Trend Report: Survey Shows Awareness of SDGs in Japan at 50%

Trend Report: Survey Shows Awareness of SDGs in Japan at 50%

If you like numbers and are curious about SDG awareness in Japan, this is a good place to start.  

According to a Rakuten Insight survey of 1,000 individuals, awareness of the UNs’ 17 sustainable development goals in Japan was at 50% among respondents. 

Rakuten Insight, Inc.'s nationwide survey was conducted on December 22–23, 2020, among 1,000 men and women aged 20-69. Results were published in January 2021. 

The survey measured awareness of keywords related to the UNs' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), daily consumption behaviors related to the SDGs, and interest in and experience with ethical consumption and sustainability. 

The SDGs are a set of 17 targets that were unanimously adopted at the United Nations Summit in September 2015 with the aim of achieving sustainable development by 2030. 

Image: United Nations blog, 17 sustainable development goals

Image: United Nations blog, 17 sustainable development goals

In Japan, understanding of the term "SDG" hovers at 50%

When respondents were asked about their awareness of the specific term "SDGs," the combined responses of "familiar with" and "have heard of" was 50.7%. 

Among other SDG-related keywords that respondents were asked about, the keyword with the highest recognition was ふるさと納税 "hometown tax payment" at 96.7%. 

Japan's hometown tax payment program aligns with Goal 11, related to developing sustainable cities and communities, and has become a popular method for offsetting one's taxes while donating to regions that the taxpayer specifies. 

Here’s a list of the recognition rate for SDG-related terms and keywords: 

  1. ふるさと納税 (hometown tax payment) 96.7%

  2. 気候変動 (climate change) 86.0%

  3. フードロス (food loss) 85.0%

  4. クリーンエネルギー (clean energy) 83.0%

  5. ジェンダー平等 (gender equality) 70.0%

  6. 2050年二酸化炭素排出実質ゼロ (zero carbon dioxide emissions in 2050) 68.8%

  7. SDGs 50.7%

  8. サステイナブル (sustainability) 50.3%

  9. フェアトレード  (fair trade) 50.3%

  10. エシカル消費  (ethical consumption) 24.5%

In Japan, high interest in health and welfare, eliminating poverty, and community development for livability

Among the 17 sustainable development goals, respondents reported the highest interest in "Health and Welfare for All" (52.1%), "Eliminating Poverty" (50.3%), and "Community Development for Livability" (47.9%). 

Top 10 SDGs based on levels of interest were as follows: 

  1. Health and welfare for all 52.1%

  2. Eliminating poverty 50.3%

  3. Community development for livability 47.9%

  4. Toilets and safe drinking water for all 46.5%

  5. Quality education for all 46.0%

  6. Eliminating hunger 45.9%

  7. Free and clean energy for all 45.9%

  8. Protecting earth's oceans 45.6%

  9. Peace between peoples and countries 42.9%

  10. Practical steps to combat climate change 42.9%

Ethical consumption scores low when evaluating items for purchase

When asked what respondents pay attention to when selecting an item to purchase, respondents selected the following:

  1. Price 77.3%

  2. Quality 66.3%

  3. Function 54.4%

  4. Convenience 45.7%

  5. Appearance 27.9%

  6. *Place of production 27.3%

  7. *Environmental friendliness 17.6%

  8. Newness 16.5%

  9. *Company that produces and operates the product 14.7%

  10. *Visibility of the producer and production process 12.4%

An asterisk (*) denotes ethical consumption markers. Of the answers selected, points that apply to ethical consumption received scores of less than 30%. 

Specifically, "place of production" at 27.3%, "environmental friendliness" at 17.6%, "company that produces and operates the product" at 14.7%, and "visibility of the producer and production process" at 12.4%. 

Conversely, women in their 50s and 60s selected "place of production" and "environmental friendliness" at a 10-point higher rate than the average, revealing ethical consumption behavior increases in certain age/gender segments of those surveyed.  

Image: Rakuten Insight, Inc., survey results for what respondents pay attention to when making purchase decisions

Image: Rakuten Insight, Inc., survey results for what respondents pay attention to when making purchase decisions 

Interestingly, when respondents were asked if they had ever experienced ethical consumption, over 70% affirmed they had some experience. Those with experience stated they had bought products produced locally, purchased products close to expiring, or supported businesses through Japan's hometown tax system. 

Other interesting breakdowns include the following:

  • Segmenting the answers reveals "paying taxes at home" (36.6%) was the most popular choice among males in their 30s, more than 10 percentage points higher than the average (24.5%). 

  • Women in their 30s selected "buying organic products" (36.7%), more than 17 points higher than the average (19.2%). 

  • Women in their 50s selected "buying products made in disaster-affected areas (to support disaster-affected areas)" (35.6%), more than 13 points higher than the average (22.6%).

Image: Rakuten Insight, Inc., survey results for ethical consumer actions undertaken by respondents

Image: Rakuten Insight, Inc., survey results for ethical consumer actions undertaken by respondents

Those who had never engaged in ethical consumption were asked why they had not. The most common answer was "I don't know much about it" (65.8%), followed by "Because I didn't know what ethical consumption was" (18.5%). 

Both answers suggesting that awareness of ethical consumption itself and understanding of specific actions are not sufficiently widespread in Japan. 


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