A century of challenge and innovation, all in service of society, life, and the environment.
With unchanging spirit and unshakeable aspiration, we look to our next 100 years.
In 2020, Ishihara Sangyo begins another voyage.
With gratitude for our past, we will move forward with everyone to a better future.
Our commemorative centenary logo symbolizes this gratitude and features a compass motif, signifying our resolve to join with our stakeholders in navigating toward the future, with a better tomorrow as our lodestar.
ISK: A History of Challenges and Innovation
1920-1945：The Spirit of Challenge in Our DNA
Hiroichiro Ishihara, founder
ISK commences operation of an iron-ore mine on the Malay Peninsula.
ISK has been meeting difficult challenges on the global stage since its founding.
ISK’s century of challenges began with one small discovery. Hiroichiro Ishihara, the founder of ISK’s forerunner, on his first visit to Singapore, noticed that the gravel of the sidewalks was a red-brown color. Hiroichiro recognized it as iron ore. He had a passionate aspiration to develop an iron-ore mine personally, and contribute to the industrial development of his native country. He braved the wild animals and infectious diseases of Southeast Asia to make his dream come true. And in 1920, he founded Osaka Nanyo Mining Partnership Co. in Nishi-ku, Osaka. This was praised as a giant first step toward Japanese development of mines in Southeast Asia, and exemplified ISK’s bold spirit of embarking on new challenges.
ISK begins handling its own ore shipping.
Ships flying the company flag ply the oceans.
In 1924, while Hiroichiro was developing his mine in Kemaman, on the Malay Peninsula, he began shipping iron ore in company vessels. In 1929, as the business expanded, he changed the name of his company to Ishihara Sangyo Marine Partnership and expanded into the shipping business. The company grew to become a mid-tier shipping company, with as many as 15 vessels with a total of 120,000 metric tons of shipping capacity. In 1934, he reorganized the firm into a limited company and served as its first president.
In line with Japan’s development policies in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, the company expanded its South Seas business, including opening shipping routes to Java, developing mining on the Malay Peninsula, and developing underground resources in the Philippines and on Hainan Island. The company’s network grew to more than 20 offices in Southeast Asia, making contributions to Japan’s economy through development and trade promotion.
The opening of the Kishu Mine, and the 1941 launch of operations at the Yokkaichi Plant, lay the foundations of ISK's domestic business.
In Japan, the company was involved in numerous development projects, including the Kishu and Kamiyoshi Mines, and embarked on aggressive expansion. In January 1941, the company built a copper refining plant in Yokkaichi, not far from the Kishu Mine, and started operating plants for copper electrolysis, sulfuric acid, and calcium superphosphate. Around the same time, it built what was at the time the world’s tallest chimney, at 185 meters, which became the symbol of the industrial city of Yokkaichi.
The company entered the fertilizer business, divested its shipping business, and changed its field of business. In 1943, it was renamed Ishihara Sangyo Kaisha, Ltd.
After the war finally ended, ISK lost all rights and interests in its international businesses, as well as many of its domestic plant facilities and mines, and worked to meet the difficult challenges of the postwar era.
1945-1960：The Curtain Rises on a New Era
ISK begins producing agrochemicals, a cornerstone of the organic chemicals business, and becomes a pioneer in selective herbicides.
Immediately following the war, ISK lost all of its international business and assets, but luckily managed to retain control of its Yokkaichi Plant in Japan. The plant was refurbished and the company undertook to make a new start, producing sulfuric acid and fertilizer. As a key material, sulfuric acid contributed to manufacturing recovery. It was also critical for fertilizers, and the company worked hard to produce it, to help offset postwar food shortages.
During this difficult time, the company focused on 2,4-D, the world’s first herbicide, which had been developed in the US. In 1950, it constructed a herbicide plant and embarked on production. 2,4-D selectively killed weeds with little effect on grass species, making it an epochal product that liberated rice farmers from the backbreaking work of weeding at the height of summer. Moreover, in 1960, the company developed the first purely Japanese herbicide, opening the road to modernization for Japan’s farmers.
ISK begins producing titanium dioxide, a cornerstone of the inorganic chemicals business, and becomes a top domestic producer.
ISK was looking for new ways to use sulfuric acid, and in 1954, anticipating an increase in demand for titanium dioxide, the company built a sulfate process titanium dioxide plant using technology imported from the US. This represented the beginning of a new business for ISK, following its foray into agrochemicals.
