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Research Report on Trends in Environmental Considerations related to Overseas Activities of Japanese Companies

A large number of Japanese companies have a presence in Southeast Asia and have built thriving businesses in the region.

On the other hand, as a legacy of its rapid economic growth, Southeast Asia is beset by serious environmental problems.Although the region is now beginning to address these issues by industrial pollution controls and other initiatives, measures are still inadequate due to the lack of financial and human resources, as well as technical expertise and experience.

Japanese companies, having overcome severe industrial pollution problems in the past on their home turf, and with greater financial backing and technical capacity than locally financed companies, are expected to play a leading role in promoting industrial pollution controls in Southeast Asia through the implementation of innovative environmental management techniques.Within Japan, too, there is mounting public pressure for Japanese companies to behave responsibly in regard to the environment of the foreign countries in which they operate.

Against this backdrop, in 1995, Global Environmental Forum, under commission by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan, conducted a questionnaire survey on the measures being taken by Japanese companies to protect the environment in the four Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia.Many of the respondents expressed their wishes for the government of Japan to supply information, in the form of a handbook or guide, about environmental issues of the countries in which they operate, to assist them in carrying out more substantial environmental measures.There was also a demand for the preparation of corporate case studies describing the types of innovative environmental practices.

Following these requests, the Ministry of the Environment in 1996 initiated a research on trends in environmental considerations related to overseas activities of Japanese companies.The research aimed at collecting information and examples useful in encouraging Japanese companies to implement environmental measures in the countries in which they operate.The results were published as research reports; the Philippines edition in 1996, the Indonesia edition in 1997, and Thailand edition in 1998.In FY 1999 we are planning to do the same kind of survey on the Japanese companies in Malaysia.