We offer our employees a flexible and inclusive work environment and an open culture.
Environmentally friendly practices
Sonova makes an explicit commitment to continuously promote and pursue environmentally friendly practices throughout the entire lifecycle of its products and across all its business activities. We set the priorities and provide the resources needed to reduce our environmental impact through responsible, efficient management of our buildings and infrastructure, processes, products, and services. The environmental policy supports Sonova’s commitment to behave proactively and describes the company’s environmental performance management organization and responsibilities, along with their relevant environmental aspects and other management approaches.
Sonova’s environmental program sets clearly defined targets, of which the three most important are: a 10% reduction from 2013/14 levels of production-related carbon emissions intensity by 2018/19, a 10% reduction from 2013/14 levels of air travel-related carbon emissions intensity by 2018/19, and ensuring that 100% of key suppliers are rated as having a qualified environmental management system in place by 2018/19. We continuously monitor and optimize environmental objectives and performance across the Group.
As part of this continuous improvement in operations, Sonova has committed to establish ISO 14001-certified environmental management systems at all its key manufacturing and distribution centers; these require employees to make sound environmental decisions when designing, manufacturing, and servicing products. For non-manufacturing sites, Sonova has implemented an adapted environmental management system to ensure integration of environmental factors in decision-making and improvement in environmental performance. The following Sonova facilities are currently certified to the ISO 14001 standard: Sonova AG and Advanced Bionics AG (Stäfa, Switerzland), Phonak Communications AG (Murten, Switzerland), Advanced Bionics LLC (Valencia, USA), Phonak Operation Center Vietnam Co., Ltd (Binh Duong, Vietnam), and Unitron Hearing (Suzhou) Co., Ltd (Suzhou, China). Phonak LLC manufacturing and distribution centers in Warrenville / Aurora (USA) first achieved this certification in May 2016.
We insist on environmentally friendly business practices throughout our supply chain: we do not restrict our environmental standards to our own operations, but consider them equally crucial in selecting our suppliers. The Sonova Group Supplier Principles recommend that suppliers use the international ISO 14001 standard as the starting point and basis for their work. In 2016, 93.1% of key suppliers were rated as having a qualified environmental management system in place compliant with ISO 14001 or other recognized standards.
Thanks to Sonova’s low risk exposure to environmental issues and its strict group-wide environmental management, no fines or non-monetary sanctions were levied against Sonova in 2016 (or in previous years) for noncompliance with environmental laws or regulations.
Climate protection and energy reduction
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time: it requires prompt, effective action from governments, industries, and individuals. Sonova is committed to reducing the carbon footprint attributable to its direct and indirect energy consumption, including energy used in transportation and distribution. The company’s strategy requires a steady increase in the energy efficiency of its operations, integrating environmentally friendly energy purchase and generation, and optimizing transportation and distribution logistics. Sonova has set up implementation initiatives that concentrate on its most energy-intensive facilities, while considering other sites that show realistic potential for improvement. From a risk perspective, Sonova’s business has a low exposure to climate change and hence has no financial implications for the organization’s activities.
2016, the total energy consumption of the Sonova Group increased over the
previous year by 12.3% to 39,161 megawatt-hours (MWh). This was mostly due to
the electricity consumed in new buildings in China and Vietnam, along with the acquisition
of Hansaton in Germany. In line with the increased energy consumption at Group
level, Sonova Group’s absolute carbon footprint grew by 10.6% to 24,799 tonnes
of CO2 equivalents (t CO2eq).
This increase stems from the Scope 2 emissions and is largely explained by
increased electricity consumption due to a greater number of employees and
increased production volume at the operation centers in China and Vietnam. A
5,000 square meter solar panel system in Suzhou, China, which was put into
operation in 2015, will help us reduce our CO2
footprint in upcoming years by substituting solar power for coal-derived
electricity. In 2016, the new photovoltaic system produced 500,000 kWh of green
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – Scope 1&2
As mentioned above, Sonova aims to achieve a 10% reduction from 2013/14 levels of production-related carbon emissions intensity by 2018/19. One example of how we are working to achieve this goal comes from the Advanced Bionics operation center in Valencia, USA, were we replaced conventional lightning with LED technology to save energy, both in the building and in the parking area. Thanks to this measure, the operation center’s electricity consumption dropped by 4%, saving 240 MWh of energy per year. Despite our efforts to improve energy efficiency in our infrastructure and production processes, the company recorded a higher CO2eq emission value per unit produced. The increased production volume could not offset the additional CO2eq emission caused by our new buildings in China and Vietnam.
