Aptly Titled, a Great Book to Read About “Whither Japan?”

This being New Year’s Day, I will recommend one book to read in 2024 to learn about not only about the challenges that Japan faces, but how the country is evolving to cope with them (and even thrive) in the global economy.  Richard hits the nail on the head in many ways, but to summarize a major theme;  if Japan is to fare better during next 15years than its past 25 years would seem to indicate, it will not be because the business models and management thinking of  its large firms are simply updated.

METRICAL: Diversity Has To Be Strong

This month, we will focus on diversity again. This is because I believe that diversity raises the bottom line of a company. Diversity is deeply related to S and G of ESG, and it has a great impact on the transformation of a company’s culture. On the other hand, it seems that many Japanese companies are more keen on “E” than “S” and “G” in their ESG initiatives, because “E” is an area that is relatively easy to tackle for Japanese companies that have a successful experience of setting technical numerical targets such as CO2 emission targets and improving the technical level through bottom-up efforts led by engineers to eventually achieve high targets. Even in the S and G areas, it should be possible to set clear goals and set timeframes for improvement without setting numerical targets. In several articles on diversity, I have mentioned the importance of respect for human rights, or in other words, understanding diversity, in order to build an environment where everyone can live comfortably, whether in a company or a society where various people are involved. On Thursday, August 19, I attended the analyst meeting of Monogatari Corporation (3097), which is engaged in advanced diversity initiatives as mentioned in my previous article, to discuss its financial results for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, and I would like to update you on the company’s diversity initiatives.

Monogatari Corporation is one of the listed companies that is proactively working on diversity. As of June 2021, the company had 126 employees from 13 countries (10% of the total workforce), an increase from 105 employees from 11 countries (9.5% of the total workforce) as of December 2020. In the past six months, the number of store managers with international (foreign) nationality has increased significantly from 4 to 18. In addition, the company is also working to support the activities of LGBTQ employees, with training for all employees starting with basic knowledge and how to respond in the workplace and sharing the idea of understanding and supporting all sexualities. Also, the company has introduced a “Life Partnership System” that allows same-sex partners to receive the same treatment as legal marriages within the company. In Japan, where same-sex marriage is not yet legally recognized, this system allows LGBTQ employees to receive the same treatment as legally married couples in the company.

METRICAL:CG Stock Performance (Japan): July 2021

The CG Top 20 continued to outperform both the Topix and JPX400 indices in July. The change in the Bank of Japan’s ETF purchase program may have had an impact.

Topix and JPX400 indexes were down -2.12% and -2.52% respectively in July. The top CG rating score, CGTop20, was flat, but outperformed both indices for the 4th consecutive month.

Topix and JPX400 indexes were down -2.12% and -2.52% respectively in July. The top CG rating score, CGTop20, was flat, but outperformed both indices for the 4th consecutive month.
The table below shows the period from April 2020, when the stock market is recovering from last year’s plunge due to the rapid spread of COVID infection, to March 2021, when the Bank of Japan announced a change in its ETF purchase program, and the period (b) after April 2021. CG Top20 underperformed against both indices in period (a), while it outperformed in period (b). It is unclear whether this is due to the effect of asset inflation caused by ultra monetary easing triggered by the COVID pandemic or the change in the Bank of Japan’s ETF purchase program, but I suspect it is because the stock market has started to reflect certain fundamentals more clearly. The outperformance of the CG Top 20 stocks suggests that the market has begun to value higher quality stocks.

METRICAL: Why Are Scandals Repeated In the Same Company?

The topic of this year’s annual shareholders’ meeting was Toshiba again. As many of you may have heard, an external report revealed that “Toshiba and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry worked together to exert undue pressure on some of its shareholders over a personnel proposal by its largest shareholder, Effissimo Capital Management, which was rejected at the annual shareholders’ meeting last June. This led to the replacement of the proposal for the election of directors (proposed by the company) at the annual shareholders’ meeting, and the reappointment of the director who chairs the board of directors was rejected at the shareholders’ meeting. In the wake of the accounting scandal that broke in 2015, it was thought that Toshiba had revamped its governance structure, with 10 of its 11 directors now independent outside directors and the transition to a company with a nominating committee, but the scandal has struck again. In January this year, Toshiba IT Services, a subsidiary of Toshiba Corporation, was found to have window-dressed its accounts with fictitious transactions. In addition to Toshiba, Nissan Motor, Mitsubishi Motors, and other companies have been repeatedly involved in scandals in the past, hiding recalls and cheating on inspection data. Why are the scandals repeated?

Companies that have been involved in scandals often set up independent or internal investigation committees to investigate the scandal, and then report the findings to the relevant authorities so that they can be used to improve the situation in the future. Why are scandals repeated without being applied to future improvements? There is not much research on this subject (perhaps because there are few companies outside of Japan that cause repeated scandals?) I found the concept of “Groupthink” by Janis, Irving, Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes, 2nd edition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1982) helpful. Groupthink is the tendency to act in a way that maintains group cohesion and comfort rather than making calm and objective judgments, resulting in poor quality solutions and objectively strange decisions. Groupthink is more likely to occur under the following circumstances: (1) the group is highly cohesive and isolated from the outside world, (2) there is no checking of opinions or provision of information in the process of considering a case, (3) there is a strong leader or influential person, and (4) there is excessive control, lack of time, and few clues. In Japanese society, where group cohesion is often prioritized over individual opinions and where peer pressure is strong, people tend to fall into the “Groupthink” described above, and as a result, I assume that it is not uncommon for objectively strange judgments and decisions to be made.

