Transitioning from “Resource” to “Capital” — Investing for a Sustainable future and Seafood (Part 2)

Transitioning from “Resource” to “Capital” — Investing for a Sustainable future and Seafood (Part 2)

Responsible investment—investing to promote initiatives toward an ideal society. Amid growing concerns about climate change and biodiversity loss, responsible investment is gaining momentum in Japan and abroad, and the seafood sector is no exception. However, can we really say that Japanese companies are making progress in building a sustainable society?

Minoru Matsubara has been working in trust management for 33 years and is currently an Executive Officer of Resona Asset Management Co., Ltd. This interview explores his perspective as an investor regarding the challenges Japan’s seafood industry faces.

In the second part of this interview, we asked him about the points to note in the engagement between the investor and the investee, as well as what Japan’s companies, financial institutions, and government should do for the future of the seafood industry.

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The Transition of Seafood From Resources to Capital – From Something Existing Only to Be Consumed to Something to Raise

— Although responsible investment is gaining momentum in Japan and abroad, Japanese seafood companies still do not rank high in the Seafood Stewardship Index*. What should Japanese seafood companies and financial institutions do to address this?

believe it is important to think of resources as something to use and capital as something to raise. In other words, we must shift from seafood resources to seafood capital. Companies must promote the understanding that converting seafood resources into seafood capital and raising them will lead to their own development. Meanwhile, we, as financial institutions, must support them in this endeavor.

Specifically, companies can start by obtaining certification, flexibly changing target fish species to adapt to the shifting ecosystem, and reviewing procurement sources, among many others. Efforts are also needed to broaden the options of consumers interested in sustainability.

*The Seafood Stewardship Index is published by the World Benchmarking Alliance to rank the sustainability efforts of the world’s 30 most influential seafood companies.

Long-Term Growth Requires Long-Term Investors Who Can Get Time on Their Side

— In a panel discussion at the Tokyo Sustainable Seafood Summit 2023, there was a discussion about the importance of ensuring that both investors and investees share the same perspective.

The capital market is a diverse world with stock buyers, stock sellers, short-term investors, and long-term investors. In this context, it is also important to consider what kind of investors a company chooses to receive investment from.

For example, a short-term investor expects short-term profit from companies rather than a five-year project. In contrast, long-term investors require long-term profits and projects lasting 10 or 30 years, so what they look for in an investee is different.

Long-term investors with time on their side aim for the “and” in developing the company and increasing seafood capital. Meanwhile, short-term investors, for whom time is the enemy, need to choose between the two. In other words, they are seeking the “or.” It would be a good idea for companies to choose the right investors to ensure the long-term success of their business. However, achieving the “and” is no easy feat, and there is no doubt that long-term profits are hard to achieve in either direction, as one needs to accumulate them over time.


Matsubara speaking at the panel session “Seafood Blue Finance:
Investor-Led Engagement in Seafood Sector” at TSSS2023


From Self-Interest to Mutual Benefit — The Need to Aspire for Others Rather Than Dream for One’s Self

— Japan possesses the world’s top seafood companies and has a high consumption of seafood products. How can the country lead the promotion of responsible investment?

First, Japan must actively participate in forming the rules for the global seafood industry and then fulfill its responsibility in figuring out how to enhance seafood as capital. However, among social issues, climate change and the use of seafood capital are often one and the same, and it is difficult to determine how to tackle them.

For example, lithium, a scarce resource needed for solar power generation, is an essential resource in developing renewable energy, and it is said that a large amount of it lies on the ocean floor. However, attempts to mine and utilize lithium from the seafloor may result in a major distortion of the marine ecosystem, requiring sound judgment and balance in determining the risks and benefits.

To utilize seafood capital amid various social issues, we must consider the “just transition” that the world has set forth. In other words, we must ponder and examine what is “just” to pave the path to the next step. What are the world’s concerns about Japan, and how will Japan respond to the world’s worries and expectations? While the national interest is important, I believe we should start taking in outside feedback.

— You’ve participated in many committees for various ministries and agencies. What do you think should financial institutions and the government do for the future of the seafood industry?

Financial institutions must now convey the value of global information and not just the power that money gives them. There is only so much one company can do in the face of social issues. Countries and regions worldwide must cooperate, which requires information sensitivity. As the world moves from self-interest to mutual benefit and the common good, Japan must grasp this movement and walk its path. I believe that financial institutions must support the creation of a society that can truly gain from mutual benefit, utilizing the power of information.

The government must then fulfill its responsibilities and obligations by taking a future-oriented view of what an ideal society is, not one or two years ahead, but 20 or 30 years into the future. What should we endure now for a happy future, and what should we leave to the next generation? I believe the government should be the guiding star that can point stakeholders in the same direction.

As Masayoshi Son(Prominent business person in Japan) once said, “A ‘dream’ is but a vague individual desire, while a ‘will’ is the aspiration to go far beyond individual desires and fulfill the hopes and dreams of many.” I believe Masayoshi Son’s definition of a “will” is what Japan needs today.


Minoru Matsubara
Minoru Matsubara joined Resona Bank in April 1991 and was assigned to the Pension Trust Business Planning Division. He was then assigned to operational management, planning, and responsible investment in the Investment Development Office, as well as the Public Funds Business Planning Division, the Pension Trust Business Planning Division, the Asset Management Business Planning Division, and more. In April 2023, Matsubara was appointed to his current position. He was also a visiting fellow at the Pension Fund Management Research Center in 2000, a visiting fellow at the Pension Research Center in 2005, and the co-chair and a steering committee member of the Asset Management, Securities, and Investment Banking Working Group (WG) of the Principles for Financial Action for the 21st Century. Aside from these, Matsubara serves as a member of study groups and other committees of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Cabinet Office.



Original Japanese text: Shino Kawasaki