Daikin President: “No comment” during unscheduled interview (15)
2022.03.23 13:05 Nanami Nakagawa
On March 8, 2022, Tansa conducted an unscheduled interview with Daikin Industries President Masanori Togawa (73).
Since November 2021, based on facts uncovered in our reporting, Tansa has been asking Daikin to comment on the PFOA contamination around its Yodogawa Plant. Although at first Daikin’s public relations department provided some form of answers to our questions, they switched to repeating “We do not respond to questions on individual matters” after Daikin Chairman Noriyuki Inoue (86) refused our interview request.
The groundwater in Settsu City, where Daikin’s Yodogawa Plant is located, has the highest concentration of PFOA in all Japan, and up to 70 times the normal concentration of PFOA was detected in residents’ blood. As the company that caused the pollution, Daikin has a responsibility to explain the situation.
Tansa decided to ask the president directly.
Daikin president: “No comment” re apology or compensation to locals
At 3 p.m. on March 8, a large black taxi pulled up at a luxury hotel in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture. Daikin President Masanori Togawa stepped out. After being greeted by the staff, he passed into the lobby.
Togawa was there to speak at a management seminar hosted by the Chubu Marketing Association. Tansa paid 29,700 yen (about $250) to register for the seminar. Although we had hoped to listen to Togawa’s lecture in person, the venue reached capacity, so we watched a livestream from a coffee shop near the hotel.
Togawa’s presentation began with a 10-minute video introducing Daikin. The words “Making people happy through air,” a reference to Daikin’s manufacturing of air conditioning and purifying products, appeared on the screen.
Togawa joined Daikin in 1973, became a director in 2002, and has served as president since 2011. His lecture that day covered his management style and the growth of the company.
“I was appointed president 10 years ago,” he said. “When I assumed the post, someone told me that a leader’s role is to find answers even when it seems like there are none. I took those words to heart, and I have always asked myself whether I am finding answers when making important management decisions.”
The lecture concluded with a question and answer session. The moderator read questions sent from participants via a private form. Tansa submitted the following two.
・Do you plan to apologize to or compensate residents near the Yodogawa Plant whose blood and/or land was found to contain high levels of PFOA?
・Will Daikin remove PFOA pollution from the area around the Yodogawa Plant? If not, why?
However, neither of the questions were selected. With no option left but to ask Togawa directly, we moved from the coffee shop to the hotel.
Togawa took the elevator from the third floor, where the event had been held, down to the first floor lobby. (Tansa’s questions are in bold.)
Thank you for the lecture.
I’d like to ask about the PFOA pollution near Daikin’s Yodogawa Plant. High levels of PFOA are being released.
“Aah, right, right, right, right.”
Togawa was aware of the PFOA pollution. But when Tansa mentioned an apology and compensation for residents, he refused to say more.
Is Daikin going to apologize to residents and compensate them for damages?
“Eh? Um, that is…”
So you won’t [issue an apology or compensation]? The area had the highest level [of pollution] in Japan in a Ministry of the Environment survey, and the Osaka Prefectural government has acknowledged it too.
“I’m in a rush, excuse me.”
Togawa got into a waiting car. As he settled into his seat, we asked again in a loud voice.
So you’re not going to issue an apology or compensation to residents?
“I’m not sure what you’re saying.”
The door shut, and the car pulled away.
President Togawa hadn’t caught the question?
At little after 6:30 p.m., less than two hours after we had approached Togawa, we received an email from Hisano Noda, a member of Daikin’s public relations department.
Good day. This is Noda, from Daikin Industry’s public relations department.
I received word that you approached Mr. Togawa as he left the “52nd Chubu Marketing Conference” held by the Chubu Marketing Association today.
Mr. Togawa was in a hurry on his way out and did not catch your question. As such, he asked me to reach out to you for clarification.
Could you please inform me of your question?
Although Daikin had been refusing to “respond to questions on individual matters” up to our last interaction with the PR department two weeks ago, the company was now asking for clarification because Togawa “hadn’t been able to catch” our question.
But it appears that Togawa had been able to understand: He responded “No comment,” as shown in the video at the beginning of this article.
Tansa informed Noda of what happened when we approached Togawa, including that he had appeared to decline to answer.
Noda sent a response.
Thank you for your reply. I understand the situation.
Since President Togawa was unable to catch what you said to him, it’s not really the case he would have been able to respond to your question. We apologize that he was unable to respond to being approached suddenly due to being in transit at the time.
We have reviewed your question, and the following is once again our response from the public relations department: Daikin takes this issue seriously and is working to address it, in coordination with the Osaka Prefecture and Settsu City governments.
That’s everything. Thank you for your understanding.
Daikin’s extraneous responses
The Daikin PR department’s approach to answering Tansa’s questions has been inconsistent.
During our initial interactions, they even gave input on matters we hadn’t asked about.
For example, in our first round of questions in November 2021, Tansa asked Daikin to comment on whether the company sees itself as responsible for high levels of PFOA being found in the blood of residents living near the Yodogawa Plant.
Although Daikin did not acknowledge its responsibility, the PR department brought up points we hadn’t asked about: They questioned the accuracy of the blood tests, which had been conducted by researchers from Kyoto University, and provided information about the company’s efforts to reduce PFOA emissions. In total, the response was 428 characters (roughly equivalent to 200 words in English).
However, their attitude changed in December 2021, after we asked Daikin Chairman Noriyuki Inoue for an interview.
Daikin’s PR department responded that “Inoue declines to be interviewed.”
Inoue previously served as deputy director of the Yodogawa Plant, in which capacity he was in charge of dealing with residents. He also served as chairman of a supporters group for former Osaka Governor Fusae Ota during his tenure as Daikin president. Was the relationship between Daikin and Osaka Prefecture impacting both parties’ response to the PFOA pollution?
In January 2022, we sent written questions to Inoue via the PR department.
The response was “We will refrain from answering questions about individual matters.”
After that, no matter what we asked, the only response was “We will refrain from answering questions about individual matters.”
But after we approached President Togawa, Daikin changed its response to “Daikin takes this issue seriously and is working to address it, in cooperation with the Osaka Prefecture and Settsu City governments.”
How will Daikin respond Tansa’s questions going forward?
To be continued.
(Originally published in Japanese on March 11, 2022. Translation by Annelise Giseburt.)Polluted with PFOA: All articles