JFTC Essay Competition

Summaries of the Award-Winning Essays of JFTC Essay Competition 2008

The Prize for Excellence

Reinforcing the Japanese Brand as Environmental Leader: The Role for Corporations

Kamila PIECZARA (Polish, age 24)

In my essay I argue that Japanese corporations are at the forefront of the environmental business, which is manifested in a vast array of branches. The central point is that Japan can confidently aspire for the role of environmental leader, thanks to the expertise and technological solutions it has developed so far. There are several factors that have brought Japanese corporations to this level of advancement in environmental protection.

First, the phase of rapid development in the 1960s was accompanied by emergence of environmental complications. Coupled with the tightening oil market, it was a strong incentive for Japan to introduce measures towards more efficient solutions. This positive trend has been reinforced by substantial investments in R&D, and the Japanese private sector was a significant contributor to this progress. Second, the 21st century has daunted the humanity not only by the quantity of environmental changes, but also their unprecedented nature; only a global approach can bear fruit in dealing with global ecological challenges. At the corporate level, Japan has been particularly active in the fast-developing East Asian region, which is a potential source of new environmental burdens. Last but not least, Japanese businesses are equipped with “soft” assets stemming from their culture and predestining them to think and act long-term – a crucial quality, as preserving the Earth requires planning for decades ahead.

Evidently, the Japanese business sector is well-prepared to face environmental challenges which are a constraint charactering the 21st century. Nonetheless, the secret resides in turning these limitations into business opportunities, and examples abound proving that entrepreneurs from Japan are on their way to establish a better balance between profitability and Earth conservation. The automotive branch and recycling are two fields which illustrate efforts of both huge and small enterprises towards Earth preservation. This trend would not be possible without a growing environmental market, with consumers demanding “greener” products and rewarding companies which pursue eco-friendly strategies. Competition in the environmental market means that environmentally-friendly products are becoming more accessible in terms of prices – for example, hybrid vehicles.

Last but not least, this progress has been made possible by the engagement of ordinary people who make the effort to recycle the waste and choose “green” products. This commitment is a precious “fuel” that boosts environmental consciousness in Japan and beyond its borders, fostering sustainable development on a global scale.

The Prize for Excellence

Anatomy of Japanese Business Leading to Sustainable Growth

WONG, Chun Yiu (Chinese, age 30)

Global environmental issues and making sustainable growth have long been on worldwide agenda, constituting an important topic for discussion at the G8 summits and the United Nations conferences. Some organizations like the World Bank Group revealed the problem is centered on the cooperation among nations and between public sectors and private sectors. With a colossal amount of money and a coherence of efforts, the world has been in the throes of addressing the global environmental matters while heading towards sustainable growth’s objectives. Among nations Japan is one of the leading countries in promoting global environment consciousness as exemplified by holding Kyoto Meeting. Japan’s experience exhibits how technology, government policy and private sector initiatives can be used to escalate efficiency and surmount resource constraints facing the world now. Japanese firms have responded boldly to environmental issues by introducing technology and delving into technical capabilities development. Not only did they achieve environmental goals, but they also penetrated into new green technology market. Together with the Japanese state-of-the-art management systems, including top-down management practice, incorporating environmental vision into business strategy, and utilizing human resources and accounting systems, Japanese business has respectable areas that developing and developed countries can imitate or make use of.

Japan is staying ahead in the future in addressing the global environmental problem. It is reckoned that there is no one mode that will be effective in all circumstances. However, the Japanese-style business does not preclude its applicability to other countries.

Deteriorating as Global environment is, it is not the worst of time. It may be the best time instead. From an optimistic perspective, entrepreneurs or scientists are attempting for breakthrough to better people’s welfare while improving environment. As Charles Dickens, one of the most popular English novelists, said it was the best of times; it was the worst of times in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. This saying quite tells about our current situation of the world we are living in.

