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Japan: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and Human Rights Now survey shows most Japanese apparel companies fall short on human rights

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and Human Rights Now, an international human rights NGO based in Tokyo, conducted a survey of the human rights policies and practices of the top 62 apparel companies in Japan. Despite individual approaches and reminders over a period of several months, only 21 companies responded to the survey - 33.8 percent. This low response rate in itself raises concern as to the level of understanding of companies regarding their human rights responsibilities, including their responsibility to respond to civil society concerns. Only half of the top 10 apparel companies responded, and only 37 percent of the top 30. Some companies stated it was their policy not to respond to human rights related surveys.  

The survey shows that a small number of leading companies have policies and procedures in place to prevent and remedy negative impacts their business activities may have on human rights. Aside from that small group, however, most companies have yet to take adequate measures - for example, of the 21 that responded, 9 still do not have human rights policies that make concrete reference to international human rights standards. Several companies have no procedure for remedying human rights abuses, and of those that do, most provide for them only in Japanese. Only four companies that responded to the survey - only one of which, Fast Retailing, is Japanese - has a remedy procedure accessible in languages other than Japanese. 

On the positive side, several companies stated that they had started to strengthen their human rights measures, at least partially because of this survey. The Japanese industry association is also reportedly discussing how to ensure that member companies respect human rights. 

In addition to summaries in both Japanese and English, the full results of the survey are available in Japanese here (at the bottom of the page).