Sonova understands how the involvement of stakeholders supports our long-term success by enhancing transparency, broadening knowledge, and generating innovative solutions. Based on the relevant aspects of our business and products, Sonova has defined five key stakeholder groups:
- Academia and opinion leaders
Further stakeholder groups important to Sonova are:
- Financial community
Sonova identifies and selects relevant stakeholders for further dialog and engagement based on our existing stakeholder-facing activities and on information gathered from internal staff interviews and management workshops. We regularly interact with our current stakeholders to define their specific interests in our activities and their influence over our decisions.
Key topics and concerns raised through stakeholder engagement are included in our materiality analysis, sustainability program and respective reporting activities. The following key topics have been raised during the reporting year 2018/19 through stakeholder engagement, mainly by employees, customers, and regulators:
- Convenience: Our growing emphasis on higher convenience through e.g. rechargeability, connectivity and digital applications means that we can both broaden and deepen our engagement with consumers, offering trusted, valuable support at every stage of their journey to better hearing. Sonova affirmed its leading position in audiological performance with the release of the Marvel™ technology platform. Marvel takes full advantage of the unique connectivity and combines it with the proven convenience of our rechargeable solutions. The market reaction is very positive, reflecting the step-change that Marvel represents in the lives of consumers.
- Employee engagement: This year we conducted our first global employee survey, HearMe; around 90% of employees participated, providing valuable information about ways we can boost collaboration across the Group. The first resulting initiatives have already been implemented, aiming to release untapped potential, identify key drivers of employee engagement, encourage effective leadership at all levels, and thus stimulate professional growth and business success.
- Compliance: In 2018/19, we intensified our efforts to support Code of Conduct compliance with an internal communication and training campaign, “Speak-Up!", that was rolled out globally across the Sonova Group. The campaign included mandatory global compliance online training, which focused on the Sonova Code of Conduct and anti-bribery laws. We also established a new internal online platform as an additional channel to help employees understand Sonova’s Code of Conduct and to make it easy for everyone to report any violations.
Approach to stakeholder engagement
Our customers stand at the center of our business. Our business model is built on business-to-business (hearing care professionals, clinics, retailers) and business-to-consumer (end users, patients) customer relationships. Sonova establishes specific channels of engagement appropriate to the differing needs of each of these groups.
We ensure continuous dialog with our business-to-business customers through our sales representatives, brand tracker surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, advisory network, knowledge management and sharing, customer hotline and support, audiology conferences, online customer communities, and complaint management channels. We provide a broad range of professional training and courses that address the various specializations in the hearing care industry. We also organize e-learning seminars, road shows, face-to-face in-clinic training, and technical marketing material to help transfer our knowledge and train hearing care specialists.
We engage with end users and patients through satisfaction surveys and online consumer communities such as HearingLikeMe.com and Advanced Bionics’ Bionic Ear Association (BEATM). HearingLikeMe.com is an online community for people whose lives are affected by hearing loss. The website is visited by more than 50,000 people every month, and provides daily educational and inspirational news articles, videos and social media content. All stories are written by people with hearing loss, their family members, or hearing care professionals. BEATM aims to improve the quality of life of individuals with severe-to-profound hearing loss by providing valuable information, education, and awareness on cochlear implants. As a community of hearing health professionals and cochlear implant recipients, the BEATM offers important support services to help recipients “Hear and Be HeardTM”.
The Phonak Pediatric Advisory Board was founded in 1998 to help steer Phonak’s pediatric product development and establish and recommend industry-best practices to support the needs of children with hearing loss and ensure optimal outcomes for them. Members of the Pediatric Advisory Board include parents of children with hearing loss, researchers and professors in pediatric audiology, as well as master pediatric clinicians. The board usually comes together once per year.
We conduct an annual worldwide customer survey to ensure satisfaction and loyalty of our customers. Based on this data, the Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) is calculated and expressed on a scale between 0 and 100, the latter being the best. In 2018/19, the CSI was 80.
