We seldom come across pioneering leaders who have broken ground for sustainability, laid the foundation, and cut a path that others can follow. CEO Insights’ editorial team engages in a conversation with one such inspiring voice of support for sustainability, Haruki Sawada (Executive Director, Green Sports Alliance Japan), who, with his advocacy, has been able to translate his dream into a common vision and a way forward. A trailblazer, Haruki has been creating value for stakeholders involved in sports, corporate partners, local communities, and the global environment while leading Green Sports Alliance Japan with visionary thinking, boldness, passion, and courage.
The idea to bring Green Sports Alliance to Japan came to Haruki’s mind when he happened to meet North America-based Green Sports Alliance at a chemical business conference in 2016 in Berlin. He was so impressed by the idea of fostering sustainability in society by leveraging sports that he immediately proposed the vision of creating a similar organization in Japan. He took this as an opportunity to materialize truly required sustainability in society and create healthier communities where people live and play. Haruki, along with Mikio Yoshino (Founder, Green Sports Alliance Japan) gave wings to this vision and changed it into a reality. Prior to initiating the Green Sports Alliance Japan, Haruki was associated with Mitsubishi Corporation for 16 years where he began as a salesperson and moved on to become the Department Manager overtaking the Olefins & Aromatics and Fiber Intermediates & Raw Materials Department. Throughout his journey with Mitsubishi, he has been leveraging his forwardthinking and growth mindset to identify ways to grow, prepare teams for success and create profitable growth for the organization. As the Executive Director of Green Sports Alliance Japan, Haruki is providing an exclusive opportunity for international harmonization by collectively leveraging the power & influence of sports, and inspiring communities around the globe to play greener. Let’s hear it from him.
What is the motivation that constantly helps you deliver positive outcomes?
I am a strong believer in science and technology and the attractiveness of sports. I feel it is extremely concerning that the majority of the world’s population, despite being smart, does not have the proper access to science and technology that is needed to make this world a smarter & better place for living. My motive through Green Sports Alliance is to let the maximum number of people get the opportunity to educate themselves on science and technology through thoughtful forms of educational entertainment. So, we are looking for the best ways to deliver this opportunity to people across the world choosing sports as a medium. The fact that I am able to set and improve the standard of Japanese communities in a bottom-up approach by leveraging the power of sports, resulting in creating strong individuals who can carry out the same economic cycle, is my greatest motivation.
What is your leadership approach?
My leadership approach revolves around the Chinese philosophy of the capacity and one of the corporate disciplines of Mitsubishi Corporation to embrace others as oneself, or to forget one's self to serve others, or to give and expect nothing in English context. I aim to serve my community by putting the needs of others first; I empower people to set the standard and improve it for others at their best. I believe, when my team sees my business cases and business model through my actions, they want to do the same way. Hence, I focus on placing my team in the actual business cases and learning by doing to understand how the model works.
What is your approach toward sustainability? What is the toughest challenge that you encounter while reaching your sustainable goals? How did you overcome them?
Sustainability is a challenging topic all over the world mostly because the majority of people consider sustainable living as something that is reserved for the rich. Big companies are able to bring to scale the efficiency gains from sustainable practices while there are always financial issues involved for SMEs to start working on sustainability. We understand that it is easier to improve sustainable operations in big-sized companies, hence our focus has been completely on SMEs who function under tight financial conditions. The Fact That I Am Able To Create Strong Individuals To Improve The Standard Of The Communities By Leveraging The Power Of Sports, Is My Greatest Motivation
The Fact That I Am Able To Create Strong Individuals To Improve The Standard Of The Communities By Leveraging The Power Of Sports, Is My Greatest Motivation
Economically underdeveloped nations that are still fighting for their basic necessities, find it difficult to understand the importance of investing in sustainable infrastructures. Sustainability as a business approach should be directed toward creating long-term value by taking into consideration how a given organization operates in the ecological, social, and economic environments. Hence, we try to promote sustainability in businesses by educating people and getting them access to science and technology. Also, reaching out to SME leaders and working with them to identify their goals of being smart strategic builders. We help them understand the meaning of being smarter or identify how they want to leave an impact on society or how they want to be remembered by the next generations.
In light of your strong industry experience, what advice would you give to budding leaders?
To be able to lead in the constantly changing business scenario, budding professionals must allow themselves to accept the changes around them and remain smartin managing the constantly changing ecosystem. Only when they are capable of processing, transforming, and accumulating information acquired from the environment, they can make a beautiful spark of life in this world.
Haruki Sawada, Executive Director, Green Sports Alliance Japan
With a Bachelor of Commerce in Business Management & Marketing, 16 years of unrivalled experience in Mitsubishi- Japan’s largest trading company, and ongoing challenge in a Ph.D. course of Applied Biological Chemistry, Haruki is making use of his wisdom and experience to accelerate the conversation about sustainability in the sports industry.