At the time, there was no high-quality titanium dioxide being made in Japan, and the nation had to depend on costly imports. ISK’s move was thus welcomed by domestic users of this material, and the company was soon exporting it, expanding its share of the international market from an early stage.
ISK’s business focus shifts from mining to chemicals.
It opens a research institute in Yokkaichi and embarks on extensive R&D efforts.
ISK’s mining business played an important role in efforts to promote industrial recovery, but in 1954, to put its new titanium dioxide business on a firm footing, the company was forced to sell its Myoho copper mine, which produced the highest-grade copper in Japan. This difficult decision would later prove to be a major turning point in propelling ISK’s growth as a world-class producer of titanium dioxide.
The sale of the Myoho mine altered ISK’s management direction away from mining, its founding business, and toward the chemicals business that underpinned the company’s rapid growth. And in 1958, ISK established a research institute in Yokkaichi to take on the challenge of creating even more advanced technologies.
1960-1990：Reaching out to Global Markets
ISK focuses its resources on environmental preservation, becoming one of the first industrial companies to build a comprehensive water treatment facility.
As Japan emerged from the war’s chaotic aftermath, the nation entered an era of very rapid economic growth. This growth had a down side, however: widespread environmental pollution. In 1967, ISK and five other companies with chemical plants in the Yokkaichi area became defendants in an industrial pollution suit, and the judgment went against them. In response, ISK focused its resources on environmental preservation measures, which at the time presented a daunting technical challenge. In 1970, ISK was first in the world to complete a comprehensive water treatment facility. However, the enormous investment required by the system negatively affected the company’s business results. Survival demanded a large-scale rationalization, including the closure in 1978 of the Kishu Mine, where the company’s domestic business originally began, and a halt to production of its distinctive fertilizer raw material, which it produced using proprietary methods. But the company understood it would be necessary to face challenges such as this one resolutely, to strengthen its commitment to environmental preservation on a global scale.
ISK weathers changes in the agrochemicals market and moves boldly to strengthen its in-house development capabilities.
After careful preparation, the company sets a course for world markets.
In 1967, technological competition with European and American agrochemical producers began to heat up in the wake of loosening of government restrictions on capital flows. Reductions in acreage under cultivation, the revision of the Agricultural Chemicals Regulation Law, and other factors created an upheaval in the business environment. Amid this turmoil, in 1973, ISK launched X-52, a herbicide. Sales of the product contributed significantly to the company’s business results, and became the foundation for the subsequent internationalization of the Organic Chemicals Division.
In 1974, ISK adopted its basic policy of aiming for global growth as a comprehensive agrochemicals enterprise, and changed its management direction from a primary focus on domestic business to one that aimed to exploit global markets. The company engaged in research relating to new agrochemicals and organic intermediates, and launched a succession of major new agrochemical products. In 1984, annual sales for ISK’s organic chemicals business were around three times higher than when the company’s focus was purely domestic, and its agrochemicals business became a mainstay.
ISK responds to rapidly rising domestic and international demand for titanium dioxide by expanding its production facilities, becoming a major global producer.
ISK greatly expanded its output of titanium dioxide, which it had begun producing in 1954, in response to rapidly increasing demand due to Japan’s astounding economic growth. By around 1965, ISK was meeting approximately 40% of domestic demand for this product. Then, in 1974 the company built a titanium dioxide plant—the first of its kind in Japan—that used the chloride process,* which had a reduced impact on the environment, and began exporting its output globally. In 1989, ISK established a plant in Singapore as an international production base. TIPAQUE™ titanium dioxide became widely recognized both in Japan and abroad, and ISK grew into one of the world’s foremost titanium dioxide producers.
*This production process, which requires advanced technology, features low levels of industrial waste.
1990-2010：Social Responsibility as a Global Citizen
After embarking on pharmaceutical production, ISK takes on challenges in life sciences, including the gene therapy business.
In 1998, ahead of the dawn of the 21st century, ISK completed a plant to produce pharmaceutical materials in conformance with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). The company leveraged the organic synthesis technology accumulated in its agrochemicals business and, beginning in 1999, began producing pharmaceutical materials. In addition, as an extension of its business into the field of biotechnology, in 2000 the company obtained an exclusive license for reagents for gene functional analyses, built a dedicated HVJ Envelope plant, and in 2002 began producing and selling its HVJ Envelope VECTOR KIT In these and other ways, the company undertook to expand its life sciences business, which will meet a range of social challenges, including that of the aging society.
