Sustainable Development Goals
Sonova’s contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Seventeen sustainable development goals (SDGs) comprise the UN’s global sustainable development agenda for the years until 2030. Taken together, they represent an urgent call for action by government in all countries – developed and developing – working in global partnership. Business too, as an engine of economic growth and employment, as well as a source of finance, technology, and innovation, has a key role to play in achieving the SDGs. Sonova has been a signatory of the UN Global Compact since 2016 and actively supports the achievement of all seventeen SDGs.
Our analysis of Sonova’s direct or indirect impact on the SDGs, with their 169 targets and indicators, has revealed that Sonova’s products, business strategy, and activities make essential contributions to SDGs 3 (good health and wellbeing) and 4 (quality education). We conduct business in a responsible way and thereby also positively influence SDGs 5, 8, and 9. We have limited and less direct impact on goals 6, 7, 12, 13, 16, and 17.
Good health and well-being (SDG 3)
The third development goal focuses on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for people of all ages. The importance of good hearing and the consequences of hearing loss are still underestimated, although people with untreated hearing loss often face serious consequences. These range from disadvantages at work to relationship problems and social isolation, which may even lead to depression. As well as its impact on the individual, untreated hearing loss puts a heavy cost burden on society. According to the WHO, unaddressed hearing loss costs countries an estimated USD 750 billion annually in direct health costs and loss of productivity1.
SDG 3 is well aligned with our vision: a world where everyone enjoys the delight of hearing and lives a life without limitations. Sonova contributes particularly to the achievement of the following SDG targets:
- 3.8: “Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.”
- 3.C: “Substantially increase health financing and the recruitment, development, training and retention of the health workforce in developing countries, especially in least developed countries and small island developing States.”
- 3.D: “Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks.”
Sonova provides access to hearing care not only in developed, but also in developing countries. To expand access to hearing care, we offer the industry’s most comprehensive product portfolio and support education of local specialists, particularly in high-growth, developing markets. In China, for instance, Sonova has built an entirely new training center – the Global Hearing Institute in Suzhou. Around 1,600 students have been enrolled and trained at the Hearing Institute since 2017 and around 4,000 per year are trained online by audiologists and product specialists.
- WHO, “Addressing the rising prevalence of hearing loss” (2018)
Quality education (SDG 4)
The fourth development goal is about ensuring an inclusive and quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning. To be able to follow a lifelong educational path, it is essential for children to have a good start. Children with untreated hearing loss, however, face severe difficulties, since development of speech and language is fundamentally dependent on the sense of hearing. Untreated hearing loss among children can greatly limit speech, cognitive development, and school performance. Children with hearing loss often grow up unable to find work and become trapped in a cycle of poverty and isolation.
In addition to Sonova’s suite of innovative and easy-to-use products especially designed for children, we also support people with hearing loss and limited access to hearing care through the Hear the World Foundation, which contributes to the achievement of the following target of SDG 4:
- 4.5: “By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.”
Founded by Sonova in 2006, the Hear the World Foundation focuses particularly on supporting children in low- and middle-income countries, enabling them to develop to their fullest potential. Sonova supports the Foundation through funding, technology, and the expertise of its employees who serve the Foundation’s projects as volunteers. Since its establishment, the Hear the World Foundation has provided funding, hearing technology, and expertise with a total value of over CHF 16 million to over 90 projects all around the world and given thousands of children access to better hearing and education.
Medium impact on SDGs
Gender equality (SDG 5)
The fifth SDG aims at achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. Sonova is committed to gender equality among its employees and contributes to the following SDG targets:
- 5.1: “End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.”
- 5.4: “Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate.”
- 5.5: “Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.”
Sonova has a focus on recruiting and promoting women, and employees from a wide range of cultures, to leadership and executive positions. By striving for gender balanced representation in filling open positions, we aim to achieve a 35% proportion of women in upper management by 2022/23. In our Code of Conduct, which applies to all employees and partners, we emphasize that Sonova does not tolerate harassment or discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, age, ethnic or national origin, marital/parental status, or sexual orientation. We also support the compatibility of pursuing a career and raising a family by promoting flexible working models such as home offices, flexible working hours, and part time work in leadership positions.
