The 11th annual British Business Awards (BBA), held on 2 November at Grand Hyatt Tokyo, was the perfect opportunity to reflect on the contribution of UK business in Japan. Economic indicators are positive, but do not mask the fact that natural disasters and extreme weather have made this a tough year for many people in Japan. Those directly affected have shown great resilience and humbling fortitude, and we should remember the collective role that business plays in supporting them. We have a responsibility to customers, clients and colleagues, for they form the very communities of which we are privileged to be a part.
The fact that this is the 70th anniversary of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) always meant that the 2018 BBA was going to be special. A record 400 BCCJ members and guests will, I am sure, attest to the fact that it was the most spectacular event in terms of scale and ambition in the chamber’s history. Successful delivery was due to the generosity of our sponsors, supporters and, of course, the hard work of our incredible staff and interns at the BCCJ office.
An extraordinary amount of planning goes into ensuring that the event is a worthy platform through which to showcase the achievements of all our award nominees. The roles to be fulfilled on the night are many and varied. As president of the chamber, I have one of the simplest, yet most important: to express—on behalf of the BCCJ—our gratitude to the legions of stakeholders whose goodwill and support make it possible to deliver the event.
I am spoilt for choice when it comes to picking words in English and Japanese with which to say, “Thank you”. What gives these words power and meaning, when spoken by any of us, is sincerity. And that sincerity creates trust.
The British business community is proud of the trust that underpins our business relationship with Japan and the fact that it is grounded in 400 years of shared trading history. For the past 70 of those years, members of this community and their valued Japanese partners—many of whom are now patient long-term investors in the UK—have nurtured the relationship through the BCCJ. Those of us at this year’s BBA should count ourselves among the stewards of that relationship and recognise that we, together, have an obligation and an opportunity to see the relationship flourish.
The BBA is undoubtedly an occasion of celebration. More importantly, however, it recognises that—through scientific and technological innovation, socially responsible policies and initiatives, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion—British and Japanese businesses are making profoundly important reciprocal contributions to sustainable economic growth in the UK and Japan. The quality of BBA nominations this year reflected the depth and breadth of that activity, and highlighted the tremendous achievements that are possible from collaboration between our two countries. If you subscribe to the view that history repeats itself, then I am proud to be witness to the start of the next 400 years of UK–Japan collaboration.