Why Is This Colorful Little Wheel Suddenly Everywhere in Japan?

TOKYO – A few years ago, a colorful new accessory suddenly started appearing on the lapels of dark-clad salaried employees across Japan: a small badge, shaped like a spinning wheel. roulette and is divided into 17 rainbow colors.

Before long, the logo seemed to be everywhere, proudly displayed in fashion stores, at children’s playgrounds and on the websites of Buddhist temples.

The object of that zeal? The United Nations’ 17-point framework is called the Sustainable Development Goals.

The SDGs, as they are called, encourage every nation on earth to be a better place, with undisputed aspirations such as ending poverty, improving education and reducing inequality.

But perhaps no country has embraced the campaign as clearly as Japan, where it has offered an opportunity to showcase the country’s good standing as a global citizen – and where corporations have The visual sense jumped into the race with both feet.

Nowadays, there are SDGs board games in Japan. Comics SDGs. Children can play on the SDGs playground, and tour companies organize SDGs trips, where visitors learn about how Japan is working to achieve the goals. An animated song video about the SDG of the public broadcaster, NHK, has more than 930,000 views on YouTube.

In the United States, when people have heard of development goals, it is usually from the right-wing media that portrays them as part of the radical socialist conspiracy. A less polarized, more community-oriented (and perhaps less cynical) Japan has regrouped the goals as an attempt to feel good and in theory as well.

These goals became official national policy in 2016, when the government established a task force on these goals under the prime minister. But it wasn’t until the next year – when Japan’s largest business federation, Keidanren, added them to its charter – that they began to appear nationwide.

Over the past year or two, the term SDGs – as they are called by English letters in Japan – “have really become part of everyday conversation,” said Rie Takeshima, who leads a division of the guy. Marketing giant Dentsu has 320 people to consult. companies about incorporating goals into their businesses.

“There is no industry, no company, where the SDGs are irrelevant,” she said. Nearly 40% of Japanese businesses are working to achieve their goals by 2021, according to a report survey of Teikoku Databank, a credit research firm.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a far-reaching vision to improve the lives of the world’s people by 2030, agreed upon by the members of the United Nations seven years ago.

The goals are as ambitious as they are not clearly defined. In Japan, the government has describe both poverty alleviation efforts and the highly controversial whaling program as examples of the pursuit of United Nations goals.

The argument is that whales consume destructive amounts of fish and that controlling their populations is crucial to preserving the diversity of the oceans. Security online video from an industry association that recommends eating mammals “to preserve the balance of marine ecosystems and contribute to marine sustainability goals!”

While almost no one in Japan had heard of the development goals three years ago, messages like these are commonplace today. A Dentsu poll found that nearly 90% of Japanese are now aware of the targets. However, only about a third can describe them.

The survey found that children are twice as likely to understand concepts as older adults. The Department of Education has encouraged schools to include goals in their lesson plans, and many parents have seriously added the subject to their list of extracurricular activities.

On a recent rainy afternoon, a group of children gathered in the atrium of a luxury high-rise in Tokyo to participate in a series of conversations and games to familiarize them with the goals and objectives. how their country is trying to achieve them.

It was a summer break, but 20 elementary school students – expecting parents – impromptu answered trivia questions about children’s lives in less privileged countries before playing the game. on the table has an SDG theme, somewhat reminiscent of the Game of Life. Investing in programs like wind farms moved players onto one of 17 rainbow-colored tracks. Events like an economic downturn or a pandemic keep players coming back.

One mother, Mayuko Yamane, who brought her two sons from nearby Chiba Prefecture, said the older, 11-year-old Kotaro, is learning about goals in the social class.

“He knows more than I do,” she said, adding that her children have begun to worry about her about sustainability and gender equality.

Ms. Yamane, 41, said: “I was a bit surprised that they were learning about this tool.

It’s unclear what percentage of that enthusiasm has translated into direct action.

In 2015, Japan ranked 13th in terms of development goals in an annual report compiled by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a United Nations non-profit organization. Like many rich nations, it scores well in categories like education and hunger eradication.

Since then, Japan has reduce ranked 19th, surpassing countries such as Poland and Latvia, which have made steady progress while Japan has stagnated. (Finland is in first place and the United States is 41st.)

One year 2021 report The Japanese government’s statement before the United Nations said the country had succeeded in raising awareness of the goals but was still “lagging” in formulating “objective” and “scientific-based” goals. for its programs.

While the United Nations has recognized Japan’s progress in areas such as education and infrastructure, other problems seem incurable. One notable area is gender equality. After years of trying to empower women in the workplace and in politics, Japan ranked 116th out of 146 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2022 gender gap report.

There are also concerns that companies and government agencies are openly advocating for these goals as a way to polish their image rather than create real change – a phenomenon that has been labeled is “cleansing the SDGs”.

Noriko Hama, a professor at Doshisha University’s business school, said she is pleased that the boom around development goals has brought much-needed attention to issues like climate change and other issues. sustainable production methods.

But when Japanese entrepreneurs started using the now-popular badges, she became suspicious, she said.

“There’s something very odd about the photo of these people, who usually hate flashy, flaunting accessories,” she says.

In the rush to jump on board and score some PR points, companies and government agencies have retroactively labeled projects as development-friendly or making their mark on innovations. ants only have an easy association with targets.

Even religious groups join in the action. A Buddhist temple in Kyoto has announced that a program to cut maintenance costs and free up space in its cemetery is part of advancing development goals.

The survey by Teikoku Databank shows that the largest market share of companies – 32% – are making SDGs of “good jobs and economic growth” a priority. Support for goals such as “zero poverty,” “zero hunger”, “clean water and sanitation” and protection of the diversity of “life in water” and “life on land” is less than 7%.

Keidanren members are aware of the skepticism, said Emiko Nagasawa, the program’s head of development goals, adding that the team needs to work harder to “assess progress and make results public.” .

Speaking after the children’s event in Tokyo, Masaru Ihara, a manager with the travel agency Club Tourism International, said he’s seen many companies put development goal badges out of a greater sense of obligation. is not fit for purpose.

“People don’t wear it because they understand SDG. They are doing it as a symbolic gesture,” he said.

Likewise, many of the small restaurants and hotels that Mr. Ihara works for feel social pressure to align their businesses with their goals, even if they are unsure why or how.

But as more and more people learn about development goals, he believes the pin will move from fads to a symbol of real change. “It creates an atmosphere where people feel they have to do something,” he said.

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