Decent work and economic growth (SDG 8)
Goal number eight is to promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. Sonova contributes to the following SDG targets:
- 8.2: “Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labor-intensive sectors.”
- 8.5: “By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.”
- 8.6: “By 2020, substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training.”
- 8.7: “Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labor in all its forms.”
- 8.8: “Protect labor rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.”
We believe in treating everyone with respect and fairness at all times; this applies not only to our over 14,000 employees, but to all other stakeholders. Sonova respects and supports human rights, a responsibility reflected in our Code of Conduct and Group Supplier Principles and embedded in the company’s culture. We are also a signatory of the UN Global Compact. Sonova is committed to ensuring that its operations and supply chain are free from modern slavery practices, including child labor, forced and bonded labor, and human trafficking. We are committed to equal pay for equal work and we are taking the necessary steps to ensure a fair compensation system. Sonova also provides reasonable accommodation in its job application procedures for young people and qualified individuals with disabilities. Through our products, we allow people with hearing loss to actively participate in working life.
Industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9)
SDG 9 has the aim to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation. Sonova has an impact on the following SDG targets:
- 9.2: “Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and, by 2030, significantly raise industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product, in line with national circumstances, and double its share in least developed countries.”
- 9.4: “By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities.”
- 9.5: “Enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries, including, by 2030, encouraging innovation and substantially increasing the number of research and development workers per 1 million people and public and private research and development spending.”
As a medical technology company with steady growth in employee numbers, revenues, and profit in recent years, we are committed to consumer-centered innovation and contribute to inclusive and sustainable industrialization. We invest significantly in research and development and filed 81 new patent applications across the Sonova Group in 2018/19. Sonova is committed to reducing its environmental impact and has set the goal of a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity by 2022/23.
Limited impact on SDGs
Environmental topics (SDGs 6, 7, 12, and 13)
The common thread in these SDGs is the safeguarding of our shared environment by reduction of environmental pollution, waste, and water use; efficiency and renewable sourcing in energy use; and abatement of climate change-related emissions. The SDG targets that have some relevance to Sonova’s own environmental policies include:
- 6.3: “By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally.”
- 6.4: “By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.”
- 7.2: “By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.”
- 7.3: “By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.”
- 12.2: “By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources.”
- 12.4: “By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment.”
- 12.5: “By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.”
- 12.6: “Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.”
- 12.7: “Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities.”
- 12.8: “By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature.”
- 13.2: “Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning.”
- 13.3: “Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.”
Sonova makes an explicit commitment to continuously promote and pursue environmentally friendly practices throughout the entire lifecycle of its products and across all its business activities. We are committed to safe handling of chemicals and hazardous substances and efficient waste and water management. Sonova has set Group-wide targets including an increase in renewable energy sourcing, a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption, and an increase in the recycling quota.
Peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16)
The goal of SDG 16 is to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels. Sonova has identified one SDG 16 target as relevant to its business:
- 16.5: “Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms.”
Sonova is committed to high standards of integrity in dealing with its business partners and to compliance with all applicable anti-bribery laws. Sonova’s Anti-Bribery Policy was updated in 2018, refining the rules under the Code of Conduct and prohibiting all forms of corruption. As a global healthcare company, we also recognize that many countries have specific regulations governing interactions with healthcare professionals. These impose further obligations which the company has translated into country-specific guidelines detailing what is permissible and what is not.
Partnerships for the goals (SDG 17)
SDG 17 aims at strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. Sonova contributes to the following SDG target:
- 17.16: “Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries.”
- 17.17: “Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships.”
We support multi-stakeholder partnerships through our membership in the UN Global Compact and our ongoing dialog with stakeholders to enhance transparency, broaden knowledge, and generate innovative solutions. One key area of interdisciplinary collaboration lies in establishing and promoting international networks where the specific knowledge of leading research bodies, hospitals, companies and institutions is pooled together, enriched and comes to fruition in new hearing solutions.