Editor’s note: The United Nations adopted 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) in 2015 and urged all its member countries to make efforts to achieve them by 2030.

The 17 include “no poverty,” “zero hunger,” “good health and well-being, “quality education,” “gender equality” and “climate action.”

Then, how should companies introduce those goals in their businesses?

The Asahi Shimbun interviewed 10 top executives of companies belonging to the Global Compact Network Japan (GCNJ), which mainly consists of firms supporting SDGs.

The following is the second of the series. The interviewee is Koji Fujiwara, chairman of the Japanese Bankers Association and president of Mizuho Bank.

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Japanese managers are growing increasingly aware of the importance of achieving the sustainable development goals.

I meet top executives of our business partners almost daily, and the topic of the SDGs has come up regularly at our meetings for the past six months or so.

The role that banks are expected to play in today’s society is to help resolve social issues, including environmental issues and human rights issues, through their core operations: making investments and providing loans.

In March, the Japanese Bankers Association, the banking industry group, revised the Code of Conduct to reflect the philosophy of the SDGs. The revision is intended to spur bank employees to reform their consciousness and actions so that the banking industry will contribute to efforts to achieve a sustainable society.

In the past, banks tended to pay attention to environmental or social issues only when they were directly linked to their businesses.

But we are living in an age where banks will be held accountable for problems that our business partners or recipients of our loans might cause.

One example is that the question has been raised about how the banking industry should approach investment in and loans to coal-fired power generation facilities, which emit a large amount of carbon dioxide.

Leading financial institutions in Europe set their guidelines for investing in and lending to coal-fired thermal power facilities. The guidelines spell out how much they will invest in and lend to renewable energy projects in the future, declaring their commitment to steer discussions in renewables.

Their approach can be described as a pioneering endeavor.

In Japan, the three mega-banks--Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Mizuho Financial Group--announced their own policies toward coal-fired power generation facilities during the current fiscal year.

That amounts to a testimony to increasing momentum for and interest in the SDGs, exceeding the level it was initially anticipated, as calls are growing for specific steps to cope with climate change.

In Japan, however, we face a challenge of how to protect the environment and contribute to conservation efforts while ensuring a stable energy supply. There has been persistent opposition to the restart of nuclear reactors.

Mizuho Bank is set to review its investment and loan policy annually.

Trying to raise earnings and contribute to the solution of social issues at the same time will not be an either-or situation.

If a business can build trust in society as a company heeding human rights and environmental issues, that will lead to its successful branding and open the door to future business opportunities.

This positive cycle will prove essential for businesses to achieve sustainable growth.

In the current network society where information is disseminated instantly and globally, businesses are expected to demonstrate a high degree of transparency in their management.

That has prompted businesses to operate while giving consideration to human rights and environmental issues.

The SDGs are a trend that cannot be reversed and are becoming a new business rule.

(This article is based on an interview by Asahi Shimbun Staff Writer Ken Sakakibara.)

TASK FORCE SET UP AT JBA TO PROMOTE SDGs

The Japanese Bankers Association (JBA), a group of about 190 banks in Japan, specified the role they are expected to play in creating a sustainable society and resolving social issues under the Code of Conduct revised in March.

It also set up a task force inside the JBA to promote the SDGs. The task force will study financial institutions in Japan and overseas to collect examples illustrating excellent investment and loan policies with respect to environmental and human rights issues and share the findings among member banks.