“A forestation plan in the spirit of repaying for what had been reaped from the land.”

  • # Sumitomo’s Business Philosophy
  • # CSR
  • # Director-General
Once devastated, the forest adjacent to the Besshi Copper Mines is now flourishing, following a 100-year restoration project.

“Never forget to pay a debt of gratitude,” is an ancient saying. It is an exhortation to return to the origin of things, remember debts of gratitude, be thankful for the blessings of nature and achievements of ancestors, and resolve anew to repay these debts. Inspired by this wisdom, Sumitomo has positioned “A forestation plan in the spirit of repaying for what had been reaped from the land” as a fundamental business principle.

Viewing the Besshi mountains, devastated by smoke pollution, Teigo Iba, the second Director-General of Sumitomo, was moved to say: “As a result of many years of tree felling to produce the lumber and charcoal essential for mining operations, the once verdant Besshi mountains have become gaunt, exposed by annual flooding. Nature, generous and benign, has allowed us to pursue this enterprise to our hearts’ desire, without anger or reproach, begrudging not a single tree or blade of grass. Leaving the Besshi mountains so degraded would violate the natural order. We must atone for this reckless overcutting, restore the Besshi mountains to their original verdant state, and thus restore the natural order.”

Motivated by his desire to restore the Besshi mountains to their original state in the spirit of “repaying for what was reaped from the land,” Iba embarked on the Great Afforestation Plan in 1894. Masaya Suzuki, the third Director-General, inherited Iba’s mission and oversaw a tree-planting project involving the planting of more than two million saplings annually at its peak. In this way, Sumitomo regenerated the forest over a period spanning nearly a century.

In his final years, viewing the restored verdant mountains, Iba referred to the reforestation of Besshi mountains as “My true calling.” His project is a forerunner of today’s corporate environmental measures.