SUSTAINABILITY

REPRINT H001PX PUBLISHED ON HBR.ORG JUNE 03, 2008

ARTICLE SUSTAINABILITY Tokyo’s “Just Do It” Leadership on Climate Change by Scott Berinato

Do N

ot C

op y

or P

os t

This document is authorized for educator review use only by Maithily Erande, Lasell College until Sep 2018. Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Permissions@hbsp.harvard.edu or 617.783.7860

SUSTAINABILITY

Tokyo’s “Just Do It” Leadership on Climate Change by Scott Berinato JUNE 03, 2008

News from the Asia Times this morning provides a good example of real climate-change and sustainability leadership. It seems that governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, is tired of waiting around for his national leaders to act, so he’s implementing an aggressive greenhouse emissions reduction program for his own “department” — the city of Tokyo.

Ishihara’s program would be a classic cap-and-trade system that both limits emissions and allows businesses to trade emission credits. The goal would be to reduce emissions 25 percent from 2000 levels, by 2020. The plan will be submitted to the city’s assembly next week. It should pass as the assembly is dominated by the governor’s supporters, the story notes. Ishihara, by the way, has already banned polluting diesel vehicles from Tokyo, the biggest city in the world.

In the process of plowing forward, Ishihara has shown how real leadership can make those feigning to lead on climate change look feeble. While Tokyo wants to cut emissions by a quarter, Japan overall, the story notes, is woefully behind meeting its Kyoto Protocol obligations. The prime minister of Japan, Yasuo Fukuda, has also hinted he’d like to implement a cap-and-trade system. But the story notes that “there is no concrete plan” and the one Fukuda’s hinted at would only reduce emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.

Ishihara’s aggressive emissions reduction plan happened to coincide with Japan’s environment ministry release of its annual policy paper. What was their bold move forward on addressing the Kyoto Protcol? They asked households to cut back on time spent in baths and showers.

2COPYRIGHT © 2008 HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING CORPORATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Do N

ot C

op y

or P

os t

This document is authorized for educator review use only by Maithily Erande, Lasell College until Sep 2018. Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Permissions@hbsp.harvard.edu or 617.783.7860

Environmental groups were celebrating Tokyo’s bold leadership, patiently suggesting – eh-hem! – that Japan take a cue from Ishihara. Meanwhile, G8 Summit chairman Japan, according to unnamed sources quoted by the Kyodo News, was bogged down in negotiations on drafting a statement on climate change.

Of course there are several kinds of leadership, and each is appropriate in different situations. Ishihara’s “Nike” leadership (“Just Do It”) here seems tailor made for climate change and sustainability. Why? Here are a few reasons:

1. It’s a big problem and big problems require big, bold decisive leadership. Compromise is for tax programs. Taking every diesel truck off the roads is for a global crisis.

2. It’s a complex problem

and complexity invites organizations to procrastinate, find loopholes, and feign real progress. Leaders willing to take broad action eliminate the ability for organizations to make excuses for why they’re not solving the problem.

• It’s a problem that requires sacrifice and long-sightedness, two things that, let’s face it, corporations and governments don’t do terribly well. Just-do-it leadership gives those who aren’t built to be trailblazers a pioneer to follow into making sacrifices.

If you want to know about good climate change leadership, listen to the way Ishihara addressed resistant business leaders this week: “If we don’t make the efforts that we should right now, we would regret it after 20 or 30 years. I want all of you to play a role as leading companies to solve the problem.”

That’s a beautifully crafted piece of leadership. There is a lesson here for all of us who are not at the very tops of our organizations that a strong example from the middle can have far reaching implications. Governor Ishihara is separating himself. He’s saying, I can see what’s going to happen. Get on board. Just do it. And by the way, it’s not really a choice. Either you solve the problem or you are the problem.

Scott Berinato is a senior editor at Harvard Business Review and the author of Good Charts: The HBR Guide to Making Smarter, More Persuasive Data Visualizations.

3COPYRIGHT © 2008 HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING CORPORATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Do N

ot C

op y

or P

os t

This document is authorized for educator review use only by Maithily Erande, Lasell College until Sep 2018. Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Permissions@hbsp.harvard.edu or 617.783.7860