Sonova ESG Report 2022/23
Sonova recognizes the importance of stakeholder engagement in promoting our long-term success. We regularly interact with our stakeholders to identify their specific interests in our business activities, products, and services, as well as to obtain valuable input to aid our decision-making process. We have defined five key groups of stakeholders:
Approach to stakeholder engagement
Customers and consumers
At Sonova, our business model is founded on fostering business-to-business (hearing care professionals, clinics, retailers) and business-to-consumer (end users, patients) relationships. To ensure effective communication, Sonova has established specific channels of engagement tailored to the differing needs.
We greatly value dialog with our business-to-business customers and facilitate this through our knowledgeable 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 provide marketing materials to help transfer our knowledge and train hearing care specialists.
We engage with end users and patients through satisfaction surveys and communities such as the Phonak Pediatric Advisory Board. The Phonak Pediatric Advisory Board helps steer Phonakʼs pediatric product development and establish best practice 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. For our Consumer Hearing business, the Explorers Community unites activities such as surveys, customer interviews, and forums to seek customer feedback and insights that are used for new innovative products. In addition, the Sennheiser Smart Control app enables customer surveys at the launch of each product.
We regularly interact with our employees through e.g. “HearMe,” the annual employee engagement survey; “Pulse” monthly surveys; and the annual appraisal and development process. We also interact via townhall meetings and our OneSonova intranet. The annual employee appraisal meeting is essential for assessing satisfaction, providing feedback, and defining expectations for both behavior and performance. The annual development meeting supports each employeeʼs personal and professional development and helps to build trustful relationships by providing a platform for open dialog. These exchanges are often accompanied by quarterly follow-up meetings, and line managers are encouraged to hold regular one-on-one exchanges with their team members.
Sonova has 28,446 registered shareholders, who together own 61.33% of the total shares. Shareholdersʼ interests are represented by the Board of Directors, which sets and oversees the general direction of Sonova. The Annual Report is published for our shareholders and other stakeholders, and we hold an Annual General Shareholdersʼ Meeting, which provides a forum for discussion and debate as well as an opportunity to vote on compensation for the Management Board 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 have a regular exchange with our key suppliers, and we assess our high ESG risk suppliers using EcoVadis, a global value-chain performance assessment and monitoring tool. Suppliers and other parties can raise concerns through our anonymous whistleblowing platform SpeakUp.
Academia and opinion leaders
We collaborate with multiple universities such as the University of Zurich (Switzerland), the University of Hannover (Germany), the University of Oldenburg (Germany), Vanderbilt University in Nashville (United States), 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, Switzerland and the University of Manchester (United Kingdom). We foster close cooperation with these partners by offering support towards diploma theses for Masterʼs degree or PhD students. We financially support numerous studies and, 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 on the SIX Swiss exchange, Sonova pursues an open and active information policy. A governing principle of this policy is to treat all our stakeholders alike and share information 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 regularly holds an Investor and Analyst Day: more than 80 investors attended last yearʼs event in person at our headquarters in Stäfa, Switzerland and an additional 140 participants joined the live webcast. We also hold regular exchanges regarding ESG topics with investors and rating agencies.
Sonova initiates and maintains strong relationships with a broad range of media representatives to ensure transparency, ongoing dialog, and accountability for its activities. The media relations team works globally with top-tier public interest media, financial and economic media, the major newswire services, consumer and technology media, as well as trade and specialist media 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, and respond extensively to requests from journalists on developing stories.
Sonovaʼs products include hearing instruments that qualify as medical devices. This requires us to adhere to stringent patient safety standards and provide evidence to support our performance claims. 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 both hearing instruments and cochlear implants.
Governments and social institutions such as the Veterans Affairs 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 various tender processes and offers its products and services to help insurers receive the best hearing value for their money.
Competitors and industry
At Sonova, we believe that healthy competition breeds innovation and drives us to constantly improve. We are committed to upholding the principles of fair competition, as defined in detail in Sonovaʼs Global Competition Law Policy. This commitment covers all business practices.