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SDGs in Japan 2024

SDGs in Japan

SDGs in Japan

In a rapidly evolving global landscape, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have emerged as a beacon of hope and direction for nations striving to build a better future. Japan, a nation renowned for its innovation, precision, and rich cultural heritage, is no exception when it comes to embracing the essence of these global objectives. The question that resonates today is not just “What are SDGs?” but rather, “Why are SDGs important, especially in the context of Japan?”

The significance of SDGs in Japan transcends mere policy rhetoric and extends deep into the heart of its societal, economic, and environmental fabric. This article will go through how SDGs in Japan are catalyzing transformative change and paving the way for a brighter and more sustainable future for all.

SDGs in Japan

The evolution of SDGs in Japan

The commitment to SDGs in Japan not only extends domestically but also radiates globally through its active participation in various international and regional platforms. This holistic approach showcases Japan’s dedication to promoting peace, stability, and prosperity on the global stage.

The journey of SDGs in Japan has been marked by a remarkable evolution. Initially introduced in 2015, the country embraced the SDGs in Japan as a pivotal roadmap to tackle global challenges, aligning them with its own national policies. Over the years, Japan has made substantial strides in integrating the SDGs into its governance and corporate sectors. This commitment is evident in Japan’s high-profile regional engagements, where it convenes regular high-level summits with leaders from Southeast Asian, African, and Pacific countries to advance sustainable development and remove obstacles to its realization.

Will We Still Be Talking About SDGs in 10 Years?

A pressing question on everyone’s mind is whether we will still be discussing SDGs in Japan (or in the rest of the world) in a decade. The SDGs, with their ambitious 2030 targets, are not merely a transient agenda but a lasting commitment to global well-being and sustainability. As we look forward to the future, it’s crucial to recognize that the journey toward achieving these 2030 goals is still very much underway.

Japan’s unwavering dedication to SDGs, coupled with its active participation in global and regional platforms, ensures that the conversation surrounding these goals will persist. Japan’s vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, rooted in principles of peace and prosperity, reinforces its commitment to a rules-based international order and SDG realization. This long-term commitment reflects the enduring importance of the SDGs in Japan and their relevance as we continue to navigate the complex challenges of the next decade and beyond.

Top 2 Prevalent SDGs in Japan

Thanks to some Japan sustainable development strategies, significant strides have been made in achieving several Japan SDGs, notably SDG 4 (Quality Education) and SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure). In fact, sustainability is gaining popularity, which is one of the reasons Why Japanese Multinational Companies Matter Today.

Quality Education (SDG 4)

Japan’s commitment to providing quality education is evident in its educational system, which consistently ranks among the best in the world. Several factors contribute to Japan’s success in achieving SDG 4:

  • High Literacy Rates: Japan boasts impressively high literacy rates, with nearly 100% of its population being able to read and write. This foundational literacy underpins the country’s commitment to providing quality education for all.
  • Strong Investment: Japan allocates a significant portion of its budget to education, ensuring that schools are well-funded, equipped, and staffed with qualified educators.
  • Holistic Approach: Japanese education emphasizes not only academic excellence but also character development and moral education, promoting well-rounded individuals who contribute positively to society.
  • Inclusivity: Japan strives to make education accessible to all, irrespective of socio-economic background or disabilities. This inclusivity aligns with the principle of leaving no one behind, a key element of SDG 4.
  • Global Engagement: Japan encourages international exchanges and collaborations, fostering a global perspective among its students and educators.

Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure (SDG 9)

Japan is renowned for its technological advancements, industrial prowess, and robust infrastructure. These elements contribute to the country’s progress toward SDG 9:

  • Innovation Hub: Japan is a global leader in innovation and research, with a strong focus on science and technology. It consistently ranks high in the Global Innovation Index, reflecting its commitment to fostering innovation.
  • Infrastructure Excellence: Japan boasts world-class infrastructure, characterized by efficient transportation systems, state-of-the-art communication networks, and sustainable urban planning.
  • Public-Private Collaboration: The collaboration between the public and private sectors in Japan plays a vital role in driving innovation and infrastructure development. Public-private partnerships facilitate the implementation of large-scale projects.
  • Sustainable Practices: Japan places a strong emphasis on sustainability within its infrastructure development, incorporating eco-friendly technologies and practices.
  • Resilience: Japan’s infrastructure resilience is particularly noteworthy, given its susceptibility to natural disasters. The country’s ability to bounce back and recover swiftly from such events showcases its commitment to robust infrastructure.

