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How Japanese shoppers helped bring elephants back to an Indian forest

Saori Imaizumi's picture

Organic cotton farmers, Golamunda village in Orissa, 2010What if your shopping sprees could make both you and society happy? That every time you bought your favorite clothes, you also benefitted the poor and the environment? Some Japanese companies are indeed making this happen.

As part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, Felissimo, a Japanese direct marketing and product design company funded the planting of trees in Orissa and West Bengal in India, where they source their materials from. By charging an extra dollar on every sale in Japan, they collected more than $4,850,000 over 15 years and used the funds to transform a degraded landscape into a forest, bringing elephants back into the area.

In a similar manner, the company also helped cotton farmers in Orissa switch to growing organic cotton to save their land, their workers, and their children from harm caused by fertilizers and pesticides. Between 2010 and 2012, about 5,900 farmers switched to organic farming in 5 villages. Consumer donations were channelized through a local NGO to help farmers make the transition. The money was also used to give scholarships to local children. In 2012 alone, around 250 students in 5 villages received scholarships. While the scale is still small, Felissimo has successfully created a funding mechanism to transform responsible purchasing behavior in one part of the world into social impact in distant lands through its CSR activities.

Engaging the Future: Conversations with Global Youth

Mabruk Kabir's picture

It is hard to talk about South Asia without invoking its demographics. The region will contribute nearly 40 percent of the growth in the world’s working age (15-64) population, and will need to add a staggering 1 to 1.2 million new entrants to the labor market every month for the next two decades. Absorbing the influx of youth into the labor force is one of South Asia’s core challenges. But while economists grapple with employment statistics and economic policy, jobs are created at the grassroots. Entrepreneurship is the spark that lights the fire, and the engine that generates opportunities in local communities.

Should South Asia Emulate the East Asian Tigers?

Joe Qian's picture

When thinking about development, I always look for opportunities for cross learning between regions. Having lived in and traveled extensively in East Asia and having worked in the South Asia Region for over a year, I often compare and think about prospects between the two regions. One question in particular is whether South Asia should aim to emulate East Asia’s manufacturing and export driven development model. Japan began using this model starting in the 1950’s and most East Asian countries particularly, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, and most recently China have used manufacturing as a catalyst for growth.

According to the World Development Indicators, manufacturing accounted for over 30% of GDP in East Asia and Pacific while it is around 15% in South Asia. Bangladesh’s ready-made garment (RMG’s) industry is one example of manufacturing success as it has proven to be exceptionally competitive in the global market. However, holistically, I found that South Asia has distinctive characteristics and quickly moving towards an East Asian export-led model may not be most effective.

Life and Death in South Asia

Eliana Cardoso's picture

In the film, Venus, an old and frail Peter O’Toole discovers the Greek goddess in the guise of his best friend’s niece. The ironic and good humored story explores the theme of the games played in a mutual seduction between the older man with experience, money and a nostalgic yearning for carnal desire and the young woman who soon finds out the power she wields and negotiates three kisses in return for a pair of earrings. In the final scene, wearing only one of his boots on a cold beach, O’Toole feels the caress of the sea’s salty foam with the sole of his foot and smiles. His face expresses the happiness of someone who knows the joys of being alive.

It is impossible to weigh up Peter O’Toole’s smile, measuring the degree of his happiness or comparing it to what you would feel if walking barefoot in the sand. But, the idea that his feelings can be measured as a metric has become fashionable, ever since the King of Bhutan decided that GDP fails to portray the well-being of his subjects and summoned a team to create the Gross National Happiness index.

Ladies Specials

Darshana Patel's picture

The “Ladies Specials” are women-only commuter train recently launched in four Indian cities (New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta). While not a new practice, public transport exclusively for women is becoming popular. (Mexico City introduced women-only buses in January 2008 and commuters on Japanese trains know a thing or two about this too.)

Harassment on the train or bus is not just an annoying nuisance for women. It influences whether or not a woman chooses to enter the workforce in the first place. (Or maybe whether her family or husband will allow her.)

Changes in economic landscape of a country have led to shifting roles for women, who are increasingly moving outside of the household and into the workplace. These new women workers, often of a younger generation, are now re-shaping what it means to be women in their societies.