Our planet matters to us, and it matters to our people. As we navigate the climate emergency, our carbon emissions remain a pressing issue, not just for world leaders meeting at COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, but also for us at Hitachi Vantara. We understand that inactivity isn’t an option and so have taken the steps to reduce our impact on the environment. But this isn’t a faceless drive we’re on. It’s an effort being enacted by people who care and make us the company we are today. While it’s important for companies to do their best to drive change from the top, we must recognize and empower our people to contribute to the greater effort we’re all engaged in.
The good news is that workforces want to get involved and do what they can with sustainability initiatives. And they want their employers to partner with them in being vocal and active. According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, 73% of respondents believed that it was important for their employer to speak out on issues related to climate change, demonstrating shifting expectations from employees globally.
This is a trend we can only expect to see more of with millennials and Generation Z workers holding an increasing amount of influence in the workplace. The younger members of our workforces and our society are incredibly cause-driven and passionate about investing in their values. Over the past two years, 44% of millennials and 49% of Gen Zers said they have made choices over the type of work they are prepared to do and the organizations for which they are willing to work based on their personal ethics, according to a study from Deloitte. If organizations are to meaningfully invest in their workforce, a commitment to understand it better is a great place to start.
Insights Drive Change
People are important to the global climate change effort, so companies must give them the tools they need to help. They should also give them the headspace to work on projects they care about. Data and technology undoubtedly play an important role in this effort. At Hitachi Vantara’s European Logistics Distribution Center in Zaltbommel, Netherlands, data enables us to work more sustainably by tracking our progress and seeking to continually improve our performance.
It’s important that everyone has a hand in the sustainability mission. At Hitachi Vantara, a culture of accountability flows through our supply chain organization, with employees acting as sustainability “guardians” for their teammates. The company and its employees also retain control over how sustainability initiatives are delivered throughout the Logistics Distribution Center.
Getting All on Board
Our environmental targets are a corporate commitment, but we also encourage all our colleagues to take ownership of their journey to becoming more environmentally conscious. My own plastics elimination journey changed during a sailing trip in the North Sea, where I was surprised and disappointed to see plastics floating in the water. I was reminded of news reports of competitive sailors discovering plastics at Point Nemo, the most remote location in the ocean, far from where people live. Challenging global plastic consumption requires a monumental effort, so I knew I needed a committed team around me to make it a reality.
The Logistics Distribution Center’s Green Team comprises some of the most passionate people in the business, and they work alongside the center’s employees to help make each green initiative more successful. These include an herb garden that supplies herbs to our on-site kitchens, birdhouses and butterfly trees around the facility, and on-site beehouses, which supply us with our own honey.
We’ve also had some great ideas for sustainability come from the shop floor and would love for this to continue. For example, a small group of warehouse workers and lab engineers took notice of the high level of packaging material we used at the center daily. They asked if instead of throwing it away, why don’t we reuse it? That turned out to be a great idea and it kickstarted our global reverse logistics process in 2018. Today, this approach ensures that all packaging material is returned to our factories in the USA and Japan to be reused and returned many times over.
In situations like this, it isn’t just the idea that’s vital: It’s the culture that enables workers at every level to challenge current processes and suggest changes to make them better. It’s important to encourage open and honest conversations and allow your findings from these conversations to improve the business.
To achieve our sustainability vision and the Hitachi Environmental Innovation 2050 long-term targets, Hitachi, Ltd., has pledged to reduce CO2 emissions per unit: 50% by fiscal 2030 and 80% by fiscal 2050 throughout Hitachi’s value chain. We applaud similar commitments being made by other “value creating” companies. According to a recent survey by McKinsey, nearly three-fifths of respondents at these companies say that sustainability is a part of the corporate culture. Just 39% of respondents at other companies say the same.
We’re in good company and we’re encouraging others to do the same. This isn’t about processes alone; it’s about giving autonomy to the people so that they can feel empowered and a part of the change we all want to see. The climate challenge isn’t one that we will solve overnight, but that shouldn’t prevent us from wanting to play our part. It’s a battle we’re all fighting and it’s one where we need all hands on deck.
Maarten de Groot is Senior Operations Manager, European Logistics Distribution Center at Hitachi Vantara.