Excerpt from Chapter six, Change by Design - Tim Brown

"In 2005 the Ministry of the Environment, under the leadership of the imaginative minister Yuriko Koike, approached Hakuhodo for help in getting the Japanese people more involved in meeting Japan's commitment to the greenhouse gas reduction goals of the Kyoto Protocol. The government had made several previous attempts, but they had met with limited success. Hakuhodo suggested creating a campaign that mobilized the collectivists ethos of Japanese society toward a concrete goal: working together to reduce emissions by 6 percent. Within a year, according to a survey commissioned by the Ministry of Environment, the slogan "Cool Biz" was recognized by a staggering 95.8 percent of the Japanese population.

The real challenge, as the Hakuhodo team recognized, was to make the campaign not only familiar but also meaningful. In pursuit of this elusive goal, they enlisted a group of experts to help them identify four hundred everyday activities that cause or reduce carbon emissions. This list was whittled down to six key practices, which included raising the thermostats on air-conditioning systems in summer and lowering them in winter; conserving water by turning off taps; driving less agresssively; selecting more eco-friendly products at the grocery store; ending the use of plastic bags; and turning off electronic products when not in use. Ease of these activities was selected to create a balance of engagement and impact. They were activities that most people could integrate into their daily lives but that, cumulatively over time, would make an enormous difference.

The target during the first year of the program was the air-conditioning problem. Conventionally these systems were set to 26 degree Ce. so that businessmen in their suits and ties could work comfortably in the hot, steamy Japanese summer, while female office workers in their short formal business skirts often covered their laps with blankets to stay warm. This oddity would have been bad enough if not for the inconvenient truth that cooling buildings to such a low temperature requites huge amounts of energy, especially during the summer months.

Hakuhodo created Cool Biz, a period from June 1 to October 1 every year when businessmen and women may wear more casual clothing, so that it is easier to stay cool. Air-conditioning thermostats could then be raised to 28 degree C. instead of 26, a small adjustment but one that created enormous energy savings. Ingrained cultural practice threatened to derail this sensible idea: how to get conservative Japanese businessmen to change the way they dress? Rather than bombarding people with a campaign of print and TV advertisements the Hakuhodo team set up a Cool Biz fashion show at the Expo 2005 World Exposition in Aichi in which dozens of CEOS and other senior executives strutted about in casual business wear with open necks and lightweight materials. Even Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was featured in newspaper and TV stories tieless and in a short-sleeved shirt.

The event caused a sensation. In this traditional and hierarchical society, in which people defer to the guys at the top, a message went out that it was okay to depart from convention- business dress, in this case- to protect the environment. To help reinforce the message, the government distributed Cool Biz pins to any organization that signed on. It was forbidden to criticize coworkers for wearing casual clothing if they were wearing a Cool Biz badge."


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