Former Goldman VP Kathy Matsui fears ESG in Japan is still a ‘tick-and-tick exercise’

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According to former Goldman Sachs Japan Vice President Kathy Matsui, many companies and people in Japan still view ESG as a “tick-box exercise,” leading to instances of greenwashing.

“ESG is not just a compliance exercise,” Matsui said, speaking to Bloomberg Television. “I think a lot of companies, a lot of people still believe this is a box-ticking exercise, and so we’ve seen incidents of greenwashing here and there.”

Matsui is known for her “Womenomics” research which explores the economic benefits of encouraging greater participation of women in the workforce. After leaving his post at Goldman in 2020, Matsui launched a venture capital fund last year that aims to invest $150 million (16.5 billion yen) in sectors including healthcare, fintech, education and the environment.

While Prime Minister Fumio Kishida highlighted green investment as a key part of his government agenda and pledged to double existing funding for green technologies, Matsui said more needed to be done.

“Japan is very dependent on imported fossil fuels, but at the same time it has this very ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050,” Matsui said. “You can’t get there if you don’t invest in innovative technologies.”

On Japan’s energy imports, Matsui said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was causing headaches for Japanese companies.

“We have already seen companies in the automotive sector or in the technology sector stopping or withdrawing their presence in Russia for example,” Matsui said. “Japan is completely dependent on imports for its fuel supplies, these fossil fuel supplies, so it always has to tread that delicate balance between geopolitical considerations but also economic realities.”

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