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The women catalyzing Japan’s ESG boom

Four high-profile businesswomen in Japan are focusing on bringing big changes to the country’s ESG market.

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Eriko Suzuki, Miwa Seki, Kathy Matsui and Yumiko Murakami are behind Japan’s newest VC fund

It’s got all the makings of a Netflix hit series: four businesswomen, who spent two decades urging Japan Inc to respect female talent, put their money where their mouths are. But this is the real-life proposition that MPower Partners, Japan’s newest, buzziest venture capital fund, is bringing to a boardroom near you.

The heroine of this production is Goldman Sachs alumnus Kathy Matsui: with her “Womenomics” reports, published between 1999 and 2020, Matsui almost single-handedly willed into Tokyo’s consciousness the need for gender diversity.

Women hold just 10.7% of board positions at listed Japanese companies – well below the 26.7% average of the OECD’s 37 members.

The MPower plot is much thicker than that. The startup is making the case that Japan’s sudden embrace of environmental, social and governance, or ESG, values, needs to be more tangible than rhetorical. And Matsui’s co-stars in the venture bring their own considerable expertise to bear.

Take