August 14, 2016 2:00 am JST

Government putting Japanese companies' environmental records online

TOKYO -- Japan's Environment Ministry, working with NTT Data, has developed an online database to allow users to easily browse how friendly listed companies are to the planet.

The database will start to offer information on about 200 companies, including Toyota Motor, Panasonic and Sony, perhaps by fall, sources said.

The ministry intends to make information on 800 companies on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange available for browsing in Japan and abroad by 2020.

The hope is that the database, in English and Japanese, will lure overseas investors, some of whom are starting to take into account how companies treat the environment.

The sources said the system is the world's first government-led effort to create a publicly available database on corporations' environmental policies. It is to complement corporate financial information available to anyone online on the Financial Services Agency's Edinet database, the sources said.

Information is being collected via a 300-question survey. Companies are to answer the questions by providing current data and targets in eight categories, such as greenhouse gas emissions, waste and water resource management, and anti-soil contamination measures.

Companies are also being asked to answer specific questions on how engaged they are in environmental management and how they cooperate with their trading partners in addressing environmental issues.

The database will be accessible via a dedicated website, and data will be downloadable so that spreadsheet comparisons can be made.

The sources said investors should be able to learn, say, what company leads its industry in trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The ministry will continue honing the database through March 2020. This will include improving the database's functionality, creating an easy-to-navigate web interface, and experimenting with and establishing rules of usage.

Investors are increasingly using environmental, social and corporate governance, or ESG, criteria in making investment decisions.

In one estimate, assets managed under these criteria are expected to grow to $30 trillion. This would represent some 60% of Europe's total invested assets and 30% of those in the U.S.

In Japan, the Government Pension Investment Fund has adopted an ESG approach.

(Nikkei)

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