Monitoring transportation and distribution
Sonova is a global company: business-related air travel is essential to maintain and improve operations, and to collaborate with internal and external stakeholders. We estimate, however, that we could reduce our carbon emissions by at least 10% by systematically using information and communications technology to substitute for air travel. In 2016, the carbon emissions from business-related air travel activities on a group-wide basis were 10,307 t CO2eq, of which 33% originated from the flights of Sonova employees in Switzerland. Despite strict travel policies and the increased use of web-conferencing tools, carbon emissions from business flights increased in absolute terms by 13.6% compared to the previous year. Carbon emission intensity (expressed as t CO2eq / million CHF sales) decreased by 10.7%.
Sonova also estimated the carbon footprint of its corporate car fleet in 2016. All vehicles purchased, leased, or rented by Sonova Group companies were taken into account. The estimated total carbon footprint of Sonova’s corporate car fleet is around 5,049 tonnes per year. The average carbon emissions per single vehicle were evaluated at 139 grams CO2/km. Sonova has therefore reached, for the first time, its long term goal to achieve average carbon emissions of 140 grams CO2/km or below.
Because the availability of public transport differs across countries, Sonova’s initiatives to promote environmentally friendly commuting are influenced by the local infrastructure. The headquarters in Stäfa established an integral mobility program which provides incentives to use public transport, accompanied by targeted awareness campaigns. This initiative increased the proportion of employees who commute using public transportation from 40% to 60% over the last 10 years.
In terms of product
distribution, air freight is clearly the dominant contributor to Sonova’s
carbon footprint, accounting for around 97% of relevant CO2 emissions. Based on a study conducted in 2014, the
carbon emissions for the hearing instruments segment are estimated at 7,000 t
CO2eq in absolute terms and 0.85 kg CO2eq per tonne-kilometer in relative terms; distribution
from Group companies to retail shops was not taken into account. The equivalent
carbon emissions for the cochlear implant segment were around 1,100 t CO2eq and 0.98 kg CO2eq per
tonne-kilometer, respectively. The data analyzed for the cochlear implant
segment cover around 80% of the total carbon footprint (in t CO2eq) from transporting and distributing products,
including distribution from Group companies to clinics.
As a medical device manufacturer, the Sonova Group takes a proactive approach to evaluating materials in its products and components to assess environmental, health, or safety risks. Sonova may restrict substances because of customer or legal requirements, or because the company believes it is appropriate, based on a precautionary approach. Evaluating alternative materials is a continuous process, relevant to all stages of the production.
The main materials used in Sonova products are polymers (e.g. nylon, silicone, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, acrylic polymers), metals (steel, titanium, tin), and semimetals (e.g. silicon). Sonova complies with the EU directive on Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), which governs the use of heavy metals and halogenated compounds, and with the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation for the safe manufacture and use of chemical substances. Sonova’s suppliers are also required to prove their compliance with RoHS and REACH regulations in their respective processes and supply chains.
In accordance with REACH regulation, Phonak continuously updates the list of substances of very high concern (SVHC) that may be present in its products above the threshold level of 0.1% by weight of the article. This list is made publicly available on the Phonak website. By the end of the 2016/17 financial year, DEHP was the only substance remaining on this list.
Other substances classified as hazardous – but excluded from the RoHS directive – include solder paste and wire, paint, organic solvents, oil emulsions, mineral oil, and water-based cleaning solution. Employees who work with chemicals and hazardous substances, or come into contact with them, are regularly trained in their safe handling.
For Sonova, dealing with
materials sustainably means avoiding or reducing waste wherever possible,
collecting recyclables separately and disposing of hazardous waste in
environmentally compatible ways. Thanks to various initiatives in Group
companies, such as double-sided printing by default, Sonova was able to increase
its recycling rate by 184 tonnes to 46%. In the future, Sonova aims to further
increase the recycling rate to 50%.
In the volume of solid waste sent to disposal, such as municipal solid waste or material left over from manufacturing processes, there was a slight increase to 1,142 tonnes.
Sonova complies with
legal requirements to transport and dispose of hazardous waste solely through
officially authorized disposal agents. The main categories of hazardous waste
substances are solvents, oil emulsions, paints, adhesives, soldering paste,
filters, petroleum, and washing fluids. In line with the increase in group-wide production
volume in 2016, the amount of hazardous waste rose slightly to 36 tonnes.
Sonova performs a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as part of each product’s research and development phase. The aim is to reduce the use of hazardous substances, avoid other environmental risks, minimize consumption of resources, and design for recycling and easy end-of-life treatment.
