Fujitsu’s head of responsible business, Juliet Silvester, explains how the company creates long-term value. Interview by Tom Idle
The Japanese ICT business Fujitsu is currently “the most responsible business” as deemed by Business in the Community’s (BITC) annual awards, with 2015 judges heaping praise on the company for the way in which sustainability is embedded into its core strategy and how it influences others to collaborate and create the conditions for long-term sustainable change.
With half of its UK budget holders being women, apprentices paid 50% higher than the national minimum wage, and data centres powered by clean energy, Fujitsu is on a mission to not only challenge industry norms, but to create technology that is a force for good.
With $2.1bn invested in R&D topioneer innovationthat responds to some of the world’s biggest challenges – like tackling pollution in cities and monitoring health problems to enable the elderly to live well for longer – the company is keen to prove that responsible business drives profit and success.
Tom Idle:What does it mean to be a responsible business in 2016?
Juliet Silvester:We talk about winning the right way. We are a business and we’re here to make a profit. But equally, we want to win in the right way, in a responsible manner. So, we want responsibility to be at the heart of everything we do.
How long has that been the case?
Well, the company was 80 years old last year, and a commitment to the environment and society has always been a part of that history.
We call it The Fujitsu Way – an ethos that considers how we contribute to the sustainable development of society and the planet, and how can we use IT to create a human-centric intelligent society, which remembers that people are at the heart of it.
Your initiatives range from tackling youth unemployment and dementia-friendly financial services, to creating jobs for SMEs and addressing the Ebola crisis. How do you assess what’s most important to you as a business?
We focus on the mega trends– where the world is going to be in 2050 with an ageing population, with the impact on healthcare, and when resources becomes scarcer. So, we invest in R&D to create technology to solve these challenges.
How do you embed those values? Is it about hiring people against those values to make sure you bring the right people on board?
It’s a mixture of things. It’s about having strong leadership. When our chairman in Tokyo speaks about being a responsible business, people listen. We make it clear that this is what we believe in, we are not just paying it lip service.
The millennial generation is definitely asking more questions about our CSR when applying for jobs with us.
You’re a private business, without shareholders breathing down your neck and scrutinising investments. That must help.
We are listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, but because we are a Japanese company, the pressures are different. We are able to take a longer-term view – to look into the future and work back from there to see what positive role we can play.
How do you know how well you’re doing?
We run an annual employee engagement survey, and we ask specific questions about our responsible business activity so we get scores from that.
As a member of BITC, we take part in the CR Index, which is the only UK benchmarking exercise you can do on CSR topics. We are now at a score of 99%, so we must be doing something right.
We also use the ISO 26000, which is not a standard, but guidance on responsible business. So, we match our activities against clauses in the guidance and get that assured by Natural Capital.
What sort of improvements have you made in recent years?
It has been about further embedding some of the things we were already doing. For example, our environmental targets were fairly short term, looking three years ahead. Now, our targets are 10 years out. Previously, we were interested in climate change. Now, our environmental management system is more comprehensive, looking at issues such as biodiversity.
We are also now looking at supply chain management – ensuring that our positive impact is replicated by suppliers too.
Being named Responsible Business of the Year must feel great. But are there real, tangible benefits?
From a brand perception point of view, it is hugely beneficial. We know our customers want to work with others that have similar values.
In terms of engaging staff, it has been hugely important. We want to attract talent and have a diverse workforce of people that feel they can be themselves here.
And it’s important for business growth, too.