Reports

International Symposium

 “Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility: Towards the Next 10 Years in the Post/with-COVID-19 World for the Achievement of SDGs ”

International Symposium

Every year, the Institute of Developing Economies holds an international symposium together with the World Bank and The Asahi Shimbun. Although we were forced to cancel in 2019 and 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year we were able to hold the symposium online on January 27, 2022. On this page, we have released videos of the keynote speech and the panel discussion.

Date & Time:

Thursday, 27 January 2022, 9:30am – 12:00pm (Japan Standard Time)

Venue:

Online (Zoom Webinar)

Organizer:

IDE-JETRO, The World Bank, The Asahi Shimbun

Support:

Japan Business Federation(Keidanren)

Program:
Time Them

9:30~9:35

Opening Remarks
・Yasuaki Yoneyama(Special Representative, Japan,The World Bank)
・Nobuyoshi Sakajiri(Managing Editor, The Asahi Shimbun)

9:35~9:45

Opening Address
Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility: Towards the Next 10 Years in the Post/with-COVID-19 World for the Achievement of SDGs
Miwa Yamada(Director, Law and Institution Studies Group, IDE-JETRO)

9:45~10:15

Keynote Speech I
Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals from World Development Indicators
・Haishan Fu(Director, Development Data Group, The World Bank)

10:15~10:45

Keynote Speech II
・Anita Ramasastry(Member, UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights/Professor, School of Law, University of Washington)

10:45~10:55

Break

10:55~11:45

Panel Discussion
Moderator: Miwa Yamada
<Panelists> Random Order
・Anita Ramasastry
・Satoshi Ikeda(Chief Sustainable Finance Officer, Japan Financial Services Agency)
・Tomoko Hasegawa (Managing Director, Japan Business Federation (Keidanren)
・Miyuki Zeniya(Fellow, Corporate Planning Unit, Dai-ichi Life Holdings, Inc., and Fellow, Investment Planning Department, The Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, Limited)
・Carlos Tomas Perez-Brito(Senior Social Development Specialist, The World Bank)

11:45~11:55

Lecture
Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility: Focusing on Business and Human Rights
・Kyoko Kashiwabara (Deputy Director-General for Business and Human Rights Policy, Minister's Secretariat, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry)

11:55~12:00

Closing Remarks
Kyoji Fukao(President, IDE-JETRO)

Opening Address:Miwa Yamada(Director, Law and Institution Studies Group, IDE-JETRO)

The pandemic shed light on many of society’s issues, and amidst the increasing importance of Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs), there is a growing need for companies to be socially responsible. SDGs exist as goals for us to realize a sustainable world, and companies are essential partners to achieve the SDGs. The foundation of the role that companies are expected to take is the responsibility to respect human rights based on the United Nations(UN)Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. While countries around the world are developing various policies to respect human rights, companies must consider human rights not just in their business activities in their own country but also with regards to global trading and investments. With this premise in mind, the symposium discussed the following points:

  • What progress has been made on the SDGs, and what has been the impact of the pandemic?
  • Are the guiding principles sufficient to realize the SDGs?
  • What are the initiatives taken by companies and their challenges as they relate to business and human rights, and what are the policies for the path toward sustainability?

Keynote Speech I:Haishan Fu(Director, Development Data Group, The World Bank)

The status of achievement of the SDGs can be found on the Atlas of SDGs, which is issued by the World Bank. The 2020 version of the Atlas has also been translated into Japanese. According to the latest data analysis, it is clear that the goals in which progress had been made thus far have experienced a reversal due to the pandemic. For example, the vulnerability of health care systems has increased as a result of COVID-19, and the lack of medical workers in developing countries has become a serious issue. Even with the goal to eliminate poverty, there are now estimates that predict reducing poverty to 3% by 2030 will be difficult. With regard to education, over 50% of sub-Saharan Africa is in a state of education poverty. And in other areas, for example with regard to access to energy, the disparities between developed countries and developing countries are remarkable.

Keynote Speech II:Anita Ramasastry(Member, UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights/Professor, School of Law, University of Washington)

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights adopted in 2011 are a shared framework for governments, companies, and civil society to promote responsible business activities that respect human rights. Governments have a duty to protect people from human rights violations, and companies have a duty to respect human rights. If there is a violation of human rights, the government and company concerned must provide access to relief. Japan formulated the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights(NAP), but there is still a significant gap between NAP and the actual initiatives being taken by companies.

