Sonova ESG Report 2021/22
Sonova understands how stakeholder involvement supports our long-term success: by enhancing transparency, broadening knowledge, and generating innovative solutions. We regularly interact with our stakeholders to identify their specific interests in our business activities, products and services, and clarify their influence over our decisions. We have defined five key groups of stakeholders:
Further stakeholder groups that are important to Sonova include: the financial community, media, regulators, insurers, competitors, and industry bodies.
Approach to stakeholder engagement
Customers and consumers
Our business model is built on business-to-business (hearing care professionals, clinics, retailers) and business-to-consumer (end users, patients) relationships. Sonova establishes specific channels of engagement appropriate to the differing needs of each of these groups.
We ensure 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 materials to help transfer our knowledge and train hearing care specialists. We conduct an annual worldwide online customer survey. 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 2021/22, the CSI for the Phonak brand was 74 (2019/20: 79 and 2018/19: 80). Due to COVID-19, only a reduced version of the annual customer survey was carried out in 2020/21.
The ways we engage with end users and patients include satisfaction surveys and communities such as the Phonak Pediatric Advisory Board, HearingLikeMe.com, or Advanced Bionicsʼ Bionic Ear Association (BEA™). The Phonak Pediatric Advisory Board helps steer Phonakʼs pediatric product development and establish industry-best practices to support the needs of children with hearing loss. Members of the Pediatric Advisory Board include parents of children with hearing loss, researchers and professors in pediatric audiology, and master pediatric clinicians. HearingLikeMe.com is an online community for people whose lives are affected by hearing loss. BEA™ is a community of hearing health professionals and cochlear implant recipients that aims to improve the quality of life of individuals with severe-to-profound hearing loss by providing information, education, and awareness on cochlear implants.
Regular interactions with our employees include “HearMe”, the annual employee engagement survey, and the annual appraisal and development process. The employee appraisal and development meeting is essential for assessing satisfaction, providing feedback, and defining 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 22,868 registered shareholders, who together own 66.46% of the total shares. Shareholdersʼ 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 Shareholdersʼ 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.
Our relationship with our suppliers is governed by Sonovaʼs Group Supplier Principles (SGSP), which are based on a range of international standards, customer requirements, and industry characteristics. We assess new suppliers on their management systems and are in regular contact with key suppliers.
Academia and opinion leaders
We collaborate with such universities 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 Masterʼs degree or PhD students. We support studies financially and also, when appropriate, participate in the actual work by closely collaborating on research projects. Sonova experts also actively engage in the scientific community by participating in seminars and conferences as well as by co-authoring scientific studies in journals.
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 interact extensively with the financial community at roadshows and conferences as well as through investor meetings and conference calls. Sonova holds an Investor and Analyst Day every year at its headquarters in Stäfa. COVID-19 related restrictions meant that last yearʼs event once again took place in a virtual form, with a record number of around 250 attendees joining the live webcast. We also hold regular exchanges with environmental, social and governance (ESG) investors and rating agencies.
Sonova initiates and maintains strong relationships with a broad range of media representatives to ensure transparency, dialog, and accountability for its activities. The media relations team works globally with top-tier public interest media, trade and special interest media, financial and economic media, and the major wire services to ensure fair disclosure of information to all stakeholders, creating – among other topics – awareness of hearing loss and its implications, as well as informing on key aspects of Sonovaʼs business and sustainability performance. We proactively publish and distribute press releases (including on our corporate website), organize press conferences, media trips, and events, and respond extensively to requests from journalists on developing stories.
Most of Sonovaʼs 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 the regulatory principles that will ensure high 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 improving 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.
Competitors and industry
Sonovaʼs 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, defined in detail in Sonovaʼs Global Competition Law Policy. Sonova interacts with representatives from competitors e.g. through membership in such industry associations as the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA), which represents the major European hearing instrument manufacturers.
Key topics and concerns raised
Key topics and concerns raised through stakeholder engagement are included in our materiality analysis, ESG strategy, and respective reporting activities. The 2019 materiality assessment identified eight ESG topics with the highest relevance for Sonova, which are listed below. The stakeholder groups which assigned a comparatively high relevance to the specific topic are indicated in brackets.
- Product quality, safety, and reliability (customers and consumers, regulators and governments, industry and competitors, investors, public)
- Business ethics and legal compliance (regulators and governments, industry and competitors, investors)
- Responsible supply chain (suppliers, industry and competitors, regulators, and governments)
- Human rights and labor practices (regulators and governments, industry bodies and competitors, public)
- Access to hearing care (customers and consumers, regulators and governments, employees)
- Talent development (employees, industry and competitors, investors)
- Diversity and inclusion (employees, regulators and governments, public)
- Data privacy and digital ethics (customers and consumers, public, investors)