Keidanren Voluntary Action Plan on the Environment

June 17, 1997
TOYODA Shoichiro

In spite of post-Earth Summit efforts, the challenges facing the global environment have continued to multiply. In recent years, many of the conditions threatening the environment are created inevitably in the course of economic activities and people's daily lives. However, for the realization of "sustainable development" as envisioned by the Basic Environmental Law of Japan, corporations, consumers, and citizens need to understand the seriousness of the problems with which they are confronted, and they need to devise voluntary and aggressive measures to combat these problems while taking care to divide tasks fairly amongst themselves.

In 1991, as part of its Global Environment Charter, Keidanren proclaimed that "grappling with environmental problems is essential to corporate existence and activities." As such, the Charter committed Keidanren to seek positive and voluntary methods for promoting environmental conservation. Furthermore, in July of 1996, Keidanren published its Appeal on the Environment, which sought to encourage industrial circles to deal with environmental challenges more concretely through measures to counteract global warming and by creating a recycle-based society.

In addition, Keidanren issued a call to the Japanese business community to organize Keidanren Voluntary Action Plan on the Environment based on the Appeal. In response to this call, 36 industries drafted plans in cooperation with 137 industrial organizations from manufacturing and energy to distribution, transportation, finance, construction, and foreign trade.

Industry as a whole in Japan has made significant strides to date in the promotion of recycling and restraining the discharge of waste. The end result is the gradual development of a recycle-based, energy-saving society acting as a countermeasure to the global warming phenomenon. For example, if we consider CO2 emissions per unit of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) worldwide in 1994(expressed in tons of carbon per $1 million of GDP), Japan's rate of 123 ranked along with France's rate of 121 as one of the lowest in the world. The comparable rate for Canada was 321, for the United States 306, for Britain 221, and for Germany 179.

Concerning specifically the status of CO2 emissions in Japan, although emissions from households and transportation-related services have nearly doubled in the past two decades, those from the industrial sector have remained essentially unchanged despite the economy almost doubling in size. Moreover, Japan's rate of recycling, which is one indicator of the emergence of a recycle-based society, is of a relatively high level. In short, many industries are already in a position where they have little room for additional improvements but have continued drafting voluntary action plans when possible. Keidanren appreciates their bold efforts.

At this point it is worth noting that Keidanren does not intend the drafting of voluntary action plans to be the end of its own efforts. Indeed, Keidanren intends to periodically review each of the before mentioned action plans including their implementation and results. As an organization, we are committed to putting every effort into realizing a more healthy and vibrant global environment starting right here in Japan.

However, unless we all join hands and strive to grapple head on with the challenges facing the global environment, our efforts will almost certainly fail. Therefore, we hope that consumers, citizens, and municipalities will join our efforts and adopt their own voluntary measures. Only when such is done and our counterparts across the globe begin to head our example can we be secure in that we are doing everything possible to face the challenges confronting our environment today, and in the future.

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