The third annual International Symposium on Sustainability held recently in Tokyo brought together more than 20 corporate executives and academics to speak on the growing relationship between brand value and a corporation’s dedication to sustainable products and programs.
Symposium speakers included Andrea Boragno, chairman and CEO of Alcantara; Toru Saito, president of Audi Japan; Dr. Satoshi Nagashima, managing partner for Roland Berger in Japan; Masahito Namiki, chief strategy officer for Interbrand in Japan, and Dr. Fabrizio Ferraro, professor of Strategic Management, IESE Business School.
“We believe that it is the duty and responsibility of a company’s senior management to find ways to include sustainability as a core corporate value, overcoming the idea that sustainability is merely a business cost,” Alcantara’s Boragno said. “We also need to support the growth of sustainability overall, not simply as something that will contribute to brand value.”
Boragno pointed out that presentations at the symposium showed that customers increasingly are willing to pay more for products coming from sustainable companies. Roland Berger’s Satoshi Nagashima, for example, noted that seven out of 10 millennials in the U.S. consider themselves to be social activists.
CSR or corporate sustainability responsibility is a new religion for younger adults, according to Nagashima, who added that 75 percent of consumers today take CSR into account when making a purchase.
Investors also consider external factors such as sustainability when making investment decisions. Fabrizio Ferraro, based in Spain with the IESE Business School, reported that analysis shows socially and environmentally responsible companies are less affected by market fluctuations.
Toru Saito, president of Audi Japan, explained that Audi’s commitment to sustainability is a key part of the company’s global strategic plan, noting that “at Audi we regard ecological success and economic action as inseparable. Sustainability is more than just CO2 emissions.”
Interbrand’s Masahito Namiki said a very recent survey showed that 41 percent of the world’s top managers consider sustainability to be a critical issue for the future. Despite those findings, the Interbrand executive added that there still is a significant gap between perception and real action in adopting sustainable behavior.
Alcantara organized and promoted the Tokyo symposium in partnership with Nikkei, VIU (Venice International University) and the Waseda University of Tokyo with support from the Society of Global Business.