When the coronavirus crisis put face-to-face gatherings on pause, the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) turned to digital to ensure that it continued to meet the needs of members. As both Associate Director Sarah Backley (page 12) and Senior Adviser Graham Davis (page 14) pointed out in this issue of ACUMEN, BCCJ Webinar Week was one way in which the chamber has tried to be there for members as an active part of the community.
Running 16–22 April, the series comprised five online events designed to keep members well informed, not only on matters critical to their business continuity but also on how the British Embassy Tokyo is caring for UK citizens in Japan.
The series began on 16 April with Hiroshi Chiba of the Chiba Law Office. In a session entitled What You Need to Know about Japan’s Labour Law Amendments, moderated by Catherine O’Connell, founder of Catherine O’Connell Law, Chiba discussed how the new workstyle reform legislation which was passed in 2018 relates to the Covid-19 situation.
The reform introduced significant changes to Japan’s labour laws to address the dangers of overworking. Most amendments took effect in April 2019 and employers were required to take immediate action to comply. Large, small and medium-sized enterprises, are now obliged to follow these laws, but what they mean may still be unclear—particularly in light of the unusual operational circumstances brought on by the coronavirus. Chiba provided a reality check to help members better understand the Equal Work for Equal Pay amendment and address the current situation.
Women in business
On 17 April, senior regional women leaders from British chambers of commerce in Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo gathered for a session entitled Let’s Talk about Mentorship—Women & Mentoring. Forming the panel were Anemone Ventures Ltd. founder Revital Shpangental, Cathay Pacific Airways Limited General Manager China Agatha Lee, Control Risks Shanghai Partner Rosie Hawes, hopscotch.work co-founder and Managing Director Helen McGuire and the BCCJ’s Kirsten O’Connor, founder and director of Quest Tokyo. The group discussed the importance of mentoring and offered tips on how to get the most out of it.
This was a great opportunity for the BCCJ to collaborate with regional chambers, as the webinar was part of the British Chamber of Commerce Taipei’s six-month Women in Business Mentoring programme, which syncs up with the BCCJ 5.0 vision project.
Many firms are concerned about money at this time, and on 20 April Barclays Securities Japan Ltd. President Kentaro Kiso, Standard Chartered Bank Japan Chief Executive Yasunori Takeuchi and Naomi Davies, economic counsellor at the British Embassy Tokyo presented Covid-19: Threats and Opportunities in Finance. They discussed possible impacts on the Japanese and global economies resulting from the partial or complete lockdowns that have been underway in many countries.
The coronavirus has been the biggest economic and market disrupter of the past 75 years, and with so much uncertainty about when recovery will come—and what shape it will take—equity, bond, currency and commodity markets are nervous places, as are global boardrooms, central banks and finance ministries. Kiso, Takeuchi and Davies offered insight into how things may play out in Japan and the wider world.
On 21 April, Update and Live Q&A with British Ambassador to Japan Paul Madden CMG was moderated by BCCJ Vice President Alison Beale. Joining from the Embassy were Economic Counsellor Naomi Davies, Minister-Counsellor, Director of Trade and Investment Japan Chris Heffer and Political Counsellor Matthew Phillips.
Ambassador Madden provided an update on how the British Government team is dealing with the immediate economic fallout, their plans to reduce the short- and long-term business impact, the support available to UK businesses and individuals in Japan and more details of their crisis response.
Lastly, on 22 April, Global Perspectives K.K. Director Tove Kinooka, EY Japan Director Heather McLeish and BCCJ President David Bickle addressed longer-term views in a session entitled Is Covid Redefining Responsible Business?
While survival is the first priority for many businesses, it is also important to keep an eye on the longer term. When will recovery come? What will it look like? How will the business world have changed? These are questions being asked by the leaders of firms large and small, and Kinooka, McLeish and Bickle focused on the changing conversation around major business issues—including the needs and demands of customers, governments, the public sector, employees, shareholders, suppliers and the entire business ecosystem—and how firms can respond while not losing sight of existing issues, such as climate, sustainability and people, that are at the heart of responsible business.
View recordings of these events by searching for the title on the BCCJ YouTube channel.