The Prize for Excellence

Japanese Environmental and Energy Services - The Dark Horse

Ananya MUKHOPADHYAY (Indian, age 41)

Rapid population growth and growing economic activities in the developing countries require the conservation of natural resources, energy, and environment to be done in parallel for sustainable development. Due to increased environmental regulatory pressure the developing countries are currently concentrating on infrastructure development in the area of Environmental and Energy Technology. However, most of the developing countries do not have the technical, managerial and sometimes financial capabilities to develop such infrastructural projects all by themselves. They therefore seek foreign help. Japan is very advanced in the area of Environmental and Energy Technology business with strength in the Equipment sector, and has high international competitiveness. The developing countries concentrating on infrastructural projects require help at the first place for the Services area such as engineering consulting, design, development, legal, inspection and others. These are then followed by the equipment procurement to support those projects. Unfortunately Japan is not very competitive internationally in the Services areas of the Environmental and Technology businesses. Currently this services area covers half the revenue of this sector, which is expanding at a high pace. For Japan to cooperate with the developing world to meet their objective of sustainable development the competitiveness is required to be built up in the area of services alongside the equipment. The essay discusses on the different trade issues related to Environmental services that the Japanese firms are currently facing. It then advices some measures that the Japanese firms should take to overcome such difficulties.

The Prize for Excellence

From “Differential-Oriented Management” to “Integral-Oriented Management”
– Three Paradigm Shifts

Naoki ABE (Japanese, age 25)
(the original text is Japanese)

The skyrocketing of resource prices is not just a product of tight supply and demand; it offers us two suggestions for the future. First, natural capital (resources) will become more important than human-made capital (infrastructure, machinery and equipment, etc.) and financial capital (funds). Second, the skyrocketing of resource prices will continue for some time because it is not a crisis in supply, but is due to demand-side factors.

From these two suggestions, two strategies for Japanese corporations can be derived: a) Japanese corporations should consider how to secure resources and break free from the state of having limited resources, and b) Japanese corporations should view matters from a long-term perspective, not a short-term one. Regarding the first strategy, this paper divides resources into three categories by kind – primary energy, metals, and grain – and proposes a paradigm shift for each. The catchphrases are “from stock to flow,” “from below ground to above ground,” and “from using to creating,” respectively. If Japan applies these catchphrases, the nation will not need to simply accept its situation of having limited resources as fate, but it will be able to adapt to the resource era, a time in which resources occupy a key position. Regarding the second strategy, the catchphrase is “from ‘differential-oriented management’ to ‘integral-oriented management.’” Anticipating a further rise in resource prices, Japanese corporations should take a long-term perspective and aim to maximize profits not over a single year but over a few decades.

To summarize the above: Japanese corporations should conduct management from a long-term perspective based on the three paradigm shifts. In addition, if Japan can spread this new Japanese business model to resource-poor nations, which comprise most of the world, it will be a business opportunity for Japanese corporations and, at the same time, make possible sustainable growth on a global scale.

The Selection Committee Chair’s Special Prize

Japan's Green Technology for Earth and Economy

Shellen HALIM (Indonesian, age 19)

The need for natural preservation has recently evolved into a global agenda from just mere projections. Environmental damage has cost many nations (such as China and United States) billions of dollars worth of loss; and the fact that the number is increasing rapidly every year has made it intolerable. Slowly but surely, leaders and economists around the globe are beginning to include environmental impacts into their calculations. The world is obviously going through a revolution; and this time it’s green.

There has been an ongoing debate over which has to be prioritized, the environment or economic growth. This question simply assumes that both terms are a totally separate entity; a mindset that I doubt is true. Through this paper, I attempt to prove that environmental preservation and economic growth are indeed closely interrelated as when one is neglected, the other will be negatively affected.

What the world clearly needs now is a business model that adopts a value of sustainability. A framework that doesn’t only embraces that element but also turn them into a profitable opportunity. Through environmental-friendly technologies (the green technologies), Japan has the comparative advantage to lead the market in the 21st century.

The paper first explains how actually environmental condition is going to play a more determining role within economic growth, and how it will eventually give economy its new shape in the future. The paper also argues that through green technologies and Japan’s lucrative business philosophies, Japan can and should see this as a huge opportunity. The market for green technologies mostly will come from developing countries, especially from China. As these developing countries are the ones who undergo rapid growth at the moment, they will also be the ones who use energy and omit pollutant the most. Therefore I believe that it is extremely crucial for Japan to strengthen its partnership with these countries in many possible ways, such as: investments, funding (especially in R&D and practitioners) and technology transfer. This essay also intends to analyze possible approaches such as: raising awareness and optimizing expertise that Japan can exercise in fortifying its position. I will try to connect the whole idea and wrap up by referring back to Japan’s biggest goal – sustainability in growth, in environment and in life.