BreakThrough Study Idea

Broad business expansion based on the “three keywords” of the SDGsTokutaro Hiramoto (Associate Professor, Department of Management Systems, College of Informatics and Human Communication, Kanazawa Institute of Technology)

<Series 2(Total 4 series)>


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SDGs can be a catalyst for small and medium-sized enterprises to succeed. So, what should a company keep in mind as they actually pursue these initiatives? In the second installment of this series, we interviewed the expert Mr. Tokutaro Hiramoto on the key to working towards SDGs.

◆What are SDGs?
SDGs or the Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of global goals adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 for the years 2016 through 2030 under the "2030 Agenda for sustainable development." The agenda consists of 17 goals such as "poverty," "hunger," "climate change," "energy," and "education" and 169 targets laid down for specific targets under these 17 goals for achieving a sustainable society. They were adopted with the participation of more than 150 member state leaders to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) formulated in 2001. At the July 2017 session of the United Nations General Assembly, 232 indicators were adopted for measuring the progress of each of the targets.

17 goals of the SDGs (from the United Nations Information Centres website)


Responding to the world's call for solutions

If you aim to grow your company as a problem-solving business with SDG awareness, you need to know the features of the SDGs. Mr. Hiramoto raised three points that companies should keep in mind when working on the SDGs: "global scale," "backcasting," and “leaving no one behind."

"The first one, "global scale," means that issues in our own region are also an issue elsewhere on the planet. In other words, the products and services that resolve the issues that you are facing can be broadly applied to similar issues."

The targets of the SDGs, intended for both developed and emerging nations, are going global. Japan is an island nation that has relied on domestic demand for economic growth, with a problematic awareness of overseas expansion. It is important to develop a system for widely applying your company's solutions both domestically and internationally.

"When I introduce Japanese SMEs at an international conference, I receive positive feedback. But often companies are unable to accommodate requests for English documents and business talks in English, so valuable solutions go unused. Automated translation has evolved in recent years, and I hope that companies will consider actively reaching out to the world."

Working backwards from what the future should be to change current behavior

The second one, "backcasting," is to first imagine the future and then consider what to do now.

"For example, simply extrapolating from the present, small and medium-sized enterprises that get 100% of their sales from parts manufacturing for gasoline vehicles tend to balk at the idea of getting ready for the age of EVs since they don't have extra manpower or funds. However, thinking in terms of backcasting, the sale of new vehicles powered by fossil fuels will be banned in the UK and France from 2040, so unless the business is rearranged, there will be no future. That changes the priority of actions."

By adopting "backcasting," you can gather information and predict the future, taking the initiative to recalibrate current actions to reach the ideal. You will not end up rushing to take measures at the last minute.

Rolling out locally developed services around the world

The third point to keep in mind when working on the SDGs is “leaving no one behind." This is the result of self-criticism with regard to the MDGs, the predecessor of the SDGs.

"For example, when trying to determine the global population served by water supply, it is virtually impossible to survey all households. Therefore, the measurement is defined as "the area within one mile of a water supply facility where one can drink safe water." However, in reality some people are within that range but water does not reach their home."

This "last mile" problem can occur both overseas and in rural areas of Japan. Small and medium-sized enterprises rooted in the community are at an advantage in offering a careful response to those who are left behind. We should further develop problem-solving businesses in each region and set them out into the world. This should be a big business opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Series Leverage open innovation to drive SDGs as a catalyst for growth

Series 1 SDGs are leading the world onward and are great opportunities to grow your
Series 2 Broad business expansion based on the “three keywords” of the SDGs
Series 3 Find tips for SDG initiatives in Japanese companies' businesses to solve societal issues
Series 4 Leverage open innovation to drive SDGs as a catalyst for growth

Mr. Tokutaro Hiramoto
Associate Professor, Department of Management Systems, College of Informatics and Human Communication, Kanazawa Institute of Technology / Director of the SDGs Promotion Center, Institute for Regional Revitalization and Innovation, Kanazawa Institute of Technology

After completing a master's program at Keio University Graduate School of Media and Governance and a doctoral program at the Graduate School of Media Design, he joined Nomura Research Institute, Ltd. As a management consultant at the research institute, he was involved with BoP businesses to solve global issues such as poverty, with support for African business promotion, and with management reform support until the end of FY2016. Japan president of BoP Global Network, founder and president of BoP Global Network Japan. Since 2008, he has been a part-time lecturer at the School of Project Design of Miyagi University, and since 2012 he has been a special visiting professor at the School of Business Administration of Meiji University. In 2016 he became a lecturer at this university. He has been in the current position since 2019.

◇Main authored and edited works
・Afurika Shinsyutsu Senryaku Handobukku (Business Strategy Handbook in Africa) (Toyo Keizai Inc. / Co-author) 2015
・BoP Bijinesu Senryaku (BoP Business Strategy) (Toyo Keizai Inc. / Co-author) 2010

Coverage date November 18, 2019

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