*Production quality control standard for such manufactured products as pharmaceuticals
ISK embarks on 100% Ferosilt recovery and processing, achieving the goal in 10 years.
Ferosilt is a byproduct of the titanium dioxide production process that was approved as a landfill material. Sales began in 2001, but in response to reports that Ferosilt could be a source of water pollution, production and sales were halted in April 2005. In June of that year a task force was established, and in July the company began recovering this material with the goal of 100% recovery. While no adverse health impacts were noted, hexavalent chromium exceeding the permitted value was detected in soil samples containing Ferosilt, which had the potential of undermining social trust in the company. Approximately 720,000 metric tons of Ferosilt ended up mixed with soil, and the total recovered soil/Ferosilt mixture amounted to 1.87 million metric tons. Determining the exact locations of older landfill sites was particularly difficult, and complete recovery took approximately ten years at a total cost of 60 billion yen. Removal from the 45 landfill sites was completed in March 2015, and final disposal was completed in December of that year.
ISK publicizes the results of its comprehensive compliance audit.
The company mounts a unified effort to rebuild trust.
ISK now faced the urgent challenge of restoring trust in the company and rebuilding its financial foundation. To accomplish this would require a thorough reorganization with a focus on compliance, and in March 2008, a comprehensive compliance audit was carried out by surveying all employees of the ISK Group. The survey, aiming to obtain the frankest possible responses, promised no repercussions for answering honestly, and in May of that year, the results were announced. The survey uncovered a wide range of problems, from instances of false reporting and illegal actions to sexual and power harassment. Thoroughgoing measures including compliance training, efforts to strengthen the organization, and active information disclosure promoted enhanced corporate health, and today ISK continues to guard against any recurrence of noncompliance.
2010-2020：Becoming a Strong,
Trusted Chemical Company
ISK begins its shift from general products to highly functional and high value-added products, and launches full-scale sales of super-weather-resistant titanium dioxide.
By boosting capacity and cutting prices, China’s roughly 70 sulfate process manufacturers of titanium dioxide threatened ISK’s share in Japan, markets in Southeast Asia, and elsewhere. In 2010, amid this sales war, ISK undertook a shift toward highly functional, high-value-added titanium-dioxide products through such moves as a full-scale product launch of super-weather-resistant titanium dioxide, manufactured using a proprietary process. In addition, the development, production, and sales arms of the company worked closely to strengthen cost competitiveness and product development capability.
Today, ISK continues to accelerate its prioritizing of the development and sale of highly functional, high-value-added titanium dioxide products over general products. In addition, the company is working to boost its production capacity of functional materials for electronic components and conductive material products, which are in high demand.
ISK enters the agrochemical business in Brazil and India, strengthening its global competitiveness.
As more attention was focused on food safety and reliability, restrictions on agrochemicals strengthened worldwide, and demand grew for safer, more effective products. Because of this, the agrochemical registration system became stricter, and inexpensive, generic products appeared on the market, intensifying competition and bringing changes to the agrochemical industry. Amid these changes, ISK worked to introduce new products and strengthen its sales activities in markets where future sales growth was forecast and which had not been fully developed. As part of these efforts, the company established local subsidiaries in India, China, and Thailand, nations that show promise for future agrochemical demand growth. Furthermore, we made efforts to popularize our products and strengthen sales in Brazil, the world’s largest market for these products, including capital participation in an agrochemical company.
In addition, to strengthen product competitiveness globally in the face of attacks by generic product manufacturers, we worked to restructure our production operations with an emphasis on outsourcing. As part of this restructuring, we decided to begin moving production of agrochemical materials from Japan to South Korea, China, and India.
ISK celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding.
With gratitude for our past, we will move forward together to a better future.
In recent years, ISK has placed importance on, and is strengthening its activities in, animal health products and pharmaceuticals as a third major pillar of its business, in addition to its inorganic chemicals business (titanium dioxide and functional materials) and organic chemicals business (agrochemicals). In the animal health products area, ISK received approval for domestic manufacture and sale of the world’s first anti-pancreatitis agent for dogs in September 2018. The company will work to commercialize this product in Europe and the US, and is developing other medications for pets. In pharmaceuticals, ISK is preparing to promote and manage clinical trials of its HVJ-E anticancer agent, which was developed as a biotech drug.
In September 2020, ISK will celebrate its 100th founding anniversary. As we move forward, with gratitude to all of our stakeholders and an unbending spirit in the face of adversity, we will innovate on the global stage and continue to offer new value.