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Various business opportunities to be found within SDGsSaburo Kato (Corporate Adviser, Japan Association of Environment and Society for the 21 Century, and Director Research Institute for Environment and Society)

<Series 2> (Total 4 series)


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Three and a half years have passed since the SDGs came into force on January 1, 2016. Their content is having various influences on the policies of national governments and the response of companies. In series 2, we ask Mr. Kato how he assesses the situation, and about more serious challenges. We should first emphasize that “social challenges: needs” and “business opportunities” are two sides of the same coin, so SDGs hold many business opportunities for companies. A typical example is the connection between climate change and energy-saving technology. Japan's energy-saving technology has a strong reputation as a business advantage while also contributing to solving the global challenge of climate change. Engaging with SDGs thus leads to encounters with new business opportunities.

◆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 a total of 169 targets laid down for more specific goals under these 17 goals for achieving a sustainable human society. Created in succession to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) formulated in 2001, the SDGs were adopted in the presence of heads of over 150 member nations. At the September 2017 session of the United Nations General Assembly, 232 indicators were adopted for measuring the progress of each of the targets.

The 17 goals for achieving a sustainable society under the SDGs

Companies are driven by national policies urging that SDGs be reached

Human societies are now making efforts to create a sustainable society based on two international agreements, the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. The governments of each country are also promoting this movement through policies. For example, in 2017 both Britain and France declared a ban on the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles starting in 2040. The global automobile industry is accelerating its efforts towards the transition to EVs.

In the case of Japan, the government has set up a “Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs) Promotion Headquarters”. Eight priority areas such as “energy conservation, renewable energy, climate change countermeasures, and sound material-cycle society" and "achievement of good health and longevity” have been set with the "SDG implentation Guiding Principles". Under the “SDGs Action Plan 2019” with more specific and expanded policies, we provide support for companies including subsidies. How does Mr. Kato see this global movement?

“I think countries and companies are all working hard, and looking around the world, there has been at least some progress in all 17 of the SDG goals. However, the current measures do not appear sufficient.''

Mr. Kato mentioned goal 13 “Climate Action" and goal 7 "Affordable and Clean Energy", which affects goal 13 significantly, as goals that require particular efforts.

From the “SDG Action Plan 2019”, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Promotion Headquarters

From “low carbon” to “decarbonized”. Increasing variety of needs

Like SDGs, the 2015 Paris Agreement set the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the level absorbed by plants by the second half of this century, or effectively to zero. However, neither the world nor Japan has been successful enough.

“Emissions from 1990 are often used for comparison, but emissions in Japan today are slightly higher than at that time. There have been a number of revisions to the Rationalization in Energy Use Law, corresponding progress in energy-saving technology, and a fixed-price purchase system for renewable energy, so the rise in emissions over the past 30 years has been small compared to the economic growth. But to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, it is essential to build a “decarbonized society” that goes beyond just a “low carbon society”.

So how can we build a society that does not rely on fossil fuels? Renewable energy will play a major role.

“In Japan, solar power, wind power, and biomass have traditionally been the focus, but hopefully new technologies will be developed that use ocean energy driven by wave and tidal power as well as geothermal heat. In order to supply power, it is also necessary to add new transmission and distribution networks. I would like Japan to create a sustainable energy system with the technology of various companies. ''

In addition, Mr. Kato cited ZEH (net Zero Energy House) and EV as promising components of a decarbonized society.

“With ZEH, measures such as photovoltaic power panels, storage batteries, and heat insulation technology must be implemented in countless existing houses. EVs offer space for related technologies such as batteries and adding infrastructure such as charging stations. There is a large market for manufacturing companies, and increasing expectations from society. In addition, the greenhouse effect of CFCs used as refrigerants must also be dealt with to counter global warming. Natural refrigerant technology with no greenhouse effect is also promising. ''

The G20 Summit focuses on marine plastics

It is also important to protect biodiversity which is closely linked to goal 14 “Life Below Water” and Goal 15 “Life on Land”, which have received little attention compared to climate change and energy, as Mr. Kato points out. The Japanese government has also started to focus on the marine plastic problem involving sealife, and an agreement was reached at the June G20 Summit in Osaka on a vision to eliminate discharge to the sea by 2050. However, before stopping the discharge, Mr. Kato points out the need for measures against the very existence of plastic, which is used in large quantities by society.

“Research and development of biodegradable plastics is already underway, and we hope to expand their use as soon as possible. However, some plastic products can be replaced with paper. Technical manufacturing companies will likely approach the problem from two sides: innovation of plastic at the material level and material changes at the product level. ''

As Mr. Kato told us, just looking at the goals of the SDGs directly linked to the environment make clear that companies must create a variety of solutions. Indeed, business opportunities are all about having plenty of diversity.

Coverage date June 25, 2019

<End of Series 2>


Series "Creating new value with SDGs as a compass and common language"

Series 1 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have become an important management
Series 2 Various business opportunities to be found within SDGs
Series 3 Increased sales and enhanced management capabilities through SDG initiatives
Series 4 Creating new value with SDGs as a compass and common language

Saburo Kato
Corporate Adviser, Japan Association of Environment and Society for the 21 Century / Director, Research Institute for Environment and Society

Born in 1939. In 1966, he completed a master's degree in engineering from the University of Tokyo and joined the Ministry of Health and Welfare (currently the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare). Transferred to the Environmental Agency in 1971, and was appointed founding director of the Environmental Agency - Global Environment Bureau in the 90s. He has been involved in the formulation of an action plan for the prevention of global warming, the creation of the Basic Environment Act, and preparation for the “Earth Summit”. He retired in 1993 to found and serve as director of the "Research Institute for Environment and Society", and was also appointed representative director of the "Forum to consider environment and civilization in the 21 century" (currently · Japan Association of Environment and Society for the 21st Century). He currently serves as a member of Mainichi Shimbun newspaper's “Japan-Korea Ministry of the Environment” review board, as chairman of PRESIDENT Inc.'s “Environment Photo Contest” review board, and as a member of NK Industrial Research Institute's “Green Forum 21” conference.

Main authored and co-authored works
・“Environmental Thought: Encouraging a Reflective Lifestyle" (PRESIDENT Inc. / co-authored) 2010
・"The Environmental Century: Views of 22 Leaders in Politics and Industry" (Mainichi Shimbun) 2001
・"Conditions for Creating a Recycling Society" (Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun) 1998, et al.

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