Sonova’s employees are key to its success. We foster a spirit of innovation, shared engagement, and personal responsibility. Through our vision, we want to ensure that our employees experience their work as genuinely meaningful.
Sonova actively engages with its employees through regular employee satisfaction surveys and through its annual appraisal process. The employee appraisal meeting is an essential process to assess satisfaction, provide feedback, and define expectations for behavior and performance. It supports each employee’s personal and professional development and helps to build trusting relationships by providing a format for open dialog.
Sonova has 17,158 registered shareholders, who together own 67.9% of the total shares. Shareholders’ interests are represented by the Board of Directors, which sets and oversees the general direction of the company.
We publish an Annual Report for shareholders and other stakeholders, and hold an Annual General Shareholders’ Meeting, which provides a forum for discussion and debate as well as an opportunity to vote on compensation for management and the Board of Directors. Each share entered in the share register with a voting right entitles the holder to one vote at the Annual General Shareholders’ Meeting.
Suppliers are an integral part of Sonova’s value chain. Our relationship with our suppliers is governed by Sonova’s Group Supplier Principles (SGSP), which are based on a range of international standards, customer requirements, and industry characteristics.
We assess all new suppliers on their management systems. We regularly audit and visit suppliers and inspect their management capabilities through employee interviews and on-site inspections.
Academia and opinion leaders
Sonova’s know-how and history of innovation is reflected in its strong partnerships with leading academic institutions and opinion leaders around the world. We collaborate intensively with universities such as the University of Zurich, the University of Hannover (Germany), the University of Oldenburg (Germany), Vanderbilt University in Nashville (US), the University of Melbourne (Australia), the University of Queensland (Australia), the University of Western Ontario in Waterloo (Canada), the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH) in Zurich and Lausanne, and the University of Manchester (UK).
We foster a close collaboration with these partners by offering support toward diploma theses for Master’s or PhD students. We do not just support studies financially, but, when appropriate, participate in the actual work by closely collaborating on research projects.
As a publicly listed company, Sonova pursues an open and active information policy. A governing principle of this policy is to treat all stakeholders alike and to inform them at the same time.
We actively interact with the financial community at roadshows, conferences as well at investor meetings and conference calls. Sonova holds an Investor and Analyst Day every year at its headquarters in Stäfa; last year’s event again attracted significant interest from the international investor community, with around 100 participants attending. We also hold regular exchanges with representatives from the social responsibility investment segment and participate in assessments by sustainability index authorities.
Sonova drives and maintains a strong in-depth relationship with a variety of media representatives as part of its commitment to ensure transparency, dialog, and accountability for all of its activities. The media relations team works globally with top-tier media, public interest media, trade and special interest media, financial and economic media, and the major wire services to ensure a fair disclosure of information to all stakeholders, creating – amongst other topics – awareness for hearing loss and its implications and of informing on key aspects of Sonova’s business performance.
We maintain a close and cooperative dialogue with the media by creating news. We proactively distribute press releases and publish it on our corporate website, organize press conferences, media trips, events or respond to requests when journalists are developing stories.
Sonova’s products are regulated medical devices, which means that the company must meet statutory patient safety standards and functional performance claims with clinical evidence.
We recognize our responsibility to share our specialist knowledge in external working groups to help define, on behalf of our customers, the regulatory principles that will ensure the highest quality standards for hearing instruments and cochlear implants.
Governments and social institutions such as the Veterans Administration in the United States and the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, as well as public and private insurance providers, all contribute to improve access to hearing care.
Sonova regularly participates in tender processes and offers its products and services to help insurers receive the best hearing value for their money.
Sonova’s competitors aim to gain market share. This competition generates improved service for customers and drives Sonova to push yet further the limits of technology. We are committed to fair competition.
Sonova interacts with representatives from competitors e.g. through membership in industry associations such as the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA), which was founded in 1985 and represents the seven major European hearing instrument manufacturers.