In 1991, Keidanren announced the "Keidanren Global Environmental Charter," in which it stated explicitly that "endeavoring to deal with environmental problems is an essential condition for corporate existence and activities," and declared its intentions to pursue voluntary and active efforts in behalf of environmental preservation. In 1996 it compiled the "Keidanren Appeal on the Environment," in which it specified concrete policies for promoting measures to deal with global warming and for promoting a recycling-based society; in this appeal, it also identified courses of action for the creation of environmental management systems, the implementation of environmental audits, and the inclusion of environmental considerations in overseas business activities. Consistent with such actions, it then announced the "Keidanren Voluntary Action Plan on the Environment" in 1997, through which it created an ongoing framework designed for the steady implementation of environmental measures at all levels of Japanese industry.
Environmental problems such as global warming, which are long-term in nature and arise on a global scale, have causes that relate to all business activities and that touch on every aspect of our daily lives. Because of this, they possess a character that makes uniform limits on activities impossible, and that hinders adequate responses through adoption of conventional regulations. In place of traditional regulatory measures, which were effective in dealing with pollution and other problems in the 1970s, the approach viewed as having the most promise with respect to global scale issues is voluntary action. Voluntary actions are effective because they permit persons with the greatest knowledge of their own businesses to independently propose and execute measures that are highly effective from a cost-benefit standpoint, based on comprehensive considerations of technical trends and other management-related judgements.
The Keidanren Voluntary Action Plan on the Environment is an initiative that deals with important issues such as global warming, waste disposal, and so on on a comprehensive industry level, involving 41 industries and 142 industry organizations (37 industries and 138 industry organizations at the plan's inception). Given such broad participation, we believe that this initiative will contribute greatly to reducing CO2 emissions and to promoting the reduction and recycling of waste in Japan.
In promoting this kind of voluntary effort, a crucial element is the incorporation of a scheme that will allow "incentives in the form of public promises" to take effect. This is brought about by having industries declare specific goals, by conducting follow-ups annually on the progress being made toward those goals, and by making public each industry's progress.
From this perspective, industry conducts annual follow-ups on the progress being made under the voluntary action plan, and releases this information to a wide public audience. On the other hand, the Government of Japan has identified the Follow-up to the Keidanren Voluntary Action Plan on the Environment as an integral part of measures being taken under its "Guideline of Measures to Prevent Global Warming," which was developed and adopted in June 1998. Accordingly, in its various related councils, the government reviews the progress being made under the action plans of the various industries from a third-party standpoint, and publicizes the results of such reviews.
With respect to waste-related measures, Keidanren has been surveying the status of actions being taken by the major industries every year since 1990, and has released these results to the public. Moreover, in order to strengthen waste-related measures, Keidanren integrated such measures into its Voluntary Action Plan on the Environment in 1997, when the action plan was being adopted. In the current follow-up, it intends to declare a quantitative target on the waste issue as well for industry as a whole, and is currently compiling its findings.