Mt. Besshi in 1881 (Photo courtesy of Sumitomo Historical Archives)

Sumitomo Spirit in Action: Implementing Measures Against Smoke Pollution

Sustainability Management Began over 100 Years Ago

While the Besshi Copper Mines were rapidly modernized during the mining expansion in the Meiji Era, smoke pollution from sulfur dioxide gas from the smelter started to ruin nearby crops. In 1893, local farmers were outraged. Environmental pollution problems were taken up in the Diet, which determined that the Ashio Copper Mine was the problem in the east and the Besshi Copper Mines were the problem in the west.

To deal with this problem, the second Director General Teigo Iba invested a huge amount of money to relocate all the smelters to Shisakajima, an uninhabited island in the Seto Inland Sea, as a drastic measure against the smoke pollution. At the same time, he advocated a reforestation drive based on the principle that we must restore the Besshi mountains to their original verdant state, which had been ravaged by deforestation and smoke pollution due to the rapid increase of mining and smelting. The number of saplings planted annually was over one million.

Sumitomo Electric has always conducted business in harmony with the public interest based on the fundamental spirit of “gratitude toward society,” or giving back to local society. Teigo Iba embraced this business principle over 100 years ago.

The Sumitomo Spirit has been inherited by the Sumitomo Electric Group to this day. With an eye on social issues, including global warming, depletion of natural resources, and severe natural disasters, the Sumitomo Electric Group established the Fundamental Policy for Sustainability Management in April 2022, and has promoted business activities by demonstrating its commitment to providing value that is environmentally friendly, safe, secure, and comfortable, and which will lead to the realization of a sustainable society.

Mt. Besshi in 1881 (Photo courtesy of Sumitomo Historical Archives)
Mt. Besshi in 1881 (Photo courtesy of Sumitomo Historical Archives)
The Besshi Copper Mines in restored lush green forest(Photo courtesy of Sumitomo Forestry Co., Ltd.)
The Besshi Copper Mines restored as lush green forest (Photo courtesy of Sumitomo Forestry Co., Ltd.)

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