Canon cuts back climate change promises

Hiker photographing the arctic sunrise lying down on frozen lake
Climate change will have a big impact on photographing nature (Image credit: Getty Images)

Canon has cut back on its previous public ambitions for reducing its carbon footprint. Anyone who has signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement has agreed to aim for a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions from 2008 levels before 2030. 

This has been confirmed by a consensus of climate scientists as the only way to limit global temperatures to a 1.5-degree increase, and avoid the worst effects of environmental disaster.

As spotted by Eco-Business (opens in new tab), Canon has released its latest data on carbon emissions to the CDP, a non-profit organization that tracks companies' carbon use in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

After failing to stay on track for this original goal, Canon has now dropped its ambitions to a 30% reduction in CO2 levels from 2018 to 2030. According to an analysis by Transition Asia (opens in new tab), an East Asian NGO that scrutinizes sustainability pledges, this is actually only a 27.8% drop from 2008 when compared to the originally promised 50% drop.

Canon has been criticized for not taking its climate action seriously enough. The Canon Institute for Global Studies (CIGS) has released research opposing the expansion of renewable use in Japan, and its director has promoted climate change denial (opens in new tab).

This is not an attack on Canon specifically but is just another example of large multinational companies failing to meet their promised climate action. Numerous accusations of greenwashing have been levied across multiple industries in the last few years as companies try to claim positive actions while failing to make any substantial changes to their operations.

Many companies will tout their CO2 emissions decreasing, but bury the other chemicals they release into the atmosphere or through wastewater. According to their Sustainability Report (opens in new tab), Nikon has exceeded their emissions reduction targets from 2014 to 2021, however, this is still just a 2.7% yearly reduction, and Nikon still releases 27 tonnes of dichloropentafluoropropane and 10 tonnes of toluene, substances known to have negative effects on plants, aquatic life, and human health, so they have a very long way to go. 

Earlier in the year, we asked if "Sony" was the greenest manufacturer (opens in new tab). Sony says it is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2040 and 100% renewable energy by 2030 but not everyone is convinced.

Canon still claims to be on track for net-zero emissions by 2050, which is a mission almost all big tech companies share. However, this report shows how much work they have left to achieve and how little progress is being made in the time we all have left to stop the worst effects of global heating. This is now going to take an even more substantial effort to make up for the lost time.

With environmentally conscious decision-making becoming more and more prominent in people's thinking, consumers should be made aware of all the climate facts when making a purchase or choosing a service. Companies will not feel the need to take action unless the market forces them, so it is up to consumers to use their power to call on Canon and other manufacturers to take climate commitments more seriously.

For many photographers, the natural world, its wildlife, and its people are some of the most important and beloved subjects. If climate change is allowed to continue its course, and climate change destruction, sea rises, and unbearable global temperatures ravage the globe, then soon all we will have left are photographs.

Become more eco-conscious with the top five eco-friendly website hosts (opens in new tab) and our guide for how to become a green and sustainable photographer (opens in new tab).

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Gareth Bevan
Reviews Editor

Gareth is a photographer based in London, working as a freelance photographer and videographer for the past several years, having the privilege to shoot for some household names. With work focusing on fashion, portrait and lifestyle content creation, he has developed a range of skills covering everything from editorial shoots to social media videos. Outside of work, he has a personal passion for travel and nature photography, with a devotion to sustainability and environmental causes.