4 SDGs in Japan that need improvement

While actively pursuing SDGs in Japan on multiple fronts, here are some pieces of information on Japan sustainable development goals the SDGs in Japan where challenges remain, highlighting both opportunities for improvement and lessons to be learned.

Plastic Consumption (SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production)

Japan’s persistent plastic consumption is a crucial concern for sustainable development. The widespread use of plastic bags in Japanese stores and markets has led to convenience for shoppers but has left a considerable environmental footprint. In 2019, each Japanese person used approximately 300-400 plastic bags annually, totaling up to a staggering 40 billion bags nationwide. The Japanese government has initiated efforts to reduce plastic usage by exploring biodegradable alternatives. Several businesses and corporations have already ceased offering plastic bags, signaling progress toward sustainable consumption. As global environmental awareness grows, it is expected that Japan will further improve its efforts to reduce plastic waste. Companies like Mymizu exemplify the commitment of businesses and individuals in Japan to combat plastic pollution.

polluted waters

Japanese Orphans (SDG 1 – No Poverty and SDG 10 – Reduced Inequality)

Japan faces the challenge of caring for approximately 39,000 orphans, a demographic often overlooked in discussions on sustainable development. A social stigma against adoption in Japan means that most of these children remain in the system until adulthood. The cultural emphasis on having biological children poses an additional hurdle for adoption. With a limited number of foster homes and underfunded orphanages, preparing these young individuals for adulthood becomes increasingly challenging. However, opportunities for intervention exist through funds and support for orphanages, creating avenues for positive change and fulfilling the goals of SDGs 1 and 10, such as the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction.

Abandoned Countryside (SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities)

Japan’s picturesque countryside is marred by the issue of abandonment, as its population migrates to urban centers in pursuit of better opportunities and social lives. This trend leads to the abandonment of housing and material goods, resulting in unmanaged waste scattered throughout rural towns and surrounding forests. The preservation of Japan’s natural beauty is threatened by this countryside garbage problem.

To tackle this issue and support sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), local municipalities are increasingly investing in regional revitalization efforts. This issue may grow more significant as the rural population continues to dwindle. Read this detailed account of efforts to revitalize rural Japan for more insights into concrete initiatives.

Gender Inequality (SDG 5 – Gender Equality)

Japan continues to grapple with gender inequality despite efforts to bridge the gap. While women constitute about 45% of bachelor’s degree holders in Japan, they make up only 18.2% of the workforce, with fewer than 3% in leadership roles. Japan’s ranking of 121 in the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report reflects its struggle to match the progress of other developed nations in achieving gender equality (SDG 5).

Although the government and businesses have begun to address the issue, more extensive and sustained efforts are needed to close the gender gap comprehensively. Japan’s unique challenges also include encouraging more men to utilize paternity leave, contributing to equitable work-life balance for couples with children. Certain companies in Japan, including IBM Japan, are actively engaged in initiatives to enhance female workforce participation and promote the advancement of women within their organizations.

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How do they measure progress toward SDGs in Japan?

If you’re looking for a concise summary of SDG impact in Japan, you can view this database. This platform offers valuable insights into Japan’s commitment to sustainability, ranking, and performance on the global stage in relation to SDGs in Japan.

As of the latest assessment, Japan holds a commendable rank of 21 out of 166 countries, highlighting its significant progress in addressing the SDGs in Japan. The SDG Index score for Japan stands at an impressive 79.4, reflecting the nation’s dedication to sustainable development across various dimensions within the context of SDGs in Japan. Additionally, Japan’s spillover score, a crucial metric for evaluating the impact of its actions beyond its borders, is a notable 72.2.

Japan’s approach to SDGs

What actions, policies, or initiatives has Japan undertaken to advance SDGs?

