Japan: Responsible labour practices as part of core business operations in supply chains in Asia contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The ILO and APIR (Asia Pacific Institute of Research) co-host a symposium for Japanese businesses in the Kansai region hear research findings from Japanese and Chinese electronics sectors and share ideas on how the SDG goals can be achieved through core business operations.

News | 25 November 2019
November 25

Osaka (ILO News) – As an element of their strategy to enhance productivity and competitiveness, businesses can contribute to achieving SDGs through promoting responsible labour practices for workers, a symposium of 90 business and government representatives has heard. 

Presenting the results of an electronics industry survey commissioned by the Responsible Supply Chains in Asia programme, Professor Kenta Goto from Kansai University explained model cases for responsible labour practices to delegates. His research indicated that such practices develop in the daily operations of businesses to enhance productivity and competitiveness on a long-term basis.  Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) should not be deemed as philanthropic activities or mere costs but is, instead, centred on sustainable activities with underlying business objectives such as training, dialogue with employees and assistance for suppliers, he said. [Photo: Keynote presentation by Professor Kenta Goto (Kansai University)]

Ms Kun Huang from Chinese Academy of Labour and Social Security (CALSS) introduced findings from the Chinese electronics sector at the meeting.  The results showed the complexity of electronics supply chains in China with a large number of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). These firms need assistance from local governments and buyers to build capacity in responsible labour practices she told delegates. This conclusion is in line with the findings from the Japanese study that highlighted good practice where buyers offered technology and advice to their suppliers. The importance of dialogue was also a common need identified in both studies.

Examples of responsible business practices were canvassed in a panel discussion at the event. Mr Mikio Beppu of Konica Minolta explained that his firm places sustainable growth at the core of their medium-term business strategy going forward.  It focuses on SDGs because by solving social and environmental problems, Konica Minolta can attract both financial and human resources globally and enhance its reputation, which ultimately helps to achieve the sustainable growth of the company. For instance, Konica Minolta offers advice and know-how regarding CSR to suppliers and clients to strengthen their operations, which they see as ultimately supporting their own business over the long run.[Photo: Panel Discussion]

Ms Miho Utsumi of the Kansai branch of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) gave an example of the potential role of government with the Kansai SDGs Platform, which has over 800 members, including enterprises, local governments, civil society organizations, and academic and research institutions.  It regularly holds and participates in seminars and workshops to exchange information, peer learning and strengthen a network of companies across sectors. METI-Kansai also introduced successful cases where companies from Kansai have expanded their business abroad and address local needs or challenges in Asia as part of their core business activities.

Identifying stakeholders and involving them is essential in pursuing SDGs in business according to Professor Goto.  A commitment by management is the key to successfully joining forces to achieve the targets under SDGs. He also mentioned that the success of sustainable growth often relies on tacit knowledge that has been accumulated in companies and therefore that the quality management of human resources is crucial in the long-term development of business and society for the future.

Speaking at the end of the event, Ms Huang was positive about its value.  “It was very helpful for us both in the research aspect and in the implementation aspect. The findings and good practices in Japan introduced by Professor Goto were very informative and this event produced an opportunity for us to exchange our finding and ideas face to face which is very helpful for me to make some further revision and amendment to our research. Besides that, I also had some thoughts on how to organize the activities of this project next year in China” she said.
[Photo: Ms Kun Huang, a keynote speaker (Chinese Academy of Labour and Social Security)]


The Responsible Supply Chains in Asia Project is a European Union-funded project developed in collaboration with the ILO and OECD to support business dialogue on challenges and opportunities in relation to corporate social responsibility/ responsible business conduct in six Asian countries – China, Japan, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam. It uses as a basis for its research, outreach, policy advocacy and training internationally recognised guidelines on responsible business conduct, the OECD’s Guidelines for multinational enterprises, and the ILO’s MNE declaration.