Canon Sits at 4.85% Renewable Energy With No Public Targets Beyond 2023

Canon logo climate change graphic

An organization committed to exposing climate failures at large companies has called out Canon again, citing the camera company’s lack of public targets concerning the use of renewable energy and emissions reductions.

A New Chapter in Ongoing Climate Change Saga

A year ago, Canon came under fire from the climate change activists at Action Speaks Louder (ASL) for the camera company’s alleged involvement with a climate change denial think tank. Canon refuted the claims that it had spread misinformation concerning climate change. However, that didn’t prevent a billboard from going up in New York City’s famous Times Square later that month, highlighting Canon’s alleged failures on the climate front.

Billboard in Times Square
The Actions Speak Louder billboard in Times Square in March 2023. | Credit: Actions Speak Louder

New Report Calls on Canon to Improve

Earlier this month, ASL issued a new damning report about Canon, claiming that the company is “increasingly isolated on renewable energy” compared to its Japanese industry peers.

“Canon’s climate performance, particularly in the areas of emissions reduction targets and renewable energy commitments, remains uneven. While Canon has notably made some progress to date, the company continues to significantly lag behind its industry peers in Japan,” the ASL’s report opens.

Before diving into some of the harshest and most pointed criticisms, it is worth mentioning where Canon has reportedly improved its environmental performance. ASL says that Canon has so far lived up to its recent promise to bring greenhouse gas emissions within the targets outlined in the 1.5°C Paris Agreement.

solar panel and wind turbine
Image credit: Depositphotos

However, to reach its most ambitious targets, ASL notes that Canon will need to “dramatically scale up the use of renewable energy in its operations.” This is where Canon’s biggest alleged failures rest now, with ASL criticizing the camera company for its lack of a public target for using renewable energy beyond this fiscal year.

Canon’s Competitors Are Leaving It Behind When it Comes to Environmental Goals

The ASL says Canon is “lagging far behind its peers,” and its “percentage of purchased or acquired renewable electricity reported to CDP for 2022 was strikingly low — just 4.54% — and has never crossed the 5% level within the past four years,” it adds.

“In fact, Canon’s target percentage for low carbon or renewable energy in 2023 was only 4.85%,” the report continues.

Compared to its competitors in the camera industry, the report says Canon’s renewable energy use is dismal. The company’s silence concerning public targets is also an outlier.

Ricoh Imaging and Fujifilm have committed to using 50% renewable energy by 2030. Sony promises to reach 100% renewable energy by the same year. Nikon Corporation just received approval for its net-zero targets last week, and Nikon has moved its 100% renewable energy usage target from 2050 to 2030.

Canon buildling
Image credit: Depositphotos

Despite claims concerning progress on emissions reduction, which ASL questions in its report, Canon won’t commit to using renewable energy at a higher rate and refuses to set long-term energy goals, ambitious or otherwise.

“In light of Canon’s need to meet its own emissions reduction targets and properly demonstrate a renewable energy action plan to stakeholders, we reiterate our recommendation that Canon: Make a public commitment and develop a transparent plan to achieve 100% renewable energy, with at least 60% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030,” Action Speaks Louder emphasizes.

Canon Institute for Global Studies (CIGS): A Purveyor of Climate Change Denial and Skepticism

ASL notes that the Canon Institute for Global Studies (CIGS) continues to publish concerning materials reflective of a general skepticism toward climate change. The CIGS has a questionable history.

For example, in a post published last week about data from the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) ‘s annual “State of the Polar Bear Report 2023.” Dr. Taishi Sugiyama, principal research at CIGS, concludes that increasing polar bear numbers “does not support the climate crisis theory.”

Polar bear
Image credit: Depositphotos

But what is GWPF? The “charitable organization” consistently occupies a position of skepticism of climate change, promotes climate change denial, and works to undermine attempts to regulate corporations around the globe. In 2014, The Independent described the British organization as “the United Kingdom’s most prominent source of climate change denial.”

The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) also monitors polar bear populations closely and notes that while some populations are stable or increasing, others are decreasing. In some subregions of the Arctic, there is not enough good data to make conclusions.

In any event, climate change is real, despite what some members of Canon’s Institute for Global Studies say.

In another recent post on the CIGS website, Dr. Sugiyama wrote negatively about Japanese energy policy, claiming that the government’s green energy goals are without “rationale or evidence,” adding that energy policy must prioritize “security” and “wealth” over decarbonization.

Image credit: Depositphotos

Dr. Sugiyama also believes that the Paris Agreement is a “cult” and that it “destroys Japan’s economy” while simultaneously benefiting China.

He also recently wrote that “the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is not a bad thing in itself, but rather a good thing.” The gist here is that because some air pollution can fertilize plants and make the planet physically greener, more CO2 is a good thing.

Just because climate change is being partially mitigated by the global greening it is accelerating does not mean that increased pollution is a good thing, or that reducing environmental regulations is warranted. However, a push for deregulation is a common theme of articles published on the CIGS website.

Wrapping climate change skepticism in charts and graphs resembling scientific data does not make the data more legitimate, although it does make it easier to disseminate.

