Sustainable Business in Japan: Environmental Sustainability Background

In recent years, we at JTB Meetings & Events by JTB Communication Design (JCD) have been ramping up our sustainability related activities. From major companies, down to every individual, there are many ways we can have significant impact by learning more and making smarter choices. Regardless of the industry you work in, or the society you live in, it is important that we keep an eye on the bigger picture. Awareness of how the way we do things affects both our direct and indirect social, economic, and natural environment, in both the short and especially the long term as well. In future articles we will dive deeper into sustainable practices in the events industry, but for now let’s first paint a picture of the background of sustainability in Japan.

Sustainability in Traditional Japan
Historically, Japan has had a unique respectful relationship with nature and certain sustainable attitudes. As a country teeming with lush mountains, rivers, and surrounded by the ocean, it is no wonder that Japanese culture developed in harmony with its environment. This is reflected in shinto traditions, wherein gods and spirits are sometimes said to inhabit everything from rocks, mountains, plants and trees. A small but meaningful example is that especially around shrines and ancient roads, you may notice that trees that start leaning down over pathways are not always cut down. Instead, supports for the hanging branches are built, and the stone path weaves around the trees.

Sustainable Business in Japan Environmental Sustainability Looking back hundreds of years ago, we can see various concepts such as tsugite. Tsugite is a traditional Japanese technique for fitting together pieces of wood. This complicated way of interlocking wood means that fewer nails and metal braces or fasteners are used in the building process. While especially used by highly skilled carpenters in the building of shrines, it can also be applied to general housing, creating completely biodegradable houses. Also, traditional housing used natural tatami mats which still used today as part of traditional Japanese interior design and are a highly efficient means of insulating houses. Such traditional techniques and cultural crafts to create biodegradable housing without using any industrial products is a powerful reference point for what is possible.

Additionally, it is interesting to look at Japanese aesthetic concepts such as kintsugi. This is when a broken cup is fixed with lacquer mixed with gold or other materials along the cracks. While the use of these materials themselves may not be essentially sustainable, what this aesthetic practice represents is the embracing of imperfections. By choosing to repair a broken object and perhaps even valuing it more rather than immediately trashing it, waste is diminished.

Sustainable Business in Japan Environmental Sustainability Sustainability in Modern Japan
With the examples above said, this cultural background is of course not representative of the entire Japanese society. To paint the complete and realistic picture, we also need to look at the modern problematic side of things. Especially in the industrialized era, pragmatism and capitalism have often overshadowed nature-friendliness. This started in the late 1800s around the world. Subsequently after World War II, a devastated Japan started to rebuild its economy at an unprecedented rate. This industrial growth led to Japan being at the forefront of technological development in the ‘80s and ‘90s especially. Unfortunately, during these decades of seemingly endless growth, a future vision of sustainability was less of a priority.

Now, in more recent decades, the world has woken up to the effects of unmitigated industriousness, and efforts to change existing systems are increasingly being made. It is a constant push and pull, and a search for balance between many relevant parties. But depending on the data and analyses you look at; it can be argued that Japan has been slightly behind the curve of sustainable development compared to many Western nations. But efforts are being made. In 1997 Japan hosted the Kyoto Conference where the Kyoto Protocol was developed. This was a landmark event in the realm of sustainability, and the world truly opening its eyes to the increasing need to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.

Sustainable Business in Japan Environmental Sustainability Currently, Japan is largely in tune with the modern world at large, as it is making various efforts to improve by committing to long-term goals. One example we highlighted in the past is eco-friendly housing in Japan. Hopefully Japan can continue to look towards the future collectively, while also implementing lessons from its traditional cultural background to reduce waste and be more in harmony with nature once again.

Working with JTB Meetings & Events
Most of our readers will be familiar with the broad spectrum of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this article we gave some examples of environmental sustainability but there are many other aspects, in corporate terms often divided into the Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) categories. Balance between these different aspects of sustainability is vital both in the present and for the future, and we all have to figure out how to contribute to sustainability. The Japanese people at large as well as governing bodies are increasingly aware and taking action, figuring out where to most effectively contribute to sustainability, just as we at JCD are. As a corporation, events are the best place to showcase to your stakeholders and attendees what your company is doing in terms of sustainability and leads to positive brand recognition. On top of that, there are countless ways in which your event itself can be held in a sustainable fashion. If you want to find out more about the sustainable options we offer when you organize your event with us, feel free to contact us here.

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