February 11, 2014


JFS Survey Provides Insights about Global Readership of CSR Reports by Japanese Corporations

Keywords: Eco-business / Social Venture Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.137 (January 2014)

globe イメージ画像: Photo by *ami.

As part of its activities to disseminate information about sustainability efforts and achievements in Japan, JFS has created a webpage with a list of links to English language corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability reports published by Japanese corporations. The current emphasis of this page is JFS' supporting and partner organizations. As a service, JFS also provides suggestions and advice on how they can communicate more effectively and spread their information globally.

To measure the extent to which Japanese CSR information actually reaches the global audience, we conducted our own survey asking JFS subscribers a series of questions on sustainability reports by Japanese corporations. Besides gauging readership, we also wanted to identify issues and ways Japanese companies could improve the reports by listening to the international viewpoint.

We sent notice of the survey to our network of subscribers and contacts, and received 76 valid responses, which are analyzed below.

To those who participated in the survey, we would like to express our appreciation for your cooperation.

Below is a translation of the Japanese press release about the survey result.


JFS Announces Results of Overseas Readership of CSR/Sustainability Reports by Japanese Corporations

Japan for Sustainability (JFS), an environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) disseminating environmental and CSR information from Japan to the world, announced the results of a global online survey on sustainability reports by Japanese corporations. According to the survey, among respondents who regularly read corporate annual reports, 30 percent answered they had read a sustainability report published specifically by a Japanese firm.

Among its many activities, JFS also provides assistance to Japanese companies to create value and enhance and visibility through effective communication and information transmission globally. One service is publishing a webpage on the JFS website listing links to English versions of sustainability reports by companies who are JFS supporters and partners. JFS Newsletters are sent monthly to about 7,700 subscribers, including national governments, international bodies, experts, media, research institutes, corporations, educational institutions, and NGOs in 184 countries and regions around the world.

From October to December 2013, JFS carried out an online questionnaire survey about readership of corporate sustainability reports. The link to the survey was sent to JFS newsletter subscribers as well as an extensive network of people in the field of sustainability. Our aim was to gather information as feedback for CSR activities by Japanese corporations, in order to improve their reporting and gain more recognition globally. JFS designed the survey questions to see the percentage of respondents who read sustainability reports by Japanese corporations, and the evaluations by those readers. The survey garnered a total of 80 responses (of which 76 were valid) from people who have utilized CSR reports in recent years.

A variety of respondents participated in the survey, including people from academia (37%), industry (16%), NGOs (14%), and governments (11%). Regionally, they were from Europe (38%), North America (25%), and Asia (21%). Over 30% of them said that they read more than 10 CSR reports annually. About two-thirds of them read more than five reports annually, and the median number of reports read annually by respondents was 7.5.

The reasons given for reading CSR reports (multiple answers allowed) were to evaluate the effectiveness, impact, or quality of a corporation's sustainability efforts (65%); to evaluate the degree of a corporation's efforts or contributions regarding a specific issue or challenge (44%); for academic research/studies/survey purposes (53%); to evaluate the quality of reporting for awards/nominations (23%); to check the performance of specific corporations before making decisions on investment and funding/financing (20%); and to check the quality of products and services in order to make a purchase or choose a supplier (20%).

To the survey question, "Have you ever read a sustainability report by a Japanese corporation?" 52 out of 76 respondents (68%) answered "No," revealing that the efforts of Japanese corporations publishing CSR reports in English have not gained as much attention among the global audience that they expected.

JFS asked the respondents to name the companies whose CSR reports they had read, and they listed a total of 34 companies. Toyota had the most readers (six respondents) followed by six companies including Sony (two respondents each), and another 27 companies, each of which was listed by one respondent.

Regarding how they obtained the sustainability report(s) or web links to them, at least 76% said they accessed the information via the Internet, while 16% had contacted the companies directly, and another 16% used Internet portals regarding sustainability reports, etc.

When asked about the quality of the reports they read, the 25 respondents who said they had read them gave varied responses, because each respondent read the report(s) of different corporations. About one-third rated them positively, while one-fourth assessed them negatively, and one-third pointed out both pros and cons.

Among the negative points listed were lack of transparency and credibility due to green-washing and advertising only parts of what they have done; insufficient and one-sided reporting focusing on domestic and environmental issues compared to social, economic, and global perspectives; and insufficient accountability about reporting achievements with specific target areas to attain goals.

Reviewing the results, Junko Edahiro, JFS's chief executive and president of the Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society, commented: "Sustainability reports are gaining attention from investors around the world, including from Wall Street, as this information is increasingly linked to the corporate bottom line. And the number of companies publishing sustainability reports is growing rapidly in the U.S., where the trend was initially slower to begin. For Japanese companies that want to expand their business and raise funds globally, it is necessary to disseminate their CSR efforts properly to the world, and have them recognized and evaluated. Despite the efforts of many companies to publish a sustainability report in English and develop various CSR activities, it is disappointing that the presence of a sustainability report itself is not yet that well known by report readers around the world. I would expect corporate value to develop by expanding the scope and inclusiveness of reporting, and improving quality through stakeholder engagement and third-party opinions to gain trust, as well as by making the availability of these sustainability reports and their contents more widely known to readers who have an interest in the environment and CSR activities."

JFS will share its research data and comments collected from this survey with its supporting and partner organizations, help conduct more effective outreach to the world, and call for many more companies to utilize its global communications channel, built up through ten years of activity as a network with opinion leaders in 184 countries and regions. In addition, by reflecting on the survey results, JFS will help Japanese corporations improve their corporate value globally by offering seminars and consulting services to improve CSR activities and environmental communication in this global business field.


Through this survey, at the same time, many encouraging comments were received about JFS's webpage linking to the sustainability reports of its supporting and partner organizations: "It is useful." "I like it very much. I can access many related reports from this one useful page." "This website is an excellent information source. I will definitely use it." "The updated reports seem very interesting to read." "It is useful because I can get several companies' information at one time." "I want to introduce this website to others."

JFS will make further improvements to the webpage and invite more companies to convey information through our channel.

We invite readers and supporters to use our webpage with links to the sustainability reports (in English) of Japanese companies, and invite you also to spread the word to others who may be interested.

JFS seminor

Written by Junko Edahiro