to make SDGs real, and some manufacturing companies are even considering to manage entire supply chains.”

Screenshot of Doctor Norichika Kanie

Dr. Kanie explains Japan’s progress and position with regard to SDGs.

Conglomerates and SMEs towards SDGs future

Overall, how Japanese companies tackle the challenge of SDGs? Some notable examples include Toyota, Japan’s illustrious auto company. Dr. Kanie highlighted the company bold initiative called “Woven city”. Under the concept, Toyota is connecting two different domains, transportation and urban planning. The Woven city is planned to be build at the base of Mt. Fuji, in order to be a “living laboratory” which includes self-driving car transporting citizens, delivery robots and smart homes with sensors which will check the health of their residents.

Aerial view of city with tech graphics overlaid

A world of technology interconnected by sensors could improve life for all residents.

Besides large corporations, various SMEs have been actively promoting SDGs. Dr. Kanie mentions “through reviewing and setting SDGs targets, SMEs aim at improving their corporate image, by strengthen partnerships and attracting new talents”. In addition, SMEs in the region are engaged to a unique program, called regional revitalization SDGs financial framework. This initiative enables businesses, local government and financial institutions to promote revitalization and investment to local SMEs thru SDGs. For instance, the Prime Minister’s office has been encouraging to amplify the collaboration among various parties including local government and business, to revitalize regions activities by enforcing SDGs at the same time. Thus, the government has created “the public private partner platform” and already 6,112 private business and public sectors organizations have been registered as of November 2021.

Post Covid

Eventually, Dr. Kanie argues that the covid-19 may leverage the current achievements towards a more sustainable society. He states that “As the pre-existing apparatus collapsed, we need to create new systems from scratch. And this is the opportunity for transformation.”

Consequently, what are the next steps? Dr. Kainie emphasizes the key to success if to maximize the potential of digital technology. “By digitalizing various aspects in societies, we are able to measure numerous aspects and provide sustainable services such as bike sharing.”

He concluded the conference by mentioning “I often say SDGs is a workbook with answers already written. Answers are already there, but you have to think about how to get there. And New technology and innovation can make contribution to the achievement of SDGs.“

Video report: Decarbonization and the SDGs—Changing Corporate Environmental Awareness (Dr. Norichika Kanie, Professor, Keio University Graduate School of Media and Governance) | 公益財団法人フォーリン・プレスセンター(FPCJ)

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