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Survey of Sustainability Awareness among Individuals in Japan
Published : Dec 28, 2021 ESG

Survey of Sustainability Awareness among Individuals in Japan



  • Interest in SDGs and global warming among people in their 20s is relatively low. When broken down by generation, the highest percentage of respondents “did not know” SDGs when asked.
  • People who prioritize ESG over profit (return) are concerned about social issues such as human rights.
  • Rate of recognition of ESG investment is low at less than 20%. Information on matters such as relevance to returns is insufficient.


ESG investment, which determines the sustainability and profitability of a company’s business based on information about its environmental (E), social (S) and corporate governance (G) performance, is expanding. In light of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), QUICK ESG Research Center conducted a survey of awareness toward ESG investment and ethical consumption by generation. Currently, ESG investment is not widespread in Japan, but promoting corporate disclosure and increasing the amount of information that can be used in investment decisions are considered necessary to increase investor interest.


■ Variation among Generations in SDGs Goals They Consider Most Important
When asked to choose one of the 17 SDGs Goals proposed by the United Nations that they consider most important, Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) was selected within the top two for all generations, and Goal 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) was also selected within the top four. On the other hand, Goal 13 (Climate Action) ranked in the top three among the over 40s, while Goal 1 (No Poverty) ranked in the top two among the under 40s. In addition, there was variation among generations, with those in their 20s and 30s placing Goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), Goal 10 (Reduced Inequalities), and Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) at the top of the list.


■ Interest in SDGs and Global Warming among People in Their 20s Is Relatively Low
Overall, 18.6% of respondents answered that they had never heard of SDGs or did not know about them. By generation, those in their 20s accounted for the highest percentage at 23.1%. 52.9% of all respondents answered that the effects of global warming are already occurring, and the percentage of those who answered as such to this question increased as the generation of the respondents became older. On the other hand, 37.5% of respondents in their 20s recognized that the effects of global warming had not yet occurred, higher than the 35.6% who said it was already occurring now.


■ Low Recognition of ESG Investment and Insufficient Information on Its Relevance to Returns
3.1% of respondents were already investing in ESG. Even including those who answered that they had heard of it, the recognition rate of ESG investment was 17.7%. 39.1% of all respondents said they would like to make ESG investments in the future. Of those interested in ESG investment, 56.2% cited “because I want to do something good for the environment and society” and “because I don’t want my money to be used for something bad” as reasons, while only 15.6% cited the fact that it would lead to returns.


Among those who are not interested in ESG investment, 37.6% said that they do not understand the relevance to their returns, and 25.2% said that they cannot make a decision due to the lack of ESG information on financial products, indicating that in short they do not have enough information to make an investment decision.


■ People Who Prioritize ESG over Investment Returns Are Concerned about Human Rights and Other Social Issues
When broken down by sustainability issue, human rights ranked first in the “ESG investment preference group,” which prioritizes ESG over investment returns. By gender and generation, both men and women in their 20s were interested in biodiversity, but both man and women in their 30s and 50s were interested in social issues with human rights ranking first.


In the “ESG investment consideration group,” which considers ESG factors depending on returns, mainly environment-related issues ranked top, with water ranking first, followed by forests and biodiversity. By gender and generation, the top 1-3 rankings for men in their 30s and older and the top rankings for women in their 20s-60s were all environmental issues.


■ 20% of All Respondents Pay a Premium for Addressing Sustainability Issues
The percentage of the “advanced ethical consumption group” that pays a premium for a company’s commitment to sustainability issues was 20.4%. By generation, those in their 70s had the highest rate at 23.2%, followed by those in their 20s (22.3%), and those in their 50s had the lowest rate, confirming the same gradual “less-than sign” type trend as in investment.


On average, 47.8% of the respondents in the “ethical consumption-consideration group” said they would choose a company that “makes efforts if the price is the same” and that they would consider sustainability to a certain extent when making a purchase, with those in their 70s accounting for the highest percentage at 61.1% and the rate declining as the generation became younger. On the other hand, those in their 20s (41.5%) were also the most likely to have a weak interest in ethical consumption (“I buy the cheapest regardless of initiatives” or “I don’t think about such things”).


■ Women Who Pay a Premium for Addressing Sustainability Issues Are Interested in Biodiversity
In the “advanced ethical consumption group” that pays a premium for companies’ efforts on sustainability issues, for respondents in their 50s and older, women were more likely to choose environmental issues than men. Women were more interested in biodiversity, ranking first among those in their 20s and 30s, and second among those in their 40s, 50s and 70s.


In the “ethical consumption-consideration group,” which answered that they would choose a company that “makes efforts if the price is the same” and that they would consider sustainability to a certain extent when making a purchase, social issues were more prevalent among men in their 20s to 40s, and environmental issues were more prevalent among men in their 50s to 60s, reversing the trend of the advanced group. Social issues also topped the list for women across all generations.


<Method of survey>
Nikkei Research, which was commissioned to conduct the survey, recruited registered monitors so that each group ranging in age from their 20s to 70s in 10-year increments would have 250 or more monitors of both man and woman, and received their responses through a questionnaire form on its website. The survey was conducted from July 16 to July 20, 2021, and 3056 respondents (33 of whom did not give their gender) responded to the survey.




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