Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
Science & Technology | Asia-Pacific | Japan

Japan’s Environmental Control Center

The scientific approach to managing environmental impact

10 months ago

Kengo Mizuochi, President of Environmental Control Center
share by WhatsApp

Kengo Mizuochi

President of Environmental Control Center

Kengo Mizuochi discusses Japan’s Environmental Control Center’s strategy to ensure the country’s safety, implementing advanced environmental testing technology and working in collaboration with the public and private sector

Japan ranks 39th in the world on the latest Environmental Performance Index, the lowest ranking of all tier one nations except for Belgium. However, the country scores very highly in sub-areas such as water conservation and sanitation. What is your assessment of the evolution of Japan’s environmental attitude?

In terms of ranking, Japan is in 39th place. This was very unexpected news for me personally. However, when one looks into the details, one must acknowledge the context that led to this ranking. In terms of marine sources, Japan’s ranking is greatly hurt because of its strong culinary culture. Japan has a free culture and Japanese people eat a lot of fish. In the data, it is considered that Japanese people consume an excessive amount of marine resources. It’s very difficult to judge environmental friendliness by taking into account so many factors. What we must do now is to accept the results and figure out what our impact can be as individuals.


How do you expect this ranking to evolve in the future?

We are going to have a rapid technological revolution and evolution. From a national level, Japan suffers from a lack of resources. We must therefore raise awareness among our people to protect the limited resources we enjoy. Common consciousness has a strong relevance towards environmental preservation. Japanese people already have a strong and engaged mental attitude towards green products and green energies. If we can turn these motivations into concrete actions, we will be able to achieve a higher ranking.


How can the green philosophy be spread to society?

In Japan, there are many environmental issues that require common efforts. People often relate environmentally-friendly and green products to a higher price tag. For example, if one company produces a product for ¥108, and another one produces it for ¥88, people will directly assume that the first company is contributing to society and to the environment. However, the consumers’ mentality is to choose the cheaper option, and that is something we must work on. There must be a higher degree of corporate and public assessment towards the actions of companies. Raising public awareness is a crucial step in order to make people further consider purchasing environmentally-friendly products. People need to consider the future over the present, because making this green switch is the only way to achieve a sustainable society. In Japan, moral education is embedded in the system, making this process easier. That being said, just like anywhere else, there is space for improvements.


There are 20 Japanese corporations in Newsweek’s yearly “Top Green Companies in the World,” with the first ranked 76th in the list. What should be the strategy to incentivize the private sector to become more environmentally focused?

As people relate environmentally-friendly products to higher costs, there is simply not enough attention given to the environment for the public to rationalize a higher expenditure for a similar product. When looking at Japan’s corporate structure, over 90% of companies are SMEs. To truly incentive the green mentality, companies must be granted a higher amount of allowances. By applying a monetary award to an environmental issue, SMEs will be motivated to make changes.

Furthermore, our entire corporate value system must be transformed. We need to have a solid business and monetary foundation to incentivize big corporations and SMEs alike to actually take concrete actions towards the environment. Japanese corporations have always been excellent at monozukuri, which is a great asset in the quest to create a sustainable world.  However, monozukuri cannot be successful if companies do not have enough allowances or enough cash flow to improve their products and processes. To leverage on the monozukuri philosophy, we must create a strong foundation enabling the development and improvement of eco-friendly products.


Which companies do you believe are leading the green revolution in Japan?

Toyota’s hydrogen fuel research and activities are definitely top of mind. We work together with them, and their innovation is an incredible competitive advantage. I would also mention Konica’s advanced technology and processes. Konica puts a lot of emphasis in preserving the monozukuri spirit, creating great added-value products. This dedication to continuously improving their technology has led them to be spotlighted all over the world, and considered as an example to follow.


Environmental Control Center is an organization that provides a combination of field survey and laboratory analysis. What are ECC’s competitive advantages?

There is a core difference between Japan and the US with regard to laboratory work analysis. American organizations merely gather myriads of information from the field and then analyze it at a very low cost. In Japan, we actually go to the field ourselves and exploit that information first-hand. We then bring the gathered data to the laboratory, we do in-depth testing ourselves and then come up with the end result. After the result, we seek a solution in order to solve the issue at stake, before preparing consulting services and recommendations. At Environmental Control Center, we strongly believe that the answers are always found in the field. By gathering first-hand information in an autonomous manner, we minimize the amount of mistakes made in the analysis process. What makes the difference in attaining a high degree of reliability is not the testing mechanism one uses; it comes from effectively gathering field  data. We always make sure that we get the right information, at the right moment. First, we exploit the information, and then we take it to the laboratory to continue the process. Throughout the years, we have nurtured relationships of trust and confidence with each and every single one of our clients.


What are the major projects that ECC has accomplished since its inception?

My greatest pride is to have been able to establish ECC as a successful company. I am also very proud to see that, despite the fluctuation that the Japanese economy went through, our population has started to acknowledge both the concept and negative impact of pollution. Before, Japan did not have specific terminology to describe the environment. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, we began to think about what could be done to help out and re-balance the country’s energy mix. We actually received an official request from the government to participate in post-earthquake efforts. We were asked to analyze the soil status and density of asbestos. We therefore walked along the shore where the tsunami hit and ran our own investigation. The same expertise and analysis model was applied after the Kumamoto earthquake as well. On the one hand, we were proud to assist during the aftermath of this national crisis. On the other hand, it represented an opportunity for us to work and show our expertise. Previously, we had been doing all of these investigations and analysis in the laboratory, but from there, we started putting testing devices in our vehicles and we grew able to conduct similar research on the outside world, directly from the field as opposed to inside our lab. This infamous incident combined with our reaction opened a whole new world of possibilities for me and for the company. We realized that we were able to conduct our analysis and investigations outside of the laboratory, meaning that we could utilize our remote-control system and modus operandi outside of Japan.


ECC’s clients include many different entities from construction companies to manufacturers and public entities including international governments. For which client are you proudest of working?

Because the US also had a nuclear accident, we collaborated and shared our expertise with the American company GEL. GEL specializes in radioactivity analysis, and from our collaboration with them, we started applying their technologies and strengths to our domestic operation.

Geographically speaking, the countries that we are focusing on are the ones with rising economies. The Asian continent has many nations experiencing steady growth. For now, China and Vietnam are the countries we are focusing on. While I cannot disclose any information, I can tell you that these nations are facing many environmental problems, making our expertise and service the more relevant.


Since ECC’s creation in 1971, the company has grown to employ over 250 people, with a presence throughout Japan and revenue of over ¥3.5 billion ($32 million). What are some of the challenges that you face today and what strategies do you have in place to overcome them?

A lot of the challenges that we face today, such as the decreasing demographics and ageing population, are related to the social structure of Japan. It is becoming more difficult for us to secure trained field workers. Human resources management is growing increasingly difficult year by year. Luckily for us, a large amount of students are job hunting, and they have showed great interest in our company and in the environmental sector.

Creating universal values is a core pillar of any company or society. Since our establishment, we have disseminated our philosophy to all employees and stakeholders, and we have grown into an organization that is needed by society. I believe that part of my role is to teach these values to the younger generations.




ENTREPRENEURSHIP: An overused concept for an underused reality.


When being part of a generation on which the flag of entrepreneurship seems to be constantly waving in the sea of young professionals looking to succeed in the business world, more often than not, we tend to drown in the... Read More






© Worldfolio Ltd.

The Worldfolio provides intelligence about the economies with the highest growth potential in the world, with a focus on understanding them from within.


FOLLOW US                   | Terms and conditions - Privacy policy - Cookies policy.