The Divestment Story of the Earth Company Institute’s Asuka Hamakawa.
The Earth Company Institute was established in 2014 by Asuka Hamakawa and her husband Tsuhiro Hamakawa.
Prior to creating the Earth Company Institute, the Hamakawas had been doing international development work and, through that experience, met a number of exceptional individuals with strong and innovative ideas. However, these people don’t often have the education or experience to develop their ideas and they have no understanding of how to write grants or apply for project funding. The Earth Company Institute was founded with the goal of selecting one social entrepreneur each year and helping this “Impact Hero” to bring social transformation.
How did you first learn about divestment?
In 2011 I saw a segment on the news about some American students who organized a divestment movement. I realized that it doesn’t matter how much good work we do, if we don’t also make sure that our funding comes from environmentally conscious sources.
I began to follow the activities of 350 Japan and I learned about the “My Bank My Future” campaign and “Earth Friendly Bank” options. I read the information and materials posted on the 350 website and learned about banks which most closely agreed with our goals at Earth Company.
Q、At this time, which bank and accounts have you changed?
We changed the Group Donations account from Mizuho Bank to Japan Net Bank.
Q、What made you change it now?
We use various banks for different purposes and Mizuho Bank was our donations account. But when I read the reports provided by 350 Japan, I was disappointed to learn that Mizuho Bank is a major supporter of nuclear power and fossil fuels.
At the time, we had recently selected climate change activist Kathy Jetoni Kejiner from the Marshall Islands as a an “Impact Hero.” The Marshall Islands are the second fastest disappearing country on earth due to sea level rise. We can’t claim to support climate activists while funding the projects with a bank that contributes to climate change. It just doesn’t make sense. I wanted people to know that our words had substance. Our philosophy is to “Be the change that we want to see” We divested our accounts in order to resolve that conflict between our words and our actions.
First I had to make a recommendation to our Board of Directors. After some discussion, I received the Board’s approval in August and then we changed our account in September.
Cancelling our bank account wasn’t as hard as I expected and the transition to our new account was faster than I thought, too. The difficult part was contacting all our supporters and updating our account information on all our social media including the website. The biggest hassle was actually making corrections to pamphlets that we’d already printed. (*laughter*)
Q、Have you explained to the donors why you divested?
We are currently preparing a report for our donors. We’ll also post the information to our blog and newsletter. For us, it’s important that the donors understand our intentions.
And we feel that the donors share our desire to create a better world where low-lying islands are not sacrificed to climate change, but a world where we can all coexist.
Earth Company’s donors have clearly indicated that they support us for our beliefs, ideals and vision for the future, not for which bank account we use.And their faith in Earth Company will be further strengthened once they understand the reasons for our divestment.
Q、Do you have a message for the banks?
Until now, the role of banks was to support the economic and social development of postwar Japan. However, as economic development has been achieved, a variety of social issues and negative side-effects have also been created.As times change, the role of the banks must change too.Banks have tremendous influence andit’s my hope that they can use our money and investments to direct that influence for the good of society. If we can do that, we’ll change the world for the better.
Q、Can you give a short message to the readers?
The first step is to take an interest in how the banks are investing.With that information, we can then make conscious decisions about which bank to use.
Q、Can you tell us about Earth Company’s vision for the future?
We are currently in the middle of the selection process for the 2018 “Impact Hero.” Going forward, we’ll continue to challenge traditional “societal norms” with programs and activities that support and shape change for developing countries, and always strive to be the change we want to see in the world. At Earth Company that’s our mission.
Earth Company Co-Founder / President.
While attending Boston University Ms. Hamakawa spent her holidays traveling through the tropics and witnessed first-hand the impact of climate change on Pacific Island countries. Upon graduating, she joined a foreign investment management consulting company (now PricewaterhouseCoopers). After several years, Ms. Hamakawa then entered the University of Hawaii Graduate School and studied the influence of climate change on Pacific Island countries. In 2009, she focused her efforts on climate change and disaster relief activities following the Great Samoa Earthquake. She then supported reconstruction efforts after the 2011 East Japan great earthquake. Ms. Hamakawa has since served as deputy representative of the International NGO Tuvalu Overview and is involved in the management of Climate CoLab, a “Think Tank” on climate change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States of America. She Co-founded Earth Company in 2014 and that same year was honored as one of the “Unsung Heroes of Compassion” by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama.