Having a robust sustainability strategy is relevant to both our internal and external stakeholders and embedding the strategy across our business units and functions means we can tell a consistent and relevant story to all our stakeholders. This helps us do business better, attracting customers, retaining employees, remaining compliant, and being a better supplier and partner.
Employees and managers are well aware of Canon’s strong environmental credentials, however we needed to make the broader sustainability strategy more widely known and relevant, so it can be ‘owned’ across the business and not sit in a silo alongside the business.
The main challenge was to help people understand that sustainability was a part of our business model and point out areas/ opportunities that are relevant so they can build on them and ensure that this dimension is included in future initiatives.
First step was to get buy-in to the overall sustainability strategy direction from the President & CEO and then, with his support, his senior management team. The heads of all business units and functions are part of that team and nominated a contact person in each unit for liaison with the sustainability team. Then, bespoke sustainability strategies were agreed with each area as part of the business planning process. That enabled the strategies and objectives to be cascaded to their teams.
The sustainability team is small (<12 people) and each member in the team acts as a business partner to a business area or function (sometimes more than one) to agree how sustainability is relevant to their strategic objectives and can be brought to life on a day-to-day business basis. The business partners meet regularly with their function/business unit to review progress and amend plans or take advantage of emerging business opportunities.
Outside the central unit heads, country and regional heads also have targets including sustainability aspects which are reviewed regularly and form part of their annual objectives.
With buy-in from senior management and recognition of how sustainability is part of how Canon does business (as usual), it has been easier to recognise opportunities and work with colleagues to bring these to life*. The sustainability business partners are also able to suggest ways in which sustainability can enhance our business propositions and employee engagement, and be relevant to other stakeholders. The business has a greater understanding of how sustainability can add value to the business.
Rather than setting an overall sustainability strategy as a starting point and implementing it top-down we have worked with the business to identify sustainability strategies that exist in the business approach already as a starting point and build on them. This has created common understanding of the concept and value of sustainability and has created buy-in at senior and middle management levels. This has provided the foundation to expand and consolidate our sustainability strategies.
We had previously tried to identify sustainability projects but found that they lacked traction as they did not fit with core business needs and priorities – so instead we went with the momentum that already existed behind initiatives.
Also, we sought to pick the most critical strategic areas for engagement, rather than day to day operational sustainability processes, which would not have attracted the same level of buy-in. Helping the business to do what they want to do, but in an even more sustainable way/bringing out the sustainability benefits has proved to be a constructive way of working, demonstrating a real win: win and increasingly early engagement in projects.