The UN Sustainable Development Goals – Consumer Awareness in Japan

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are driven by a powerful belief: Leave No One Behind. Also known as the Global Goals, SDGs were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Diversity & Inclusion is also of crucial importance for Rakuten Group, its customers and its employees. With offices in some 30 different countries and over one billion users around the world, Rakuten touches the lives of a highly diverse group of people.

Rakuten Insight, as part of the Rakuten Group,  adheres to a framework to simultaneously be inclusive to all, and tailored to individual cultures. The framework includes a worldwide vision, mission and four-pillar strategic approach, allowing Rakuten to speak with one voice on a shared vision and support the UN’s SDGs. To read more about Rakuten’s sustainability drive, please follow this link.

Rakuten Insight conducted an online survey, with 1,000 consumers from its own proprietary panel in Japan to explore awareness of SDGs and words related to sustainability. Furthermore, results were compared with the same survey previously conducted in December 2020.

Awareness of SDGs terms

In Japan, the recognition rate of ‘SDGs’ is 87%, an increase of more than 36 points compared to 2020

The headline findings are positive and encouraging. Awareness of sustainability development goals is at an all-time high of 87%, an encouraging increase of more than 36 points since 2020. A sustainability program system known as Furusato Nozei allows those who have migrated to larger cities to support rural communities. 58% of consumers knew a lot about this term, whilst a further 39% had heard of it. This awareness was almost unchanged compared to 2020 (39%).

Next highest on the awareness list were ‘food loss,’ ‘climate change’, and ‘gender equality’. ‘SDGs’ (Sustainable Development Goals) came in 5th place. Awareness of the term sustainable was high, with a total awareness of 84% (28% knowing well, 56% aware). This was a 30-point increase since 2020. The term ethical consumption also increased by 10 points, although overall awareness was lower at 34% (7% knowing well and 28% aware).

Timing of Awareness

The timing of recognition of the SDGs was ‘within two years’

The findings suggest that the UN effort to publicise SDGs has paid off and that the terms have become embedded into society over a longer period of time. This time only 4% stated that they became aware of these words ‘within the last six months.’

When asked when our consumers became aware of words related to sustainability, the most common time was ‘within two years’ (23%), followed by ‘within three years’ (18%) and ‘within one year’ (14%). By time period, the most recently familiar words, within 6 months, were ‘circular economy’, (16%), ‘ethical consumption’ (11%) and ‘animal welfare’ (101%).

Priority of SDGs

Among the SDGs, the goal with the highest interest is ‘Health & Well-being’

When asked about the 17 goals of the SDGs specifically, the items with the highest level of interest were ‘Health and Well-being’ (49%), followed by ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’ (48%) and ‘Affordable and clean energy’ (43%) in 3rd place. At the other end of the scale, No poverty (ranked 5th)  and  Zero hunger (ranked 12th) were more than 5 points lower than in 2020.

When asked which of the 17 SDGs they would like to actually work on, the item with the highest intention to work on was ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’ (14%), in line with the previous survey. This was followed by ‘Health and Well-being’ (13%) and ‘Responsible consumption and production,’ (13%). Encouragingly the result of ‘intention to take work up on one of them’ (68%) increased by more than 5 points from the previous survey, indicating an increase in overall intention to take action.

SDGs & Consumer Behaviour

3 in 4 of all consumers answered that they were considering contributing to the SDGs when purchasing products.

There is a clear signal being sent to businesses to support SDGs. When asked whether the contribution to SDGs is considered when purchasing a product or place to purchase, 38% answered it was a consideration (14% definite consideration and  25% somewhat considered). For online shops and e-commerce sites, 32.5% stated that contribution to SDGs was a consideration (10% definite, 22% somewhat).

In terms of how contribution to SDGs is judged, the most common answer was ‘Look at the description on the product page.’ (40%).  The criteria for judging the degree of contribution to the SDGs were ‘looking at SDGs logos and icons posted on websites and advertisements’ (34%) and ‘looking at media (TV, radio, net news, etc.)’ (34%).

When asked how they believe companies are contributing to the SDGs, the most common answer was ‘providing sustainable businesses and services’ (31%), followed by ‘selling sustainable products’ (31%) and ‘management has a high awareness of the SDGs’ (28%).


This survey was conducted in light of The UN’s push for their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) program and the signs were encouraging. Firstly, the recognition rate of ‘SDGs’ in Japan is high at 87%, an increase of more than 36 points compared to 2020. Secondly, the terms now feel more embedded in society since the recognition timing is within 2 years and not just the previous 6 months. Finally, 3 in 4 of all consumers answered that they were considering contributing to the SDGs when purchasing products. The UN’s mission still has some way to go to ensure all people enjoy peace and prosperity but Rakuten Group is committed to supporting the UN to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  

Related articles: Japanese Consumers Views on Theme ParksJapan – Sustainable fashion

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