Sumitomo Corporation Europe is part of Sumitomo Corporation, one of Japan's largest integrated trading companies. Although Sumitomo Corporation as an organisation did not formally exist until 1919 the beginnings of the Company and its business principles were developed over 400 years ago by Masatomo Sumitomo.
Two people were instrumental in the founding of Sumitomo.
The first was Masatomo Sumitomo, the founder of the Sumitomo family, and considered to be the spiritual leader. He wrote the “Founder’s Precepts” which stressed integrity and sound management in business. These have formed the basis of our Business Principles which are still in place for all of our Group companies today.
The other is Riemon Soga who established the technology that led to Sumitomo’s reputation as “the King of Copper” and it was copper mining that was our first core business.
In 1691 the company that later became Sumitomo discovered the Besshi Copper Mine which remained one of Japan’s largest copper mines until its closure in 1973. The mine went from strength to strength despite many turbulent years. Sumitomo also established itself as a leader in social responsibility by building cultural facilities, schools and hospitals for the mine workers. It also moved refining facilities away from populated areas to reduce emissions and toxic effects on local people.
In 1897, Sumitomo started to manufacture copper products with the metal from its Besshi mine. It became the first company in Japan to produce copper and brass drawn pipes, expanding later into the manufacture of steel pipes.
Sumitomo also entered into the chemical production field in an effort to utilise sulphuric acid in the smoke emitted from its smelters near the Besshi mine.
A fertiliser plant was set up in 1913 to produce superphosphate fertiliser. The emergence of new businesses increased requests for storage of goods in its warehouses and Sumitomo started its financing activities with these goods as collateral, which later led to the establishment of a bank in 1895.
Sumitomo did not set up a trading company for a long time since these activities had been taboo due to the reference to easy gain in the Founder’s Precepts. However, after Japan’s defeat in World War II, Sumitomo decided to break this taboo to provide each employee with as much work as possible.
It was decided to set up a new trading department in an existing affiliate company, Sumitomo Land Co., Ltd., which was originally established in 1919 to develop Osaka port and its surrounding area.
In January 1946, this trading department formally inaugurated with only 32 people, to later become today’s Sumitomo Corporation.
The 1960s and 1970s saw a great deal of expansion and internationalisation of the Japanese economy, prompted by the development of heavy industries such as steel and chemicals. The Company diversified its product range to include iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, electrical and electronics products, machinery, agricultural and marine products, chemicals, textiles, natural resources, and real estate. It also expanded its businesses to cover sophisticated areas such as resource development, plant construction, joint venture formation, financing and investment. It was at this point that Sumitomo Corporation evolved into an influential and integrated trading company.