It is necessary to accelerate initiatives toward the achievement of the 2030 SDGs. Business partners and markets overseas are shifting toward regulations that make human rights due diligence an obligation, and Japanese companies will likely be required to respond to these new expectations. The UN Working Group created a roadmap for the next 10 years. Governments will not only require companies to conduct human rights due diligence but will also support companies, and governments themselves will need to encourage respect for human rights in public procurement, export credits, and trade policies. During the pandemic, there were companies that immediately suspended transactions or laid off their employees, but companies that have implemented human rights due diligence in accordance with the guiding principles can make wise selections by identifying adverse impacts to human rights and prevent them from happening. What companies and business associations are charged with is to promptly take action toward respecting human rights. For this, the role of the government is key.

Panel Discussion

First Half

The Last Half

(Key Points)

  • With the shift from shareholder primacy to stakeholder capitalism, investors are valuing corporations that take into account opinions regarding environment, social, and corporate governance (ESGs) and sustainability. The topic of business and human rights is becoming even more important among investors around the world, and Japanese companies should be more aware of this.(Ms. Zeniya)

  • Taking initiatives toward human rights issues will contribute toward both reducing risk and capturing opportunities and also lead to the improvement of corporate value.(Mr. Ikeda)

  • The World Bank has released the Environmental and Social Framework(ESF)which is a new policy that takes into consideration society and the environment, and this has now become one of the corner stones of sustainable investments.(Mr. Perez-Brito)

  • As investors conduct valuations based on disclosed information, disclosure has become extremely important. However, companies are concerned about how much to disclose. With the numerous information disclosure frameworks being referred to as “alphabet soup,” there is a movement toward consolidating the frameworks globally.(Ms. Zeniya)

  • If a company declares: “Even if it makes money, we will not cross that line,” and it can specify where that line is, that is a type of human rights due diligence. Investors value companies that are able to specify this line as having low human rights risk, and therefore the valuations of these companies tend to be higher.(Mr. Ikeda)

  • Important stakeholders include employees, and since this does not include only those working at the company but also the employees in the supply chain and business partners, being engaged with business partners becomes key. If there is a possibility of a human rights violation, it is necessary to have a practical grievance mechanism, but with regard to this, there are still many issues when it comes to Japanese companies.(Ms. Hasegawa)

  • For meaningful stakeholder engagement, it is important to conduct consultations that allow all shareholders and beneficiaries to participate and to also secure free engagement. At times, it may be necessary to obtain the help of an outside expert, and the role of the government may also be essential for consensus building.(Mr. Perez-Brito)

  • For business in areas affected by conflict, initiatives beyond regular due diligence are necessary. The business partners themselves may be involved in a conflict. Therefore, it is necessary to analyze the conflict and determine whether the economic activities of one’s own company and its business partners are involved in a conflict.(Ms. Ramasastry)

  • The details of human rights due diligence sought by each country are not the same across the board, and as changes to the details occur frequently, the burden on companies to comply with laws and ordinances is increasing. Governments need to increase foreseeability for companies through enhanced information gathering and negotiations between governments.(Ms. Hasegawa)

  • There is a need to build capacity to comply with the rules. It is also necessary to develop the ability to apply the rules in specific actions.(Mr. Perez-Brito)

  • Dialogue will be essential moving forward. Through dialogue, the same vision regarding human rights can be shared. Human rights are not optional but are a requirement, and to that end, governments must support companies. NAP is not the end but merely the beginning. Japan can demonstrate leadership at a domestic, regional, and global level.(Ms. Ramasastry)

Lecture:Kyoko Kashiwabara(Deputy Director-General for Business and Human Rights Policy, Minister's Secretariat, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry)

In 2021, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry established a Business and Human Rights Policy Office to conduct activities to raise awareness within the business community and to gather information regarding policy trends in various other countries. It provides tools and carries forth policy formulation to conduct initiatives that are in agreement with the global standard, and it promotes activities to increase foreseeability for companies.

*All commentaries are as of the date of the speech.

Contact
Outreach Event Division, Research Operations Department, IDE-JETRO
E-mail:seminar E-mail