Jeremy Prepscius, Vice President, Asia-Pacific and Asako Nagai, Senior Advisor, BSR

Asako Nagai, the former Head of CSR Management Section at Sony Corporation, joins BSR this month. She will take the lead advising Japanese BSR members and clients on global CSR practices and new sustainability developments in Japan. Below, she shares her thoughts on the evolution of sustainability practices in the Japanese business environment.

Why are sustainability issues important for Japanese business? Sustainability is increasingly becoming a common language for business, and although it’s a valuable discourse to have, it’s also an important criterion for business conduct in the global economy. Although many CSR standards are not mandatory, corporations conducting businesses overseas are expected to refer to (or at least learn from) the most recent CSR-related standards, such as the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises, ISO26000, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the GRI's Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. As the Japanese market continues to stagnate, many Japanese companies are looking to invest in overseas markets, so sustainability is becoming increasingly important.

Environmental sustainability issues have been core to many Japanese businesses. What are the issues that aren’t being adequately addressed? Japan has long been concerned with resource scarcity. Environmental sustainability issues such as energy efficiency have been and will always be important to the sustainability agenda. With the global business environment changing so rapidly today, Japanese companies are under pressure to adjust their business practices to meet expectations from diverse stakeholders. One key area is governance, especially transparency. In addition, issues such as human rights and supply chain management have room for improvement within many Japanese companies.

It seems the CSR field in Japan is going through some significant changes right now. What does this mean for companies integrating sustainability practices into their business models? Although awareness of CSR has been growing internally within companies as well as with the public in the past decade, the challenge companies face is in really integrating CSR into their business practices. In the current climate, it is very difficult to use CSR activities to develop actual business cases that contribute to companies' bottom lines.

With these challenges ahead of us, what work do you most look forward to at BSR? I am looking forward to working with BSR and its member companies and to contributing to Japanese business operations—learning from cross-sector and cross-region approaches and sharing my knowledge. I am confident Japanese companies can learn a lot from being part of the BSR network, but I am also looking forward to sharing some truly unique and valuable Japanese practices with the global BSR community.