Kawamura Takashi is famous in Japan for being instrumental in turning Hitachi round after its largest ever loss in 2009. He has just finished 3 years as chairman of TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power). Nikkei Business asked for his view on the Japanese government goal of achieving zero carbon by 2050. While more diplomatic than Mr Kobayashi of Mitsubishi Chemical, he points out that country level goals need to be translated into industry based goals, and this cannot be left up to individual companies. Government, electric power companies, manufacturers and citizens will have to unite to do this, he says.
This could apply to Japanese companies in Europe as well in our opinion. There is more scope for Europeans working in Japanese companies to network with each other to collaborate to achieve sustainable development goals, and not just leave it up to the Japanese exaptriates.
Kawamura points out that it’s tough for each company to go it alone. Equipment around the world for companies such as steel manufacturers will become obsolete if they were to switch away from current product methods. Chemical companies could no longer make plastic from petroleum but artificial photosynthesis has been worked on for decades and is still unsuccessful.
“But if it cannot be done, the earth will be destroyed first”. It may seem that the solution is for Japan to “choose the path of returning to the lifestyle of the Edo period (1603-1868) living quietly with a small population” but Kawamura thinks this is not a responsible thing to do when Japan has the third largest GDP in the world.
Hydrogen can be one solution but the problem is making it. It can be made from water with nuclear power but of course this is controversial. There are few regions in Japan where the efficiency of generation of renewable power is high enough to make hydrogen however. So it might be necessary to find methods of producing hydrogen from overseas renewable energy power generation and transporting it to Japan for distribution as energy.
Kawamura says Japanese business leaders are too emotional. They cannot cut business lines which have been developed in their companies over the years, so end up having to bring in foreign executives to do it. “It’s a lie that Japanese can’t do it. Japanese companies don’t want to make calm decisions based on economic rationality, but Japanese really should do this for themselves.”
Asked if he will stay on another 3 years at TEPCO to help with zero carbon he says that at 81 he is too old and he is wanting to do things that give him ikigai (a reason for living outside of work – see our Japan Intercultural Consulting video on this) such as taking his time to read books, which he said he could not do when he was an executive.
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