Friday, May 30, 2008

Green Asia: Japan

Environmentalism or kankyôshi is an integral part of Japanese life. Grassroots efforts have effectively pressured the Japanese government to pass some of the world’s most stringent anti-pollution laws. Japan has emerged as a leader in reducing workplace greenhouse gas emissions. And the Japanese government remains committed to radically cutting the country's carbon emissions.

There are however salient differences between Japanese environmentalism and the Western Green movement. Japanese environmentalism seeks "to safeguard the environment in order protect man rather than save the environment for its own intrinsic value."

According to Junko Edahir, Co-Founder of Japan for Sustainability: "[A]cross the board, Japanese companies now view environmentalism as not just a moral imperative, but a competitive necessity. I think many Japanese companies in the manufacturing sector are seeing the environmental challenges as a new source of innovation."

Some have speculated that the corporate boom in environmentalism is due to the conformist tendencies of Japanese society. In Japan the concept of harmony is very important. Firms have a tendency to follow each others leads. Japanese people tend to understand the power of small gestures. And many Japanese firms have demonstrated their efficiency in saving energy and recycling office supplies.

The Kirin brewery is a good example of Japanese corporate environmentalism. Kirin Brewery's Yoshiyuki Yamamura, manager of environmental and social affairs said: "[B]eing enviro-conscious also helps us cut costs and strengthen our management. There are many advantages to becoming environmental-friendly."

In 1990 the Kirin Beer company sought to cut its carbon emissions by 25 percent. In typical Japanese fashion, the company's efficiency initiatives were so effective, it cut those emissions by one third. As reported on PBS "Across Japan, firms like Kirin Beer demonstrate that environment-friendly doesn't mean unprofitable."

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