Lately, the term "SDGs: Sustainable Development Goals" has been heard more often in Japan.
ASMARQ Co., Ltd. which operates Comfort Japan conducted an attitude survey concerning the term among people aged 15 to 39 from Japan, the US, and China.
Degree of Recognition and Understanding of SDGs
SDGs' Impact on Impression of Companies
Degree of Recognition and Intention of Ethical Consumption
900 people (300 people × 3 countries)
1. Degree of Recognition
Japanese; 90% recognize SDGs. (Better known among teenage respondents)
Americans; Less than half recognize SDGs.
Chinese; 90% recognize SDGs. (Better known among respondents in their 30's)
2. Recognition of Ethical Consumption
Japanese; About half don't know the term and its influence on purchase intention is little.
Americans; 60% recognize the term and its influence on purchase intention is at the mean level of those of the three countries.
Chinese; 90% recognize the term and its influence on purchase intention is high.
It turned out that while the term "SDGs" is well known to the Japanese respondents, "Ethical Consumption" is not so familiar and does not have an impact on their purchase intention compared to those of other countries.
What Is Ethical Consumption?
Ethical consumption is a consumption behavior friendly to people, societies, communities, and environments, including local revitalization and employment. The first step toward ethical consumption is to recognize social problems and to think about what each of us can do through daily consumption.
("What is ethical consumption?" Consumer Affairs Agency's website: https://www.ethical.caa.go.jp/ethical-consumption.html)
Why Is "Ethical Consumption" Not Well-recognized among the Japanese, Despite Knowing about "SDGs"?
Indeed, I, as a Japanese living in Japan, hardly hear the word, "ethical consumption", although "SDGs" is often heard on the mass media or while talking with friends. I learned the term for the first time from this survey.
The research asked respondents about their "information sources" for SDGs.
It shows that Japanese respondents are influenced by mostly television media compared to the ones from the US and China.
Certainly, there don't seem to be a lot of Japanese TV shows that explain or enlighten "ethical consumption". Also, television media itself is a passive medium. These two points can be big reasons why the term is not well known. So, there is a possibility that "ethical consumption" can be more familiar to the Japanese by being picked up by television media.
Are Japanese Consumers Indifferent to "Ethical Consumption"?
Now, in Japan, where "ethical consumption" is not well known compared to other countries, is the Japanese people's consumption behavior "unethical"?
There may be a clue in the past from about 1980 to 1990. I often heard about some issues at school or on TV when I was a child. (I was born in 1975.) Those issues were:
Food Additive Problem: It was pointed out that substances that harm human health are used for processed foods;
Air Pollution Problem: Gases and wastes from industries were polluting the air, rivers, and seas;
Waste Problem: The capacity of waste disposal sites was reaching the limit;
Deforestation Problem: Destruction of natural forests for the development of sites and facilities.
These problems were picked up as topics for social studies and debates in class.
About 3 to 4 decades ago, when the economy was still growing, Japan started facing problems related to people, societies, communities, and environments, which promoted various activities to solve them.
After around that time, while nutrition facts and ingredients shown on products became more accurate, a separate household waste collection system was introduced, and recycling activities and projects have been carried out more widely. Now, we hardly hear about photochemical smog.
The recent long-term recession in Japan has also affected the situation. Compared to the old days, there seems to be not a lot of large-scale housing developments that require cutting through mountains. I believe that the problems mentioned above have been solved little by little.
Looking back at history, we can think that "ethical production and consumption" are rooted in Japan at some level. Particularly among Japanese adults in their 20's to 30's in the survey, other aspects of SDGs would rather interest them.
What Should Today's Japan Do for "Ethical Consumption"?
It is not that the Japanese are indifferent to "Ethical Consumption". However, although ethical consumption may have been there at some level, the fact that the term is not well recognized among Japanese respondents is a problem. Even though efforts to solve the issues have been certainly made for decades, there must be a lot of other unrecognized problems. That is what I see from the survey.
The pandemic of COVID-19 might have affected the low degree of recognition because overseas activities related to "Ethical Consumption" have not been seen or experienced directly due to the travel restrictions for these years.
We are happy to know what you think is lacking in Japanese people concerning "Ethical Consumption", comparing your thoughts with a lifestyle in Japan. It would be great if we could show your answers in the article. We will be waiting for your comments.