Japan’s commitment to SDGs in Japan is evident through its multifaceted approach, encompassing a range of actions, policies, and initiatives aimed at advancing sustainable development within the nation and globally.

Japan’s proactive stance toward the SDGs is evident in how swiftly it moved to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Recognizing the significance of this global framework, Japan has been proactive in aligning its national policies and actions with the SDGs in Japan. This alignment reflects Japan’s understanding that local actions have far-reaching global implications, and that progress within its borders contributes to global sustainability.

At the heart of Japan’s commitment to SDGs in Japan is the SDGs Promotion Headquarters, established in May 2016. This crucial entity is headed by the Prime Minister, showcasing the highest level of government involvement. What sets this headquarters apart is its composition, as it includes the participation of all members of the Cabinet. This high-level engagement underscores the seriousness with which Japan approaches the SDGs. The collective leadership ensures that SDG-related efforts are integrated across various government departments and ministries, promoting a cohesive and coordinated approach to SDG implementation.

Japan has also taken significant steps to align its national policies with the SDGs in Japan, recognizing that local actions have global implications. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Japan has been at the forefront of this effort, outlining comprehensive strategies for SDG achievement. You can find detailed information on these policies and initiatives on the MOFA’s dedicated SDGs page.

Japan’s commitment extends to research and development as well. The Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) plays a vital role in advancing agricultural sustainability, aligning its research objectives with SDGs in Japan. Their contributions aid in addressing critical global challenges related to food security, climate change, and more.

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How is cross-sector collaboration contributing to SDGs in Japan?

A cornerstone of Japan’s approach to SDGs in Japan is cross-sector collaboration. Japan recognizes that sustainable development requires collective efforts across various sectors, and this collaboration is instrumental in driving progress.

Government agencies, businesses, civil society organizations, and academia collaborate closely to achieve SDGs in Japan. Public-private partnerships have flourished, with businesses actively contributing through corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. These partnerships harness the strengths of diverse stakeholders to tackle complex challenges comprehensively.

Moreover, Japan’s commitment to cross-sector collaboration extends to its international engagements. As a prominent donor in international development, Japan leverages its resources and expertise to support SDG implementation in developing countries, fostering global collaboration.

​​Balancing Technological Advancement with SDGs in Japan

In the modern era, technology has emerged as a powerful ally in the pursuit of SDGs in Japan. As Japan continues to lead the world in technological innovation, it faces the complex challenge of harnessing these advancements to promote sustainability while navigating ethical considerations. 

The Role of Technology in Advancing SDGs in Japan

Japanese technology companies play a pivotal role in driving progress toward SDGs in Japan. Their innovative solutions span various sectors, from renewable energy and healthcare to education and infrastructure. Leveraging cutting-edge technologies, these companies contribute significantly to achieving specific SDGs.

For instance, advancements in renewable energy technologies by Japanese companies align with SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy). Meanwhile, innovations in healthcare technologies promote SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), enhancing medical diagnostics and treatment options. The education sector benefits from e-learning platforms, fostering progress toward SDG 4 (Quality Education). Furthermore, smart infrastructure development supports SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), promoting sustainable urbanization.

Challenges and Ethical Considerations in Integrating Technology and Sustainability

While technology holds immense promise, its integration with sustainability comes with challenges and ethical considerations. Balancing rapid technological advancement with the long-term goals of sustainability can be complex. For example, the accelerated growth of industries may lead to environmental degradation and resource depletion, directly opposing SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).

Additionally, the digital divide poses an ethical concern. As technology advances, disparities in access and digital skills may widen, exacerbating inequalities and hindering progress toward SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities).

To gain insights into the contributions of Japanese tech companies toward SDGs in Japan, you can explore some of these companies in our article. This resource provides a detailed overview of the innovative solutions and initiatives undertaken by Japanese tech giants to align their operations with sustainable development goals.

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The connection between ESG and SDGs in Japan

In Japan, the intersection of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors with SDGs in Japan is a dynamic landscape that reflects the nation’s commitment to sustainability. This connection highlights how Japanese companies align their ESG initiatives with specific SDGs while addressing the associated challenges. For more background about ESGs, read our article about ESGs in Japan.

