A range of large international and local corporations today tend to demonstrate high level of social responsibility. One of the latest global level developments in this direction is voluntary agreement to adhere to the 10 principles of Global Compact established by the United Nations. In this paper we will review how one of the worldwide known companies, Sony Corporation has dealt with 6th and 7th principles of the UN Global Compact.
Sony Corporation was founded in 1946 and is one of the leading producers of household appliances, electronic equipment and medical tools worldwide. In May 2003 the corporation has implemented Group Code of Conduct that today incorporates all principles of UNGC as well as requirements of UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and Keidanren Charter of Corporate Behavior. On overall, the company demonstrates high level of compliance with UNGC principles and its behavior is specially exemplified with regard to environmental friendly practices.
Principle 6 relates to the labor principles of UNGC and states to the most that a business entity should avoid and eliminate any kind of discrimination practices regarding both employment and occupation. Sony Corporation has elaborated and officially implemented several human source related policies that are aimed to protect against discrimination at the company. Its employment process involves online recruitment where it is clearly stated that the choice of appropriate candidate is based on equal opportunities and does not regard race, sex, age, religious beliefs, nationality or other private features. Still, candidates have to start applications with filling in personal data where they mention all these features making it questionable that the actual choice is made without discrimination.
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Also, the company maintains several training programs for its employees. However, these programs are mainly designed for managers and do not cover other occupations. Sony Corporation provides on-job training for other professional staff in the form of internships and short-time trainings often conducted online. In the year 2013, the company trained over 26 thousand employees on 269 different targeted, mandatory and elective (technology-related and other) programs. Although there are no special training programs shaped for disabled workers, three special subsidiaries of the group are specialized to provide job places for them along with adopted work facilities and employment conditions.
The corporation declares elimination of female workers at employment and occupation as well. Such policy should involve adequate treatment of women at all types of position and levels of management. Nonetheless, review of the companys CSR Reporting 2014 reveals that out of 56 top level managers (directors, corporate executives and officers, and group directors) only 3 persons are female. Moreover, one can note signs of nationality-based discrimination at the highest level as well as only 7 top managers are non-Japanese by nation. In order to deal with such problems, the group has established Diversity Committee in 2012 and adopted relevant Diversity Policy one year later. Hopefully, actions of this body will improve diversification at every level of the corporations management.
In total, current ratio of female workers is the highest in China (55.5 % in 2013) and Asia Pacific (42.5 % in 2013) regions while Japan has the lowest figure of only 18.6 % in 2013. Consequently, the group has stated the goal to increase the number of female managers by 15 % by 2020 worldwide as well as to attract more women to science and engineering positions with the help of created Diversity Development Department.
Principle 7 has the environmental focus requiring business entities to operate supporting a precautionary approach to environmental challenges. Sony Corporation has very cautious and strong approach related to environmental problems. For years the company is implementing recycling programs aiming to reduce its waste to zero. These programs are a part of the global corporate plan names Road to Zero incorporating long term goals for every decade of the companys operations up to the year 2050 when it aims to eliminate any kind of environmental adverse effects including possible change of climate, usage of natural resources, employment of environmentally destructive chemical substances, and affecting biodiversity. Annually the group publishes achievement progress in its CSR reports. In compliance with UNGC Principle 7, the reports contain companys vision towards environmental improvements, its philosophy and principles. In general, Sony Corporation aims to contribute to the realization of a sustainable society and formulates its vision in line with the long term plan Road to Zero.
Policy of Sony Corporation includes mandatory periodical calculation of the eco-efficiency rate that is the relationship of the companys sales to its environmental index that is a combination of greenhouse gas and resources indexes. Based on that, the group heavily supports and invests in environmentally friendly technologies and not only implements all the latest elaborations on its factories but also creates a wide range of them. Special training and recruitment programs for young talents in science and technology are also maintained by Sony in order to fulfill the Road to Zero plan.
Further development of Sony Corporation in application of UNGC principles should incorporate involvement of the groups business partners (suppliers, creditors, large customers, distributors, etc.) into sharing the same approach to human rights, labor practices, environmental protection and anti-corruption behavior. At the same time, the company has issued Supplier Code of Conduct that requires its partners to be committed to certain ethical practices even though does not prescribe following all of the UNGC principles. Unfortunately, existence of this code does not ensure business partners compliance with ethical principle. One of the publicly known negative cases occurred with Foxconn in China. According to the Financial Times, 2013, the firm was accused of exploiting child labor and its relationship with such corporations as Sony and Apple as a manufacturing partner had an adverse impact on the companys reputation.
In order to prevent such cases, Sony Corporation should apply stricter policies to its suppliers and customers requiring them to sign and implement the policies along with the cooperation contracts. This practice, naturally, might spoil some of the business relationships of Sony Corporation but only with those companies that adhere to unethical conduct or conceal socially unsupported practices in their activities. From the point of view of such large organization as Sony, loss of these partners would be rather beneficial than harmful for the corporations future.