Photo/IllutrationConstruction continues on the new National Stadium that will be a key venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. (Satoru Semba)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Editor’s note: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations in September 2015 outlines 17 goals toward which nations of the world should work on and seek a solution.

These sustainable development goals (SDGs) include achieving gender equality, ending poverty in all forms and taking action to combat climate change.

The Asahi Shimbun supports the global effort to achieve these SDGs and has reported on efforts being made in Japan and abroad toward those goals.

The following is one in a series of articles on SDGs to appear on the AJW website.

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Japan can put its money where its mouth is in terms of achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) in preparing for and managing the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Standards are already in place with regard to buying construction materials and food products. Other guidelines are due to be established in the lead-up to the Games in two years time, but critics are already griping that some of them may be too lax.

When it comes to materials used for construction, companies have been asked to give serious consideration to the environment and rights of those who live in the regions where the lumber and other items originate before purchasing.

For example, the plywood in frames used for concrete molds to lay the foundations of the new National Stadium include some from a company that has been accused of causing problems for native tribes in Malaysia's Sarawak state due to its destructive deforestation practices in tropical forests there.

In meetings hosted by the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, experts and scholars have panned procurement standards, saying they are more lax than for previous Olympics.

"If nothing else, we want to leave behind at least one good single measure that would serve as a catalyst to change society beyond 2020," said a high-ranking committee member.

The International Olympic Committee has asked Japan to consider the U.N.'s SDGs decided on in 2015.

The Tokyo Games will be the first opportunity to showcase the inclusion of such SDGs from the period when preparations are being made.

The organizing committee has also established standards for purchasing food products to be used at the athletes' village and to be sold at the various venues to spectators.

For example, the standards for farm products require that consideration be given to the environment and biodiversity, while those for seafood ask that steps be taken to reduce fishing practices that end up catching unwanted small fish.

An outside agency is to certify which products meet those standards after examining the measures used by the companies seeking to sell the products.

This is a fairly new field for Japan, which has few agencies able to do this in comparison to Western nations. The body that is chosen will have to assess whether adequate consideration has been given to preserving natural resources and protecting biodiversity. For that reason, the procurement standards also allow for the use of products that may not have been certified by such agencies.

Despite those difficulties, the organizing committee is planning to put together another plan by June that would cover sustainability during the period the Games are held.

One goal would be to seek a carbon-free Olympics through increased dependence on renewable energy sources and using carbon emission trading to in effect cut carbon dioxide emissions to zero.

That would be in line with the U.N. SDGs that ask for urgent action to combat climate change and its impact.

The plan will also include measures to promote recycling, ban long work hours and protect human rights.

(This article was written by Daisuke Maeda and Akemi Kanda.)