How Do ESG Factors Relate to SDGs in Japan?

ESG factors encompass a range of criteria that evaluate a company’s environmental, social, and governance practices. These factors are closely intertwined with the SDGs in Japan, as they share common objectives of sustainable development and responsible business conduct. ESG practices are aligned with the SDGs in Japan in the following ways:

  1. Environmental Sustainability: ESG criteria, particularly the “E” in ESG, align with numerous SDGs related to environmental sustainability, such as SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), and SDG 13 (Climate Action). Japanese companies are increasingly adopting eco-friendly practices, reducing carbon emissions, and promoting clean energy solutions.
  1. Social Responsibility: The “S” in ESG relates to social responsibility, which resonates with SDGs aimed at improving social well-being. This includes SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), SDG 4 (Quality Education), and SDG 5 (Gender Equality). Japanese companies are actively addressing issues such as healthcare accessibility, education, and gender diversity in alignment with these goals.
  1. Governance Practices: ESG governance principles correspond to SDGs focused on responsible and accountable institutions, such as SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions). Japanese companies are enhancing governance structures, transparency, and ethics to promote these objectives.

How are Japanese companies aligning their ESG initiatives with specific SDGs in Japan?

Japanese companies are increasingly aligning their ESG initiatives with specific SDGs in Japan, exemplifying their commitment to addressing pressing global challenges. Below, we explore how companies like Daiwa House Group and financial institutions like MUFG are actively working towards specific SDGs.

Daiwa House Group, a housing manufacturer in Japan, is taking proactive steps to contribute to the realization of a decarbonized society and enhance energy efficiency. Their initiatives align with several SDGs, demonstrating the interconnectedness of sustainability goals:

  1. SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy: Daiwa House Group is dedicated to advancing net-zero energy housing, construction, and urban development. This commitment aims to ensure affordable and clean energy access for communities while mitigating carbon emissions.
  2. SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities: Sustainable urban development is at the heart of Daiwa House Group’s efforts. By promoting eco-friendly and energy-efficient infrastructure, they contribute to building sustainable cities and communities that prioritize environmental and social well-being.
  3. SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production: Daiwa House Group embraces responsible consumption and production practices. Their focus on energy efficiency, reduced carbon footprint, and sustainable construction materials aligns with SDG 12’s objectives.
wind energy SDGs in Japan

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) is equally committed to sustainable growth. The institution has set forth a vision of developing lasting relationships with clients and society to achieve shared sustainable growth. This vision is reflected in their mission, which includes goals such as protecting the global environment and promoting human rights.

In May 2019, MUFG committed significantly by setting a cumulative total of 20 trillion yen in Sustainable Finance Goals between FY2019 and FY2030. Of this, 8 trillion yen is allocated for environmental initiatives. These ambitious financial goals aim to contribute to the building of a sustainable society and the attainment of the SDGs by providing financial services to clients. Simultaneously, MUFG revised its Environmental and Social Policy Framework to ensure alignment with sustainability principles.

Interested in how MUFG helps sustainable startups in Japan? listen to our podcast episode with Gerrad Lai, Senior Associate of MUFG Innovation Partners.

For a comprehensive overview of scores of publicly traded companies engaged in SDGs in Japan, you can also visit the TerraST website. Here, you’ll find valuable data and insights into practices and their impact on Japan and the broader international community.

What are the challenges in aligning ESG practices with specific SDGs in Japan?

While Japan is making commendable progress in aligning ESG practices with SDGs in Japan, several challenges persist. These challenges highlight the need for more systematic approaches to ensure policy coherence for sustainable development:

