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The minimalistic Japanese philosophy resonates with sustainable consumption

Sustainable fashion brands are booming in Japan

In Japan, there’s an ancient term repeated by grandma’s for generations: “Mottainai”, which means “too good to waste”. While its origins lie on Buddhist traditions, the Mottainai philosophy relates to many aspects of Japanese culture: it carries the message that every object has an inherent value and that should be taken care of until the end of its lifespam. It resonates with the culture of respect and care that is cherished by Japanese tradition, but it also answers to the demands of our modern society for a more sustainable economy.

While there’s a global outcry for more ethical and environmental-friendly practices in fashion, beauty and leisure, the concept of fast and disposable goods has become obsolete. In this context, many sustainable start-up brands have come to light to show there’s a way to be socially and environmentally responsible while making profits – a trend that has inspired even giant chains.

This trend is represented by pioneer brands like People Tree, which has started to work with sustainable fashion more than 25 years ago, sourcing from local producers, garment workers and artisans in developing countries to produce ethical and eco-conscious clothing, and also by modern businesses likemStudio Membrane, which uses biodegradable fabrics to create clothing that resemble art.

MUJI store in Canada

Even cosmetics and beauty brands that are known for using ancient and natural ingredients have become valued and demanded, and not only by Asian consumers. European and American clients are increasingly interested in their sustainable packaging and organic formulas. 

It all helped Japanese brands to conquer Western markets, eager for products that are both innovative and eco-friendly. As of 2017, Japanese fashion chain Muji created its first sustainable collections, which use organic cotton and other sustainable materials. Since then, Muji has grown exponentially in Europe and has now more than 57 stores in the continent. Another Japanese fashion brand, Uniqlo has expanded in Europe by promoting its minimalistic, sustainable style, which includes recycling initiatives, reducing plastics and promoting ethical work.

Although these brands are seen as “trendy” and modern, many of them have worked under the traditional Mottainai philosophy. For generations, children are taught to not being wasteful and to respect the environment. One of the latest Netflix phenomena, the Japanese personal organizer Marie Kondo, is known for her minimalistic approach of things, which goes in the opposite direction of mindless consumerism.

As fast-fashion becomes an obsolete concept, the 3R motto (reduce, reuse, recycle) is starting to make sense for more consumers – or, as Mottainai grandma used to say in Japanese children’s books: “don’t waste!”.

Want to know more about Japan, the host country of SIGEF 2019? Follow our posts on Horyou blog.

SIGEF 2019 will take place in Tokyo on 18-19 September

Wind and solar power generation in rural Japan

Eight years ago, the Fukushima nuclear disaster left an unimaginable trail of destruction in Japan and with a raging controversy over its nuclear energy on which it is highly dependent. Owing to the closure of many plants, the country significantly increased its energy imports and started to face the uncomfortable situation of being too dependent on fossil fuels coming from overseas. As the prices of energy soared and investments in renewable energy took a slow pace, the government started to set up a strategy for sustainable energy.

If there is ever a positive outcome from disasters, the Fukushima case which has resulted in the development of a plan to attract new, clean and secure alternative sources to Japan, stands as a good example. A year ago, still suffering from the consequences of the nuclear accident, the Japanese government announced a Strategic Energy Plan which set the goal to increase self-sufficient energy rate from 8% in 2016 to 24% in 2030.

With this plan, renewable energy will be pivotal. Knowing that the Paris Agreement commitments made by Japan limit the consumption of fossil fuels, the government will support other renewable sources, along with energy-saving programs, including solar and wind power. Large scale solar is still costly and unstable and the government is pushing for more technological innovation to turn it into a feasible alternative. Wind power is less expensive, but is not ideal in some regions of Japan, as the windiest regions are far away from the most energy-consuming territories, which would require the building of transmission lines and storage batteries.

While Japan invests in more sustainable options, fossil fuels and nuclear plants will still be part of the country’s energy mix. However, the plan stated that the government will promote efficiency and new generation power plants to minimize the environmental load in the long-run. The energy market was liberalized in 2016, when the government wanted to implement reforms that would not only enable better integration of renewable power generation but also an effective supply and demand ratio.