Sonova has been advancing the industrial use of 3D printing technology for many years: at the beginning of the millennium, Sonova was one of the very first companies to start digitally producing custom shells for in-the-ear hearing aids and earpieces. Today, the company “prints” hundreds of thousands of custom-made products every year. In 2016/17 Phonak introduced the Virto B-Titanium, combining the strength and lightness of titanium with the versatility of 3D printing to produce the smallest custom instrument in the company’s history, and saving material with a shell twice as thin as traditional custom shells.
Sonova’s technology development aims to build improved energy efficiency into each new product. With the Phonak AudéoTM B-R, launched in June 2016, Phonak introduced the first ever hearing aid to feature a specifically designed built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery, providing 24 hours of hearing with only one charge. During 2016/17, Phonak, Unitron and Hansaton completed Sonova’s rechargeable portfolio with the launch of additional rechargeable hearing solutions; Advanced Bionics also offers rechargeable battery options for cochlear implant sound processors. We also made significant improvements in conventional battery systems: Phonak’s new ITE Virto B-Titanium has a 20% longer battery life than its predecessor, the Virto V-nano. Advanced Bionics’ HiResTM Optima Sound Processing delivers the same high performance as its predecessor with a 55% average improvement in battery life.
Sonova complies with the EU directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), which requires such equipment to be returned to the manufacturer for recycling or environmentally friendly disposal. We provide a broad range of repair and refurbishment services to lengthen the life cycle of the products and their components.
Several Group companies also offer a battery collection program, in which customers take home the box, collect their hearing aid batteries and bring them back to the store for recycling. The batteries collected are forwarded and disposed of through officially authorized disposal agents. Thanks to such an initiative, Connect Hearing Canada for instance was able to collect more than half a tonne of batteries in 2016.
Sonova has low atmospheric pollutant emissions from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paints and adhesives, in coatings, and for surface cleaning. Group-wide levels of VOC evaporated to air increased in 2016 by 7.2% to 4,184 liters due to the increase in production volume.
Sonova has experienced no spill-related atmospheric pollution. We have not used ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in our production processes since 1992.
Volatile organic compound
Sonova uses water provided by utilities primarily for sanitary services and kitchen and garden areas. Our manufacturing processes do not require significant amounts of water. In our environmental program we therefore mainly focus on conserving water in our office buildings, e.g. with low water equipment in restrooms. Despite this, water consumption at Group level increased by 7.7% to 133.972 cubic meters compared to the previous year. Relative water consumption, however, increased only slightly from 18.8 m3 to 19.7 m3 per employee. Sonova returns water to the sewage system without contamination. The company has experienced no spills from operating processes or other instances of water contamination.
Environmental reporting and system boundaries
Sonova’s environmental data monitoring and reporting includes energy consumption, carbon footprint, materials, waste disposal, water consumption, and emissions of volatile organic compounds. The company reports and discusses environmental performance to the limits of the available data. Data from Hansaton Germany, which was acquired in April 2015, are included for the first time in the environmental reporting of this CSR report. The AudioNova group companies acquired in September 2016 are not yet included.
The tables above show environmental data from Sonova Group companies that operate as headquarters, manufacturing sites, or wholesale distributors, excluding Group companies with retail activities only. Scope 1 and Scope 2 energy consumption for Group companies with retail activities only, along with other environmental performance figures, is monitored only where feasible, given the decentralized organizational structure of these businesses and their small, often rented, facilities. It is not included in this report. Overall, the entities covered in the environmental data reporting account for 94.7% (2015: 95.5%) of Sonova’s employees (excluding employees of Group companies with retail activities only).
Sonova’s environmental management system monitors the greenhouse gas emissions due to its electricity, heating oil, and natural gas consumption. The company measures its carbon footprint using country-specific grid emission factors and, if available, specific emission factors provided by energy utilities. The measurement methodology and reporting format for the carbon footprint are based on the standards and guidance of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
Sonova differentiates between direct emissions (Scope 1) from sources such as burning natural gas, and indirect emissions (Scope 2) from sources such as using electricity. Since 2014, we have also investigated the environmental impact of our corporate car fleet – a further Scope 1 emission source. Scope 3 emissions from business-related air travel activities are reported, along with emissions resulting from transportation and distribution of products. For the car fleet and air flight data all Sonova Group companies were taken into account.
Sonova strives to be trustworthy and transparent with all its stakeholders; it therefore participates in the Carbon Disclosure Project and makes the results publicly available.