Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, Canon is one of the world’s best known brands, with products spanning photography, printing and medical imaging. With its corporate philosophy of “kyosei”— living and working together for the common good — Canon markets itself as a brand synonymous with wildlife and nature. Canon has over 180,000 employees worldwide and reported an operating profit of 353.4 bn JPY (2.45bn USD) in 2022.
In 2008, to mark the 70th anniversary of Canon, the Canon Institute for Global Studies (CIGS) was established as a non-profit private think tank with initial funding of one billion yen, or around eight million US dollars. CIGS hosts fifteen research directors focused on three main areas: first, macroeconomics, natural resources, energy and the environment, second, foreign affairs and third, national security. Canon CEO Fujio Mitarai doubles as the Chairman of of the institute’s Board of Supervisors, and in a 2021 CIGS profile he stated, “I sincerely hope that CIGS will play an active role in shaping the future of Japan and the rest of the world by precisely plotting out future directions while also bringing together outstanding human resources with the motivation to achieve these ambitions.”
Campaign Launch, February 2022.
In early 2022, we launched our report uncovering Canon’s association with the Canon Institute for Global Studies, aimed at building awareness amongst Canon staff, customers and a climate-concerned audience.
We then launched an Email To Target action to mobilise supporters to email Canon’s CEO directly and let him know they wanted Canon to withdraw support from the institute.
Cameras Don’t Lie International Photography Competition, March 2023.
In early 2023, we held the Cameras Don’t Lie climate photo competition. The competition aimed to harness the creativity of photographers around the world to challenge Canon to be the sustainable company it markets itself as, with the winning image displayed on a billboard in New York City’s Times Square.
Canon has two key issues it must address: the Canon Institute for Global Studies (CIGS) serving as a platform for climate change denial and Canon weakening its emissions reduction targets to levels that will not meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommendations for staying within 1.5 degrees Celsius.
CIGS publishes articles by one of its research directors, Taishi Sugiyama, which regularly question climate science, promote fossil fuels, and aim to slow the transition to clean energy in Japan.
Sugiyama has called decarbonization a “lie” and in 2022 published a book for teenage students titled Global warming from the age of 15: Factfulness not taught at school, where he argues that climate change is exaggerated and likens activist Greta Thunberg to a “communist.” He has also criticized IPCC and United Nations reports as propaganda and questioned a recent Japanese government white paper promoting decarbonization.
Second, in 2022, research from Transition Asia revealed that Canon backtracked on its 2008 pledge to reduce its absolute emissions by 50% by 2030.
Transition Asia reported that “Canon’s new 2030 emissions reduction target has been lowered down from its original 50% commitment, to approximately 23% comparative emissions reduction. This decreased ambition . . . shows Canon will only achieve 27.8% emissions reduction by 2030 on its current growth path.” Furthermore, the “new target is well below Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommendations for staying within 1.5 degrees Celsius” and lower than many of Canon’s peers.
Canon’s CEO Fujio Mitarai and Canon’s senior management need to urgently address both issues.
Canon should issue a public statement clarifying that it in no way endorses the anti-science and pro-fossil fuel views promoted by CIGS researchers and undertake a public review of the governance failures that allowed its brand to be used as a platform for climate denial and delay.
Furthermore, Mitarai and Canon’s senior management must withdraw support for CIGS until publications by its research directors denying the science of climate change are removed from its website. This includes Research Director Sugiyama’s publication targeting children, Global Warming from the age of 15: Factfulness not taught at school. Canon leadership must also take responsibility for the impacts of CIGS researchers’ publications questioning climate science, and in particular, end Mr. Sugiyama’s participation in government and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change bodies.
In relation to Canon’s climate targets, the company needs to commit to a 2030 absolute emissions reduction target that is at least equivalent to a 45% reduction from 2010 (excluding offsets).
Additionally, Canon needs to commit to 100% renewable energy with at least 60% RE by 2030. Such a move should occur in tandem with Canon developing and implementing a 1.5°C-aligned climate policy engagement plan that includes active engagement on key 1.5°C-relevant regulation and RE policy, especially in Japan.