On February 1-3, 2023, SIMI hosted its seventh annual event, Social Impact Day 2023. This year’s theme was “ Towards a new form of social economy – The Rise of “Impact Economy”.” At the engaged members’ review meeting held on February 15, one of the participants commented that last year it felt like there was a tailwind blowing for social impact, but that this time it was placed at the center of society. After a period of envisioning impact as an ideal for social transformation, it is finally becoming the actual engine that drives society in various initiatives, large and small.
From Ideal to Practice
This Social Impact Day 2023 had registered participants of 630, which was almost at the same level as last year and the year before last, since it became an on-line event.
Ken Shibusawa, President of Shibusawa & Company, Inc. and a member of the SIMI Governing Council, opened the Social Impact Day by mentioning the Kishida administration’s call for “new capitalism” and that “impact” was referred to in last May’s Economic and Fiscal Reform Basic Policy (“honebuto” policy), reminding us that there has been a lot of progress in this area in the last 12 months.
Right after the opening, the keynote speeches were delivered by Sir Ronald Cohen, the “father of impact investing” and Chair of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investing (GSG), and Kumi Fujisawa, President of the Institute for International Socio-Economic Studies, Inc. Sir Cohen stated that the “Impact Revolution” is sweeping the world today. In Japan, amid and after the covid-19, people are becoming more and more sustainability-oriented. Globally, Sir Cohen explained, this is happening as a major value change, witnessed especially among younger workers and consumers. Investors are forced to pay attention to this transformation.
Ms. Fujisawa shared the observation that as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ESG investment are attracting attention, impact is growing as a “common language” across different sectors including government, business, and non-profit. Impact is not only a big idea, but a series of frameworks and concrete methods that involve goal and strategy setting as well as organizational management. It includes indicator setting and measurement, reporting and stakeholder engagement, and thereby enables various actors to put it into practice. In this changing environment, Japanese companies are challenged to make use of it in order to build, practice and tell a concrete story of how they are contributing to a sustainable society.
Social Infrastructure, Models of Practice, and Actors
After the key was set, a total of 15 sessions over the next two and a half days explored the question of how to put impact economy into practice from the three perspectives of building social infrastructure, developing implementation models, and focusing on impact actors.
These 15 sessions touched on the SDG Impact Standards developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the sustainability disclosure standards developed by the IFRS International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) and the associated Japanese regulations with a focus on human capital; and the B Corporation and its global movement, a well-known private label for certifying social good companies. All these efforts are serving as triggers to force companies and organizations to re-think their basic understanding of what role each business/organization should fulfill in society.
In addition, these sessions introduced efforts to internalize impact in various sectors of society, including the pursuit of impact in listed equity investments; “impact startups” for which an association was established last year; and impact management in government and nonprofit organizations. And there is a growing number of people who, as individuals, put impact at the center of their work, which was demonstrated in SIMI’s Impact Analyst Training program, Gen Z executives’ idea of what success looks like, and some leading actors who are building impact careers.
Covering the above topics and sharing them with the participants was, we believe, a major achievement of this year’s Social Impact Day
We are Past the Point of No Return
As Sir Cohen mentioned in his keynote, 2023 is the year that Japan will host the G7 Summit, and the world is watching what the Japanese government will state about social impact and how Japanese society as a whole will move forward on the theme of impact. We mentioned that the last year’s Social Impact Day marked a pivotal point in history. We can say that this year’s Social Impact Day has shown us how people are actually moving forward with the impact theme, and what we can in a world where there is already no turning back.
We hope to continue working together with SIMI members, partners and all who share our vision in creating concrete practices for a new economy and society.
Social Impact Day 2023 was co-hosted by Social Innovation and Investment Foundation (SIIF), and we would like to thank all sponsors who have made the Social Impact Day possible: Mizuho Financial Group, Inc., Japan Post Insurance Co., Ltd., &PUBLIC Inc., Impact Circle, Inc., Credit Saison Co.,Ltd., PLAID, Inc., and Hakuhodo Inc. We are also grateful for the endorsement provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Japan Foundation, the GSG-NAB Japan, and the Japan Financial Services Agency. Lastly, we would like to thank all those who cooperated and participated in the Social Impact Day.