Canon Inc.


Monday 10 October 2011, by Chae Ga Eun, Kim Jin Hyeon

1 inspired

Why this company?

At first, we thought photography makes us dream. Photographs transcend cultural differences and language barriers, and inspire people universally. Therefore, we chose Canon?the producer of devices that take pictures.

a) The main facts about the activities of the company.

Canon Inc. is a multinational corporation headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. It specializes in the manufacturing of optical devices such as cameras, photocopiers, and printers. Holder of over 2000 patents in the US, Canon is deemed as one of the forerunners of the consumer imaging products industry. Lately, Canon tries to expand its business into medical and industrial equipment domains for the company believes that it should ?continually transform in accordance with the changing times.?
Founded in 1937 by Takeshi Mitarai, Goro Yoshida, Saburo Uchida and Takeo Maeda, the firm is named after Kwanon?the first 35mm focal plane-shutter camera created by Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory, the direct ancestor of the present Canon. As the origin of the company?s name Kwanon (Guanyin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy) suggests, Canon?s business philosophy centers around Buddhism. Therefore, it is no surprise that the firm has adopted a Buddhist teaching kyosei, or "all people, regardless of race, religion or culture, harmoniously living and working together into the future," as its slogan.
While providing high quality optical devices and developing cutting-edge technologies, Canon actively participates in environmental activities as well as social and cultural support activities. Ever since 1994, the firm has been publishing sustainability reports, outlining its annual environmental, economic and social activities. Moreover, in 2011, Canon established the Corporate Social Responsibility Office at its corporate headquarters. Due to its dedicated commitment to social responsibility, Canon is ranked as one of the top 10 climate-friendly companies in electronics industry.

b) The ethical challenges this company is addressing.

Cannon divides its social responsibility into two categories: environmental activities and social and cultural activities.
When it comes to environment, Canon is well aware of the fact that management, products and consumers have to be environmentally conscious. On management level, the company has a set of clear goals and action plans to reduce the amount of raw materials and energy wasted during the production. For example, managers worked closely with suppliers to reduce CO2 emissions and energy loss during the procurement of raw materials. Over the last few years, Canon used alternative fuels and reused the exhaust heat generated by machines to minimize the energy loss at the lines. On product and consumer level, huge amount of Canon?s R&D expense is used to develop energy-efficient designs and eco-friendly technologies. Furthermore, Canon is building collection and recycling systems around the globe. To promote recycling, Canon runs environmental exhibitions and advertisements.
Social and cultural activities are divided into six subcategories: humanitarian aid and disaster relief, conservation of the environment, social welfare, local communities, education and science, and art, culture and sports. Canon is one of the biggest sponsors of the Japanese Red Cross Society. The company donated medical appliances to the Red Cross. The equipments were used to aid areas hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The firm also has been supporting the UN?s World Food Program since 2005. One of Canon?s major cultural campaigns is Tsuzuri Project (officially titled, Cultural Heritage Inheritance Project). Since 2007, Canon has been sponsoring preservation cultural artifacts. Outside Japan, Canon is involved in numerous conservation activities. For instance, under the program ?Generation Green,? Canon will plant a tree for every 10 products sold.

c) What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it.

At the foundation of Canon?s business philosophy lies the respect for humanity. Rather than serving the society through small scale divisional effort, Canon makes significant contributions mediated by the Corporate Social Responsibility Office at the headquarters. This shows how much dedicated Canon is to its social obligations?the firm is willing to burden the extra cost of keeping an extra department solely dedicated to social responsibility.
Furthermore, Canon is willing to communicate. The firm does not stop at listing the visions. It lays out a detailed set of plans and actions taken, and discloses them to the public via company?s website or annual reports. For example, when Canon develops a new technology, it explains how it could benefit the customer and the society through graphic explanation that is easy to understand. Also, when introducing collection and recycling system of used products, not only does Canon states the procedures that would reduce waste and cost for the company, but also mentions the benefits to the society and consumers if they participate in the recycling process. Through communication with Canon, we know that the company is not being illogical?all the actions taken are closely related to its profit. However, we also know that those were taken for the betterment of the people, too.
As the slogan Kyosei implies, Canon is well aware of the fact that the company and the society are in symbiotic relationship. The activities and campaigns show that the firm is striving to live up to its motto, while fulfilling its economic ambitions. This is why we believe this company is ethical and trustworthy.

d) The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

1. Because of digital cameras, sharing images and making alterations to the images have become easy. Consequently, piracy problem will always follow digital cameras. Two aforementioned activities are performed commonly and heedlessly at the moment, but people will be eventually educated about copyright issues concerning electronic images. When the time comes, Canon cannot avoid taking the blame for the piracy as it is the producer of machine that enabled the piracy. Before that time comes, Canon should carry out copyright education so that their products will not be misused.
2. While Canon is open on reporting their activities, the company is tight-lipped when it comes to policy stance. According to Climate Counts, Canon discloses limited public information on whether it supports climate change policies. Being silent on critical issues can destroy the business, because it can ruin the firm?s integrity and drive customers away. However, if supporting the policy would cause huge loss to the business or might antagonize itself against other companies, it would be better to remain silent. Nevertheless, if Canon wishes to remain silent, we think it should achieve a significant amount of CO2 elimination from its operation and actively participate in environmental programs to compensate for its avoidance.


Location: Tokyo (Japan)

Sector: electronics, optical products

Official website:

Key figures:

Annual Net sales: Consolidated 3,706,901 million yen/ 48,481 million dollar (2010)
Annual Net income: Consolidated 246,603 million yen/ 3,225 million dollar (2010)
Annual Profit: 274,742 million yen/ 3,593 million dollar (2010)
Number of Employees: 26,019 (As of December 31, 2010)

Nbr. visits: 4220

Nbr. inspires: 1