However, as mentioned above, Toshiba has reformed its governance system and now all but one member o

METRICAL:S (Social) in ESG

Recently, awareness of ESG (or SDGDs) is spreading among the society and stakeholders surrounding companies. There are more and more opportunities for companies to introduce their ESG initiatives in analyst meetings, CSR reports, and integrated reports. It is a good thing to deepen the understanding among society and all parties concerned. More and more listed companies are giving presentations on their ESG initiatives at analyst meetings to explain their financial results, following their financial reports and outlooks. In this context, I have some questions. One of them is that not a few companies are focusing on BCP (Business Continuity Plan) as their G (Governance) initiative. Secondly, as part of their S (Social) initiatives, they are focusing on social contribution activities. This time, I would like to discuss the latter S.

It seems that there are many listed companies that feel that S (Social) is somewhat obscure when they come into contact with the ESG reports of companies on a daily basis. As mentioned above, we often see cases where companies introduce their social contribution activities or efforts to improve the working environment (e.g., work-life balance, childcare and family leave programs) as examples of their S initiatives. Of course, such individual efforts are included in the S (Social) category, but I feel that for the sustainable growth of companies, we should pay more attention to the improvement of the social environment from a broader perspective. Companies are engaged in corporate activities in a society where people are related to each other in various positions. In order to promote the smooth operation and sustainable growth of corporate activities in such a society, I think it would be a good idea to communicate that the company is managing its business from the standpoint of respecting human rights from a broad perspective.

Some companies that have taken the lead in ESG initiatives are now expressing their basic stance on human rights. I think it is easier for many people to understand if they follow this basic approach to human rights and refer to individual initiatives. Many of the companies that take this approach are large companies with global operations. This is probably because they understand that understanding and respecting diversity and people’s rights is essential for conducting business, and that this will reduce business risks. However, many Japanese companies don’t take this approach and express their views on “human rights”, but only describe individual initiatives such as those mentioned above in their reports.

METRICAL:CG Stock Performance June 2021

As in the previous month, June stock market continued directionless trading and closed slightly higher in thin trading. The CG Top 20 significantly outperformed both the Topix and JPX400 indices.

Despite a temporary decline in the second half of the month, the stock prices continued to lack a sense of direction due to low trading volume and lack of material to take hold of throughout the month.
The Topix and JPX400 indices rose 1.17% and 0.82%, respectively, during the month of June, while the top 20 CG rating score stocks outperformed for the third consecutive month at 3.50%.
The CGTop 20 stocks composites will be reviewed at the end of June each year, and their performance will be measured using the new components from July 1.

Kay Group K.K. – The Need for Open and Frank Conversations at Board Level

“We are still way too polite with each other.” A repeated statement when Chief Executives describe their boards in Japan. Why is this a problem for Executives? Why do we, as coaches, hear this statement repeatedly?

The Board’s Responsibilities

Boards are responsible and held accountable for the decisions they are making. Hence, the quality of the decision-making process and the decisions themselves are fundamental to the work of boards, their organizations, and the investors. When board members are too polite with each other, they don’t have so-called healthy debates. Why do these debates improve the quality of decisions? Because they invite board members to share their professional opinions.

February 9th “Director Boot Camp” Course Held by Video Conference! Next Course: April 7th, 2021!

On February 9th, still in the midst of the pandemic, BDTI held its English Director Boot Camp via Zoom. The day-long intensive course was attended by 10 highly-experienced and very interactive participants. The participants heard lectures about corporate governance by Nicholas Benes along with a guest lecture by Andrew Silberman of AMT, and exchanged experiences […]

METRICAL: CG Stock Performance (Japan): January 2021

January stock prices edged lower after surging in the middle of the month. CG Top 20 stocks underperformed against Topix and JPX400 during the 1-month period

The stock market opened higher in January on the back of the stocks rally at the end of the previous month. After that, the market surged on the expectation of solid corporate profits and the observation of continued global monetary easing, but closed sharply lower due to the increased volatility and sharp decline in the US stocks at the end of the month.
CG Top 20 underperformed against both Topix and JPX400 for the month. CG Top 20 slid 0.89%, while Topix and JPX400 rose 0.29% and 0.49% respectively. The cumulative performance of CG Top 20 keeps significant outperformance as shown in the chart below.

September 3rd “Director Boot Camp” Course Held by Video Conference! Next Course: December 2nd, 2020!

On September 3rd, in the midst of the Corona virus pandemic, BDTI held its English Director Boot Camp via teleconference. The day-long intensive course was attended by 8 highly-experienced participants, including one Chief Executive Officer, two Consultants, one Statutory Auditor, Managing Directors and senior executives. The participants heard lectures about corporate governance by Nicholas Benes along with a guest lecture by Andrew Silberman of AMT, and exchanged experiences and opinions. Even during a pandemic, training continued smoothly, with all participants able to review materials in more depth.

We are planning to hold the next course via teleconference on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020. Sign up early! Please see a description of our director training course here or click the button below for further information.