Dr. Sugiyama describes his research focus as working toward a “Comprehensive understanding and dissemination of scientific knowledge to solve global warming issues.” Unsurprisingly, Actions Speak Louder has significant concerns with his approach.

Canon Says Its Think Tank is ‘Independent,’ But What Does That Mean?

There is plenty more to be said about Dr. Sugiyama’s various climate change skepticism at the CIGS, but what does Canon say about its think tank and its researchers?

Last year, Canon explained that the CIGS “operates independently” and is “unrelated to the business activities of Canon.” Further, Canon says that researchers affiliated with the CIGS operate independently of Canon, and that any statements people like Dr. Sugiyama make are “their own.”

Action Speaks Louder called Canon’s attempts to distance itself from the CIGS “absurd” and “incongruous” with reality.

“As Canon Inc. CEO Fujio Mitarai even states, ‘the Institute conducts various research activities in line with Canon’s corporate philosophy,'” ASL said last year.

Canon camera
Credit: Actions Speak Louder

Canon’s Response to The New ASL Report

Concerning the ASL’s newest report published earlier this month, Canon fired back, primarily touting its emission reduction performance:

Regarding Canon’s CO2 reduction targets, CO2 emissions reduction targets set to be achieved by 2030 were approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) in 2023. Although we have already been working to reduce CO2 emissions through product lifecycle indices ahead of this development, starting in 2024 we will also work to reduce these emissions throughout the entire Group in line with SBTi criteria.

Essentially, we will manage the progress toward achieving our goals by focusing on further reductions in energy consumption, in addition to utilizing renewable energy, etc., and will disclose the information requested by SBTi. Going forward, we will consider disclosing information about plans and targets focused solely on introducing renewable energy.

The usage rate of renewable energy in 2023 reached approximately 12.9% (preliminary figures) on a global basis. Going forward, Canon plans to continue promoting the self-procurement of green energy through initiatives such as newly installing solar panels and increase the usage rate of renewable energy.

ASL Thinks The Response Lacks Depth

“Canon’s response to you is smart. Lots of noise, lots of accreditation and just enough movement to maintain a veneer of credibility,” the ASL tells PetaPixel regarding Canon’s statement above.

“Ultimately though, the only things which matter are whether their emissions are reducing in the real world, whether their transition plans are solid, and how they use their influence. On all of these, Canon is failing,” ASL adds.

Fujifilm, Nikon, Panasonic, Ricoh, and Sony have all made public commitments. Therefore, ASL asks, why can’t Canon?

Canon Is Influential in Japan; Its Actions (and Words) Matter

Canon is an influential company in Japan and its approach to energy policies matters significantly in the country.

“If Japan shifts to renewables, it’ll likely use its influence to support other countries to do the same,” especially in Asia, the ASL tells PetaPixel over email.

Canon’s chairman and CEO, Mitarai Fujio, is an honorary chair of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), an influential business group in Japan that has significant power over the direction of Japanese policy and regulation. This business lobby has a spotty track record and history of curtailing attempts to address the climate crisis through renewable energy.

As much as Canon tries to distance itself from its own research institute, there are some interesting threads connecting the actions of Canon Inc. and the words of the CIGS’ principal researcher, who submitted a 150-page briefing about energy policy to the Japanese government last month.

“Current energy policy is bound by extreme CO2 emission reduction targets and ideologically driven,” the policy recommendation explains, citing that cheaply procuring fossil fuels is “the most important requirement for Japan to achieve energy dominance.”

The report, published in Japanese, also claims that there isn’t sufficient scientific data to conclude that there are risks associated with climate change.

Climate Change

“With its establishment, I hope that the Canon Institute for Global Studies will play an active role in shaping the future of Japan and the rest of the world by precisely plotting out future directions and visions, disseminating information, providing roadmaps, and serving as a venue for outstanding human resources with the sophistication and sensibility to substantively improve the world. We believe that through such activities, we can promote further development in Japan and on a global scale, and thus contribute to the ongoing prosperity and well being of humankind,” explains Fujio Mitarai on the CIGS website.

“With every confidence that the Canon Institute for Global Studies will contribute meaningfully to the future development of Japan and the rest of the world, we request your support and cooperation in our activities,” Canon’s chairman and CEO continues.

“Taking a dynamic approach to the issues in the areas of natural resources, energy and the environment, the CIGS investigates possible ways to convert the challenges to the global economy posed by the environmental issues into an opportunity of economic growth,” says CIGS’ president, Toshihiko Fukui.

So long as Canon funnels money into its Institute for Global Studies and its CEO touts its commitment to shaping the future of Japan, the company can insist that “the opinions expressed or implied” by the CIGS aren’t “commissioned or endorsed by Canon” all it wants, but it is not obvious that there are all that many degrees of separation, especially not concerning the economic and regulatory goals of Dr. Sugiyama and the business group that Canon’s CEO is in.

“As a respected and influential global brand, Canon can play a powerful role in driving climate action, both through positive advocacy to the government, and through communicating to a global community of nature lovers who buy its products,” ASL says of Canon.

However, ASL also says, “The Canon think tank spreads falsehoods about climate science, promotes fossil fuels and aims to slow the transition to clean energy in Japan. Its reach includes everything from international media to school children and government policy-making bodies.”