GLOBAL – Institutional investors are calling on Japanese companies to engage with them and inform them about governance practices and correcting misperceptions, according to a survey by consultancies Sodali and J-Eurus IR.

The outreach should focus on issues of corporate governance, the role of the board, sustainability, environmental practices and social policy.

The survey confirmed the widely held view that institutional investors have a negative perception of Japanese corporate governance.

Rating the performance of Japanese companies on average against companies in other developed markets, corporate governance policy received the lowest score of only 1.79 on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent).

Sodali chairman John Wilcox said: "This result was not a surprise. What was surprising is that negative perceptions about corporate governance seem to have a spill-over effect in areas where Japanese companies are on a par or do relatively better than their peers in other countries – environmental practices, sustainability, financial disclosure.

"The lesson is that Japanese companies are broadly impacted by investors' governance concerns and need to work aggressively to counteract them."

In other news, the Global Sustainable Competitiveness index has scored and ranked 176 countries according to their capability to sustain or increase wealth in a resource-constraint, globalised world.

The 2013 index found that the Scandinavian nations have tightened their grip on the top four positions, followed by Central and Northern European nations.

Seventh-ranked Canada is the only non-European country in the top 10.

The large economies have kept their position within the rankings such as Japan (12), UK (25) and the US (27).

Brazil is highest ranked amongst the BRIC countries at number 28, while Asian nations such as Singapore, South Korea, Japan and China remain leading in terms of sustaining innovation capabilities.

Natural capital and resource efficiency rankings are topped by countries with high availability of water resources, favourable climate conditions and rich biodiversity.

The social cohesion ranking is headed by Scandinavian and Northern European countries, indicating that a strong social fabric is a result of the combination of economic development and equality initiatives.

The Index was first developed and published in 2012, based on a competitiveness model that.

The four main pillars of the competitiveness model are: natural capital, resource efficiency, sustainable innovation and social cohesion.

The report can be found at here.

Meanwhile, Novethic's annual survey revealed that growth in socially responsible investment (SRI) in France has slowed, expanding just 29% in 2012 compared with 69% in 2011, amounting to €149bn in 2012.

However, the SRI centre says the market is still buoyant.

It found that the number of mandate conversions was smaller than in 2011 but remained substantial in volume terms, with a rise of €7.4bn, while the sharp 53% rise in assets under management of delegated fund management was partly due to the conversion of mandates to SRI, especially by private insurers.

One of the main growth drivers in France is employee savings invested in SRI funds, which rose by 30%.

The survey can be found here.

Lastly, the 30% Club has announced the launch of two new initiatives to intensify efforts aimed at accelerating the progression of women in executive careers, following the release of disappointing data issued by Cranfield and the Davies Committee last week.

The 30% Club's Balancing the Pyramid project, led by Pavita Cooper of the 30% Club Steering Committee and supported by an initial group of 16 companies, is aimed at hiring more women at all levels of companies.

As well as collating data across companies to enable the measurement of progress at all career points, the project will involve a new scientifically based study of behavioural differences between men and women, with a view to facilitating more gender-intelligent skills development.

It will also devise new pre-employment initiatives to encourage young women at the start of their careers.

The new 30% Club Mentoring Scheme developed in conjunction with Ernst & Young meanwhile is aimed at enabling hundreds of talented mid-career women to benefit from cross-company mentoring, an opportunity that until now has been reserved for senior executives.