Fair Finance Japan: Help Your Bank Become More Ethical!

Some banks and pension funds have rules about what kind of companies they invest in. For example, ethical investment means the funds do not support companies involved in weapons manufacturing or environmental destruction. Human rights and labour rights are other issues that many people should urge their banks to support.

Since starting in 2009, a Dutch initiative has grown into an international campaign, Fair Finance Guide. Now, Japan also joins this great project, started by A Seed Japan, JACSES and PARC. They have carefully investigated five of Japan’s largest banks. Their new website (http://fairfinance.jp)* will help you compare their score on a range of issues.

For example, Mizuho Bank scores relatively high on transparency, but low on environmental issues like forestry protection. All five get “Zero” for their investments in armaments, except Mitsui Sumitomo Trust, that scored “One” which is still terrible. Resona scores worse than the others on climate change and food issues (including GMO and pesticides). No bank scored a perfect “Ten” any of the issues, as determined by Fair Finance Japan.

Fair Finance Guide Japan ethical bankingThere is clearly room for improvement. You can help by clicking on the links on the website. A message will be sent to Fair Finance Japan and then directly to the different banks. In Europe, reports about how banks invest in questionable corporations have led to the emergence of a large number of ethical pension funds, as people increasingly want their life savings to support good practices. I think this is a really good idea!

*Fair Finance Japan is supported by SIDA

(English version of Martin’s essay published in CUJ’s Shouhisha Report No. 1570)

Posted February 20th, 2015 in Corporate Responsibility

Documentary Film Event: Cowspiracy

We will hold an informal viewing of the groundbreaking documentary, Cowspiracy, at the CUJ office on March 11, 2015. The video is in English with Japanese subtitles. Start: 15:00.

About the film:

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ill. Yet it goes on, almost entirely unchallenged.

As Andersen approaches leaders in the environmental movement, he increasingly uncovers what appears to be an intentional refusal to discuss the issue of animal agriculture, while industry whistleblowers and watchdogs warn him of the risks to his freedom and even his life if he dares to persist. This shocking yet humorous documentary reveals the absolutely devastating environmental impact large-scale factory farming has on our planet, and offers a path to global sustainability for a growing population.

Cowspiracy video tokyo consumers union of japanYou can order your own copy of the film on the Cowspiracy website!

Date: March 11, 2015

Time: 15:00-17:00

Place: CUJ office, Nishi-Waseda, Tokyo

Posted February 20th, 2015 in Food

Symposium & Documentary Film Event: Globalism and the Commercialization of Life

Date: February 7, 2015 (Sat.)
Time: 13:30-16:00
Place: Tokyo Toshima Ward Labour Welfare Hall (10 min from JR Ikebukuro st.)
Fee: 500 Yen

We will screen Eggsploitation, a new documentary film about the infertility industry in the United States, which has grown to a multi-billion dollar business. Its main commodity is human eggs. In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government also wants to expand the life business and medical treatment sector. This includes efforts to spur research and development in new fields such as IPS cells, genetic diagnosis, and synthetic biology, that are running out of control. We are aiming to create a movement against this trend and invite everyone to participate.

Speaker: Amagasa Keisuke, CUJ

Produced by The Center for Bioethics and Culture, Eggsploitation spotlights the booming business of human eggs told through the tragic and revealing stories of real women who became involved and whose lives have been changed forever. The film’s Executive Producer, Director, and Writer, Jennifer Lahl is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, hospital administrator, and senior-level nursing management with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice.

The film will be shown in English with Japanese subtitles.

Posted January 21st, 2015 in Biotechnology

Japan’s Booming Tourism Industry Needs A Reality Check

To be a tourist in Japan can be both wonderful and frustrating at the same time. There is a lot to discover and many truly beautiful places to visit. For people who come to Japan for the first time, the delicious food is always one of the highlights, even if most menus are still only printed in Japanese. Oh well, sometimes sign language and a nice smile will save the day. And a little confusion can be a fun story to tell, at a later date.

However, the Japanese government seems hell-bent on further increasing the number of foreign tourists, without any concern for the real problems.

Popular places like Nara and Kyoto suffer from severely over-crowded roads. Even near the most famous temples and shrines, there are no efforts to ban cars and facilitate pedestrian safety. Last fall I was surprised to see thousands of visitors stand in line to get to see the illumination at Kiyomizu Temple, while taxis and even large coach buses were trying to reach the same spots on the narrow slopes. It wasn’t chaotic, but if an emergency had happened, there would have been no way for an ambulance or fire trucks to arrive.

Tokyo has the only proper tourist information center to cover all of Japan, located in a small office near Tokyo Station, and while their website is very good, most tourists prefer to use guidebooks written by foreigners. Smaller offices elsewhere are understaffed and can’t deal with all kinds of requests. For over 13 million foreign visitors arriving to Japan in 2014, that is clearly not enough. But the government seems hell-bent on counting heads (and revenue) rather than really considering the consequences.

Tourism is a service industry with very direct consumer issues. Hotels that don’t have non-smoking rooms, or restaurants with poor service, can ruin the experience of an expensive over-sea trip. For example, how are tourists supposed to know that there is almost no space for suitcases on the Shinkansen? Many promises are made that cannot be kept, but there seems to be nowhere to turn with legitimate complaints.

(English version of Martin’s essay published in CUJ’s Shouhisha Report No. 1569)

Posted January 21st, 2015 in CUJ Eco Nico

Japan Resources No 161

Happy holidays, and best wishes for the new year, from all of us at the office in Nishi-Waseda, Tokyo. Consumers Union of Japan participated in several international events, including the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD MOP7) meeting in Pyeongchang, South Korea, during 2014. We look forward to your support also in 2015, when we will step up our campaigns about food safety (the theme for the World Consumers Day on March 15, 2015 is “the right to healthy food”) and other urgent issues.

– Editors

Please download JR 161 (pdf file) August-December 2014

OP-ed Against TPP
Closing Statement by Civil Society at MOP7, 2014
GM Canola Contamination Cases in Japan (Side-event presentation at MOP7)
Impressions from the MOP7 in Pyeongchang, from the NGO Perspective
CBD Meeting at the House of Representatives, Tokyo

Posted December 24th, 2014 in Japan Resources