With Yuki Isogai, Partner of Sustainability, PwC Japan

Consultancies are the mechanics of Japan’s sustainable transition: diagnosing the creaks of organisations in need of a sustainable service, and providing the tools necessary for their low-carbon future. That is the message from Yuki Isogai, Partner of Sustainability at PwC Japan.

As the first country to officially incentivise companies to set science-based targets, Japan is amongst the leaders in encouraging corporate action on climate change. The role for consultancies like PwC Japan in helping companies to understand, visualise, and implement changes has therefore never been bigger.

Yuki is certain of one thing, and that is change. Change is coming to the Earth’s climate, and the Japanese market. How much change though is the most important question, and as the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C made clear, half a degree can make a world of difference. Yuki believes “there is always a market for what is valuable to society” and a stable climate is certainly valuable for society — the 1.5°C report puts that beyond doubt.

"Forty percent of all of the companies that have been in existence for more than 200 years exist in Japan."

Yuki Isogai PwC Japan Accerlerating Japan's Sustainable Future

Companies exert influence in today's society

Japan is uniquely positioned as a highly industrialised island nation in a tectonically active area that also lacks natural resources. It is therefore highly dependent on fuel imports for energy, and in 2016 it imported 96% of its fuel for energy production. Yuki sees this as an industry ripe for transformation in a 1.5°C scenario, with opportunities for business in the creation of more renewable energy, a regional distributed energy production and consumption system, and innovations in efficiency throughout the island nation. 

Yuki believes that in today’s society, there is no doubt that companies exert much influence in both social and environmental issues, and they must be part of any solution to long-term challenges. At their best, companies can create social movements, behavioural changes, and technological innovation to greatly improve the lives of citizens. At their worst, they can slow progressive change, maintain the status quo, and prolong damaging behaviours. This potential has been recognised by the Japanese government who has placed company actions at the centre of Japan’s new long-term strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yuki believes that PwC Japan is well-positioned to aid companies acting as change-makers in this future sustainable society.

Climate change is a challenge unlike any before

With long-term consequences impacting the most vulnerable disproportionately, it can be challenging for businesses to understand the problem, let alone their role in the solutions. Yuki believes that mindset changes are first required at board level, with companies looking further ahead into the future. Fortunately, Japan is no stranger to the long journey. Forty percent of all of the companies that have been in existence for more than 200 years exist in Japan. This culture of thinking long-term contrasts with the short-sightedness seen in other economies.

Changing the mindsets of these companies who are well-equipped to deal with long horizons can take time. However, Yuki has seen plenty of evidence already to suggest that after several rounds of discussions with senior business leaders, it is possible to create an opportunity mindset of sustainable change. Once business leaders understand that this sustainability transition can go hand in hand with strong and enduring business performance, then it is less of a hurdle to overcome.

The new mechanics

PwC Japan also works to encourage an environment of change in Japan and to help drive ambition loops with public policy. For example, in June this year as part of the long term climate and growth strategy, the Japanese government became the first in the world to incentivise companies setting science-based targets. As companies step up and set ambitious science-based targets for mitigation, this creates the precedent and environment for the government to set more ambitious policies and regulations, thus creating positive feedback loops. With a strong understanding and competency in setting and implementing changes to achieve science-based targets, PwC Japan is capable of accelerating the changes, operating within the framework set up by the government. 

PwC Japan is involved with helping to create mindset changes needed for companies to commit to setting science-based targets, helping companies understand how to set these targets, and creating strategies for implementing the changes needed to achieve the goals. In this sense Yuki sees the role of PwC Japan as a mechanic, diagnosing the creaks of organisations in need of a tune up, and providing the tools needed for many more years of clean and efficient running.

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