InterviewsSocial InnovationSustainabilityIntroducing sustainability

3 years ago14 min

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Hans Daems and Helen Grundy of Hitachi Europe

Hans Daems and Helen Grundy describe the UN’s sustainability goals and explain how Hitachi’s Social Innovation programme is helping to achieve them.


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Interview transcript

Read the transcript of Hans Daems and Helen Grundy interview on sustainability and how Hitachi’s Social Innovation programme is helping to achieve the UN’s sustainability goals.

Show transcript

Anna Delaney (interviewer)

Hello, I’m Anna Delaney for The Business Reporter. And today I’m at Hitachi in London. And I’m with Hans Daems, who’s the group Public Affairs Officer and Helen Grundy, Environmental Specialist. And we’re here to talk about sustainability. So Helen, tell me why is it important that businesses have a focus on sustainability?

Helen Grundy, Hitachi Europe Ltd

It is incredibly important for businesses to think about sustainability. We’ve been hearing for a long time now about some of the impacts around the global challenges we have in relation to the environment and also to society, climate change, poverty, access to education, clean water, and human rights.

And these are becoming increasingly important, both with society and in terms of business looking at the risks and opportunities that sustainability and how we approach some of those risks can mean for businesses.

So I think it’s really important that business looks at sustainability: what it means to them, and how they can balance the need for economic growth, returns on investment. But at the same time looking at how they have an impact on those big societal themes or how those societal themes ultimately impact on their business.

Increasingly, I think it’s important that businesses have to look beyond just the tactical approach to sustainability. So that very quick win, looking at, for instance, energy efficiency.

Those sorts of areas, they’re important: but increasingly, more and more, the opportunity is looking at sustainability more as a strategic approach and how it can really build its business strategy around sustainability and some of those increasingly important themes that we see.

Anna Delaney (interviewer)

So I see how sustainability is important for society. But how is it important for Hitachi?

Helen Grundy, Hitachi Europe Ltd

Sustainability’s always been at the heart of Hitachi. We’ve got a really strong heritage, going back to our founder over 100 years ago, where our mission has always been to contribute to society through the products and services that we put out there as a business, and how we think as a business.

So right from the very start, sustainability has always been at the forefront of how Hitachi goes about its business.

And we’re seeing that increasingly, as a company, as we move more towards social innovation, thinking about how our strategy can actually really contribute to society and some of those big challenges we’re seeing. Through our social innovation business, how we bring together our experience of operational technology and IT, together with our products and services, to really look at how we can help bring something back to society.

Anna Delaney (interviewer)

Now, you mentioned social innovation. Can you talk more about this and tell us more about the link with sustainability?

Hans Daems, Hitachi Europe Ltd

I think it’s very interesting what Helen just said, because it’s very much the focus of this company, Hitachi, on how to contribute to society.

And currently we call this social innovation. It’s very much on how working together with our customers and our partners, we can use our products, services, and technologies to really find an answer to those societal challenges, challenges which become increasingly difficult and complex.

Challenges which are now actually summarised in what the United Nations has called the Sustainable Development Goals, which are 17 goals which businesses are actually called to contribute and find solutions to those challenges. What is really interesting is that it’s increasingly actually becoming a driver for business.

And there is a good reason for doing that, because there is actually an interesting economic and financial opportunity related to this. Some people even estimate that it can create financial opportunity for business, in general, from up to $12 trillion, if you look at all the economic possibilities that are, looking at the major sectors, involved in those SDGs.

Anna Delaney (interviewer)

Can you explain Hitachi approach to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?

Helen Grundy, Hitachi Europe Ltd

So the approach we’ve taken is we’ve very much gone out to all the different business divisions that are part of Hitachi, spoken with them, ask them to consider the opportunities and the risks that the SDGs bring, and then, brought all that information together and identified those sustainable development goals that are really important to Hitachi.

From that, we’ve identified five that relate to our business strategy and then another six that relate to how we will go about our business at a corporate level, our corporate commitments, we call them. And those sorts of areas are things such as education, diversity.

So looking at some of the longer-term sustainability issues related to Hitachi, but also where we can add value to society, but not necessarily through our products.

And then the five business strategy SDGs that we’ve identified are those where we really feel for our business and the way that we are approaching business and our strategic direction, we can actually really add value directly through the business itself and the products and services we’re offering.

Anna Delaney (interviewer)

And in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, what does social innovation mean?

Hans Daems, Hitachi Europe Ltd

Well, I think it now really becomes very interesting, because when you look at all those challenges, nobody should be under any illusion that they can find the answer to those societal challenges on their own.

And the model, actually, for the SDGs, is very interesting, because there is SDG 17, which really calls for platforms for global action.

Many different societal challenges across many different parts of the world. And each, actually, will require a specific social innovation solution. Identifying the societal challenges, bringing the right people together, and having the right co-creation approach to bring the best solution to that individual challenge.

And this is very much where social innovation comes into play, by combining operational technologies with IT technologies to identify the issue, use data to use the best possible solution to deal with the societal challenges, which actually become increasingly complex if you look at the detail of some of those issues which are given.

Anna Delaney (interviewer)

Now, Hitachi has a lot of experience in developing technological solutions. How do you see technological change impacting these Sustainable Development Goals?

Hans Daems, Hitachi Europe Ltd

I think there is something very special and almost unique about Hitachi. It is, we know how some things, which we call operational technologies– whether it be power stations, whether it be trains– how they work.

But also, we have this amazing competence in terms of IT technologies. We can use a big data, we can use artificial intelligence, we can use robotics, to really get the best out of that data.

So when you combine one with the other, you really are in a very interesting space on how to make infrastructure which are being used in cities, which are there to deal with the societal challenges, how you can make them much more intelligent, much more powerful.


Social Innovation

Our world faces a number of challenges, from climate change and pollution to population growth and urbanisation. Hitachi believes that it must help to find innovative and commercially viable solutions for these challenges.

Visit Social-Innovation.Hitachi to learn how Social Innovation is helping Hitachi improve lives across the world.

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Published by Lyonsdown Ltd for Hitachi Europe Ltd. © Lyonsdown Ltd 2018