sustainability in Japan

SDGs in Japan

General knowledge

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are international goals established by United Nations and adopted by 193 counties on Sustainability Summit on September 2015 for the period from 2016 to 2030 (15 years). Goal generally divided into main 17 and within these targets to 169 targets and 232 quantitative indicators and are dedicated to 3 fields: Economy, Society and Environment.

SDG is more advanced and optimized system in comparing to it predecessor Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) applied in 2000-2015, giving all businesses to a chance to manifest its creativity and innovation in the field of sustainable development and connect to global strategies.  

Main targets, goals, and frameworks were summarized in the guide called SDG Compass, where the process of achieving targets divided to 5 milestones for companies to form a clear course into SDG contribution strategy, which include:

1)     Understanding the SDGs – just to know SGD system better
2)     Defining priorities – to conduct assessment to understand current impact and define priorities
3)     Setting goal –   actual setting the commitments to SDG
4)     Integrating – broad integrating to all parts of business
5)     Reporting and communicating – reporting to sustainable development commitment to stakeholders

SDG provides for company opportunity for innovations and business processed optimization. Energy efficiency, reduced emissions and waste are great results of using innovative technologies. Besides, companies can expand its business to new market - energy, finance, healthcare, education and other fields.

Sustainability integration leads to changes in value chain, which means it could be a tool for brand strengthening, sales increasing, upgrading corporate culture, building stronger partnership with stakeholders, rising consumer interest by introducing sustainability performance and many other benefits. Implementing SDGs help business to become more integrated into global market and development, attracting new market and stakeholders. Financial system becomes more transparent ad clear, thus helping to reduce costs and risks.     

SDG compass provides an idea of value chain mapping, which helps to identify strong and weak points and impacts, identify areas which positively contribute to SDG implementation and have negative or potentially negative impact, often with the help of such assessment models like LCA (life cycle assessment) and EEIO (environmentally-extended input-output).

SDGs in Japan

 In Japan SDGs were implemented in 2016 after Sustainability Summit by Abe Prime Minister, who initiated establishment of SDGs Promotion Headquarters, headed by Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Cabinet Secretary and all other Ministers. This organization involves broad range of other stakeholders, including NGO/NPO, administrative sector and private business with regular round table meetings, where particularly  SDGs Implementation Guiding Principles and SDG Action Plan were adopted in 2016.     

Actual impact of SDG implementation in Japan is especially high, as in 2010 large scale incorporated administrative agency GPIF (Government Pension Investment Fund) adopted PRI (Principle of Responsible Investment), under which business is responsible to report about compliance with sustainability and commitment to ecological, social and  governmental (ESG) issues solutions. All this eventually corresponds to SGD principals, making SDG and ESG indexes important indicators of corporate growth.

According to the last amendments of SDGs Implementation Guiding Principles, Japan defined 8 prioritized goals:

1)     Empowerment of all people, society for all people and gender equality      
2)     Achievement of Good Health and Longevity
3)     Creating Growth Market, Revitalization of Rural Areas, and Promoting Technological Innovation
4)     Sustainable and Resilient Land Use, Promoting Quality Infrastructure
5)     Energy Conservation, Renewable Energy, Disaster Resilience, Climate Change Countermeasures, and Sound Material-Cycle Society
6)     Conservation of Environment, including Biodiversity, Forests and Oceans
7)     Achieving Peaceful, Safe and Secure Societies
8)     Strengthening the Means and Frameworks of the Implementation of the SDGs

According to the SDG Action plan, Japan SDG model is based on 3 main principles: business innovations, regional vitalization driven by the SDGs, empower next generations and women. And in 2021 infection prevention measure was added due to the Covid-19 influence.  

According to the SGD Index and Dashboards Report, Sustainable Development Report, Japan was ranked between 11 – 18 places in world SGD achievement ranking, and in 2021 SGD index rank for Japan is 18. Japan succeeded in commitment to such fields as Education, Peace, Technology and Infrastructure, while gender issues, sustainable development of terrestrial and marine areas, global climate changes are spheres where Japan is expected to initiate significant improvements.     

At the 3rd SDGs Promotion Headquarters meeting, Japan SDG Award was established to evaluate domestic and foreign business based in Japan with high level commitment to SGD. There are 5 quotes granted every year.

SDGs support in Japan

Japanese governmental is very active in promoting and supporting SGD widely in Japan and on international level. This includes forming strategies within Society 5.0, STI for SDGs, Connected Industries/i-Construction, TICAD7 Africa cooperation, SDGs Future City and many other initiatives.   In 2020 SDG special award was granted to Minna Denryoku, a Japanese power supplier committed to renewable energy by implementing Kao-no-Mieru-Denryoku - retail electricity service, which connects power producer and consumers, and Minna-air (Air for all) initiatives.

JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) is providing opportunities for small and media scale business to expand technology to developing countries market with the help of ODA which covers 8.5 – 150 million yen for 1-3 years project.

Current SGD policy direction in Japan could be characterized as efforts to stimulate business for long-term SGD commitment with competitive advantage, promotion of innovation through the SDG implementation, integration with international initiatives, developing EGS compliant corporate value, forming SDGs strategy during pandemic crisis and other focuses.   

Japanese business reported various SGD commitment strategies. Toyota formed “Toyota Environment 2050 challenge” which covers CO2 Zero for new cars, life cycle, C02 Zero plants, significantly increasing EV, FCV sales. NEC Networks & System Integration Corporation developed EmpoweredOffice, which helps to create telework system with the help of IOT and AI, contributing to Society 5.0 initiatives.    

Japan developed and implemented its own evaluation system Japan Sustainable Brands Index, which proposes various rankings of Japanese business highly contributed to SGD goals achievement. According to 2021 report (9000 respondents 18-79 age), TOP 20 companies among 180 in 2020 were: 


SDG is an important part of business in Japan, as it impacts directly on consumer’s preferences, investments and stakeholders. Japanese government, as well as JICA, JETRO provide various initiatives and support to upgrade and stimulate SDG compliance for business for achieving targets and goals for 2030.   
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