The next phase of the plan will take place in 2020 – power sector reforms and regulation will be implemented to make the energy market more open, competitive and supportive of renewable energy companies.

Want to know more about Japan, the host country of SIGEF 2019? Follow our posts on Horyou blog.

SIGEF 2019 will take place in Tokyo on 18-19 September.

Known for its ageing population as well as its disruptive technology, Japan is compelled to invest in MedTech

MedTech is a promising revolution in Japan

With a quarter of its nationals over 65 years old, Japan’s is the oldest world population; hence, the resulting demographic gap is a constant preoccupation for its government, as birth rates are steadily low and immigration is difficult due to cultural and administrative barriers. The ‘generational’ challenge has reached a key level: while in the foreseeable future a growing number of elderly people will require more care, there will just not be enough caretakers.

As the healthcare system is facing ever-stronger financial and social pressure, the development of innovative MedTech alternative solutions is critical to address the issue. Which is why research in fields including artificial intelligence and virtual reality is topping the priority list of innovators, as well as corporations and investors.

According to a recent McKinsey report, MedTech may not only help solve healthcare problems but also induce more competitivity and productivity in the country. After all, Japan is the third largest medical device producer globally, though it is still struggling to be among the most innovative technology-driven ones. Capital is available – Japanese companies hold an estimated US$ 2,4 trillion in cash, just waiting to find the right investment.

Over three-quarters of the top 20 largest companies in Japan are already investing or making acquisitions in the sector. In the last few years, alongside the major automotive industry giants, blue chip corporations including Canon, Konica and Nikon have invested billions in healthcare technology.

While the market has been moving, other stakeholders are pushing forward their Research and Development policies in order to build resources for the upcoming MedTech revolution. Initiatives like Japan Biodesign, a medtech fellowship program which gather universities to support aspiring innovators, and the Japan Organization for Medical Device Development (JOMDD), a private venture firm and incubator focused in medtech projects, are only two examples of the efforts that many actors are now putting into the sector.

Yet, there are some challenges the MedTech revolution has to overcome before it turns into reality. Most importantly, Japan, where failure is not an option, must significantly foster and stimulate entrepreneurial spirit, without which no new business can survive and succeed.

MedTech is one of the main topics of discussion at SIGEF, the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum, which will take place in Tokyo on 18-19 September, 2019. Want to know more about this game changing event? Click here to register!

The Japanese Capital supports startups, public policies and innovative ideas to help solve the transportation challenge

Each day, 20 million commuters leave their houses to go to work in one of the trains of Tokyo’s metropolitan area. The figure is impressive, and it represents only a part of the challenge that the city, which is home to more than 13 million people, is facing. Yet, Tokyo also has one of the most efficient and innovative transportation systems in the world, which places it in the smart cities’ Olympus.

Thus not surprisingly, Tokyo will be hosting the Summer Olympic Games next year, and the Japanese authorities are making important efforts to improve intramuros mobility. Since planning is key, a few years ago the government started to stimulate and support innovative projects which would bring greener and smarter solutions to that particular challenge.

The results are already showing: projects like “Condition-Based Maintenance” use Internet of Things (IoT) technology to collect and analyze data pertaining to the Yamanote Line, one of the busiest train rings in Tokyo, in order to forecast failures and identify weaknesses, and hence to reduce the need for maintenance closures. The city has also set a bold objective in terms of the environmental impact of its transportation system: bring down carbon dioxide emissions to 25 percent by next year.

The entrepreneurial landscape is also bustling in Tokyo, as projects like autonomous driving, transportation apps and shared mobility start to flourish. Even private companies from traditional industries like Mori, an urban developer based in Tokyo, are investing in on-demand transit technologies for its employees. By using a mobile app which calculates and optimizes commuting routes, they can share cars and give rides.

A recent McKinsey report has calculated that the taxi market alone accounts for more than USD$17 billion, which has attracted companies like Uber but also caught the attention of other investors. Last year, the city’s first autonomous taxi was launched as a pilot project, which is intended to be fully operative during the Olympic Games. Financed by the metropolitan government, the project is projected to be affordable and safe with sensor-equipped vehicles that operate in full autonomy while a driver is at the wheel to attend to emergencies.

