Yokohama City, in collaboration with the city’s own SDGs Design Center, has established the “Yokohama City SDGs Certification System” (Y-SDGs) system to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the city that are working to progress the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes becoming more sustainable, and promoting equal opportunities in the workplace.
Yokohama City’s “Y-SDGs” initiative has been awarded the first “Regional Revitalization SDGs Financial Award” sponsored by the Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan at an award ceremony held online on March 14, 2022. The Mayor of Yokohama, Takeharu Yamanaka, was presented with a certificate of commendation by Seiko Noda, Minister of State for the Promotion of Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy in Japan (Minister of the State for Regional Revitalization). The Cabinet Office established the “Regional Revitalization SDGs Financial Awards”, commended by the Minister of State for Regional Revitalization, with the goal of promoting efforts to support local businesses in collaboration with local governments and regional financial institutions toward the realization of sustainable town development.
The award-winning Y-SDGs initiative has been realized through collaboration with various financial institutions, including the specially created “Y-SDGs Financial Task Force” made up of financial institutions that support the SDGs and the purpose of the Y-SDGs system. The Y-SDGs Financial Task Force was established in 2021, and the City of Yokohama has collaborated with the Task Force to discuss support for city businesses utilizing the certification system, promotion of the SDGs, and revitalization of the local economy.
In cooperation with the Yokohama SDGs Design Center, Yokohama City launched the Y-SDGs initiative in 2020. SMEs interested in acquiring a Y-SDGs evaluation can submit an application, with evaluations being carried out in four fields: Environment, Social, Governance and Local, across 30 criteria. Certification is then made in 3 categories (Supreme, Superior, Standard) according to the status of the business’ efforts in each evaluation criterion. Certification lasts 2 years, and applications are accepted about once every three months. The evaluation is performed by the Yokohama SDGs Design Center and certification issued by the Mayor of Yokohama. After certification, Yokohama City and the SDGs Design Center continue to develop a relationship and follow up with the company.
The Y-SDGs initiative was conceived from the goal of increasing SDGs-aligned activities among entrepreneurs and small business owners. Encouraging more SMEs to focus on progressing the SDGs can greatly benefit employees and employers alike, leading to a shift to sustainable management and operation, expansion of the customer-base and business partners, and ESG investment by investors and financial institutions.
Another goal of the system is for certified companies to be able to use their accreditation to achieve favorable investment and loan opportunities. There are already some real-world examples of Y-SDGs certification being used in this way: Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation trialed recognition of certification as part of their loan execution process, Sumitomo Mitsui Finance & Lease Co., Ltd. sells special lease products with donations of a certain percentage of the lease going to a Y-SDGs certified business (in this example, a local non-profit organization that provides livelihood support and job assistance for people with disabilities), and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co., Ltd. has created various collaborative cases such as support (including advising and seminars) for certified businesses.
Yokohama City is grateful that the Y-SDGs imitative has received this award, and will continue to collaborate with financial partners like these to promote sustainable and equitable efforts in the city, and contribute to the efforts to achieve the SDGs across Japan and the rest of the world.
Y-SDGs official page (Japanese only): https://www.yokohama-sdgs.jp/certification/