  1. Lack of an Effective Mechanism for Policy Coherence: Japan currently lacks a formal mechanism for analyzing potential conflicts between domestic policies and sustainable development objectives, taking corrective actions, and monitoring implementation progress. Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) maintains oversight of policy coherence, it cannot resolve issues independently. When MOFA cannot resolve an issue with relevant ministries or agencies, it is referred to the Cabinet.
  1. Need for More Regular and Systematic Analysis: To enhance policy coherence for sustainable development, relevant ministries in Japan should conduct more regular and systematic analyses of potential conflicts between domestic policies and sustainable development objectives. Additionally, responsible ministries or agencies should take deliberate actions to resolve these conflicts.
  1. Coherence Dilemmas in Specific Areas: Japan, like many other countries, faces coherence dilemmas in various areas, including:
    1. Responsible Business Conduct: Ensuring responsible business practices that align with the SDGs is a challenge. While Japan adheres to OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and has a National Contact Point (NCP), resource constraints limit the NCP’s effectiveness. To navigate this landscape and encourage responsible conduct, it’s vital for businesses to comprehend ​​Japanese Corporate Culture and Japanese Business Etiquette.
    2. Anti-corruption: Despite taking action to implement the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, Japan could enhance its impact by stepping up enforcement of foreign bribery laws, strengthening law enforcement agencies, and broadening the framework for addressing bribery.
    3. Aligning with the Paris Agreement: Although Japan supports emission reduction and renewable energy initiatives, it continues to invest in new coal-burning power plants, contradicting its commitment to the Paris Agreement. Greater efforts are needed to promote the transition to low-emissions, climate-resilient pathways.
    4. Agriculture: While Japan contributes to agro-food sector development in Least Developed Countries (LDCs), its domestic agricultural support is high, potentially distorting global trade. There is room for greater innovation in the domestic food and agriculture sector to align with sustainable practices.
Japanese Corporate Culture

These challenges underscore the importance of ongoing efforts to enhance policy coherence, align ESG practices with specific SDGs, and promote sustainable development in Japan. Addressing these challenges is crucial to achieving the SDGs in Japan and contributing to global sustainability.

SDG Investors in Japan

SDG Impact Japan pioneers sustainable investment strategies, aligning with the UNDP’s SDG Impact Standards. Their NextGen ESG Japan Strategy sets a new regional benchmark, adhering to the EU’s Article 9 standard for sustainable investment. Powered by the Rubicon ESG investment engine, this approach consistently delivers returns, integrating climate change projections for environmental impact. Their bottom-up, engagement-centric approach focuses on companies with high potential for sustainability improvement and financial returns.

For a list of sustainability-focused investors in Japan, visit our Japan Investor List.

World Expo 2025 Osaka

Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, is positioned as a vital catalyst in the global pursuit of the SDGs in Japan and globally. As we approach 2025, just five years shy of the United Nations’ 2030 target for achieving these ambitious goals, the Expo takes on a critical role in accelerating international efforts.

At the heart of this mission lies ‘Society 5.0,’ Japan’s ambitious national strategy. Society 5.0 envisions a human-centered society that drives economic progress and addresses societal challenges by seamlessly integrating the cyber and physical realms. It represents the evolution of societies throughout history, progressing from hunting, farming, industry, and information societies.

In this new era, a society empowered by cutting-edge technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, big data, and biotechnology emerges as one capable of addressing global issues—a society aligned with the SDGs.

Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai will harness global wisdom and breakthrough technologies to foster fresh ideas, promote domestic and international investment, ignite innovation through enhanced human interaction, boost regional economies and small and medium enterprises, and showcase the rich tapestry of Japan’s culture.

osaka japan

Final Thoughts

SDGs in Japan hold immense significance both domestically and globally. Japan’s dedication to these goals is evident through its multifaceted approach to achieving sustainable development. This commitment extends beyond policy implementation; it encompasses fostering a deeper understanding of global challenges and inspiring engagement among citizens and businesses.

Despite challenges, Japan remains steadfast in its SDGs commitment, recognizing its role in enhancing the international community. By promoting collaboration, innovation, and responsible practices, Japan sets a compelling example for a more sustainable and equitable world.

In the years ahead, Japan’s sustained focus on SDGs will be pivotal in addressing global challenges, championing responsible development, and leaving a legacy of sustainability. Balancing technological advancement with SDGs and aligning ESG practices with specific goals, Japan paves the way for a brighter future. As the world gathers in Osaka in 2025, Expo 2025 will be a symbol of hope and collaboration, emphasizing the importance of collective action in shaping a more sustainable and prosperous future.

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