Smart transportation is one of the major investments in Japan, as the country faces a series of demographic and economic shifts, requiring new solutions and regulations. Air mobility is another one. Japan is an insulated country with restricted land mobility. Via its Future 2018 Investment Strategy, the Japanese government has set up a roadmap for the development of flying vehicles, which has already attracted several startups and innovative minds.

Are you interested in Smart Technology, Mobility and Smart Cities? Register for SIGEF, the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum, which will be held in Tokyo on 18-19 September 2019. Experts, officials and entrepreneurs from all over the world will discuss new trends in transportation and disruptive technologies for the future of our cities.

Venture capital is looking more into your company’s sustainability performance

Impact investing: money with purpose

Sustainability in general, and The UN Sustainable Development Goals in particular, make for good business. And some investors have recognized that for quite some time – since 2004, to be precise. When the UN started conversations with a number of global stock exchange operators, corporate social responsibility hit the radars of listed corporations. In 2012, Nasdaq (USA), B3 (Brazil), Johannesburg Stock Exchange (South Africa), Borsa Istanbul (Turkey) and The Egyptian Exchange made a public commitment to advance sustainability in their markets. It was the first step in the Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative (SSE), a UN-led global movement which now counts more than 80 members from all continents.

In the past few years, the SDGs have boosted the discussion on corporate sustainability and the role of companies in building a better business culture with a stronger positive impact on society. More importantly, the SDGs were eventually adopted by many companies to be an integral part of their sustainability plans as a major performance target. Since then, a number of studies have related SDGs to business performance, proving that gender equality, investments on education and fair wages lead to a more competitive society and, thus, to more sustainable businesses.

More recently, venture capitalists have been looking more closely into sustainability practices before deciding which companies to invest in. With the help of UN agencies, Social venture funds and social impact-driven investors networks were set up to prompt companies into improving their CSR practices while pursuing their profit-making operations. The recently launched UNDP SDG Impact program is a good example of how to channel private investment and capital to meet the SDGs, via providing funders with roadmaps and data on the best investment plans.

Initiatives like HoryouToken are also a worthwhile alternative for all investors to consider, from big corporations to private investors, owing to its Blockchain technology which provides transparency and traceability with proof of impact, resonating with the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainability is now. It’s profitable, it can help change the world and build better times for all.

The Asia Pacific Summit takes place in Singapore and will discuss the developments and trends of the Blockchain Financial Industry

Chain Plus will take place in Singapore from 11-12th April

What do top investment institutions, start-ups, traditional financial giants and disruptive entrepreneurs have in common? They all are looking at Blockchain finance. The financial industry is most likely the first area where Blockchain will be widely used, according to the Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Butarin. It has developed many purposes and today, it can have even a social impact. One example is the recently launched HoryouToken, the ‘Blockchain with a Purpose’ which supports and promotes social and economic inclusion.

2019 Chain Plus Asia Pacific Blockchain New Finance Summit, which will be held in Singapore on April 11th-12th, intends to discuss the main advances of the Blockchain Finance and uncover the new trends in the industry. Speakers on Chain Plus will include: Piotr Jan Pietrzak, chief innovation officer at ING, the world’s 11th largest asset manager; Zhukuang Lee, head of product innovation at Standard Chartered Bank, Kelvin Tan, head of capital market innovation & technology operations department of DBS bank, the largest commercial bank in Singapore and Andrew Pudovikov, software development engineer at the blockchain laboratory of Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned commercial bank.

In addition to big banks and investment institutions, cryptocurrency exchanges, venture capital firms and government officials will also attend, as it covers almost the entire ecosystem of Blockchain. Global leaders from around the world will attend to discuss and present various topics about the Blockchain industry, cryptocurrency, decentralized networks and finance. Attendees will gain a wealth of insights and information about the state of the Blockchain industry through discussion and networking parties.

Horyou is pleased to act as a media partner of the Chain Plus Asia Pacific Blockchain New Finance Summit. As a gift to our community, all Horyou members can profit from a free ticket – apply for it using the promotional code TBGC0314 at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2019-chain-plus-asia-pacific-blockchain-new-finance-summitsingapore-tickets-55261439453

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