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Global CSR Report: Sony for Sustainability

The Sony Group is a global organization with a broad range of businesses around the world—electronic equipment, devices, game consoles, digital networks, motion pictures, music, and financial and insurance services. The group’s management approach is “getting closer to people,” and its purpose is to “fill the world with emotion, through the power of creativity and technology.” For people to be connected through emotion, it is necessary for people, society, and the planet to be healthy.
The Sony Group Code of Conduct states, “It is the core corporate responsibility of Sony to society to pursue its corporate value enhancement through innovation and sound business practices and contribute to developing a sustainable society.” The company also gives due consideration to the impacts of its business activities on the interests of its stakeholders— shareholders, customers, employees, suppliers, business partners, local communities, other organizations—and the global environment. In addition to this, it engages in dialogue with stakeholders to build trust and get input.
Based on these principles, Sony aims to create a sustainable social and economic value from a long-term perspective by delivering emotional experiences to people and continuing to work with its stakeholders to pursue sustainability in such areas as the environment and human rights, implementing these initiatives across all of its businesses.

1. CSR Organizational Structure and Awareness-Raising Activities

Sonyʼs organizational structure for CSR implementation is spearheaded by the CSR Section at Sony Corporation headquarters, which in turn operates under the supervision of the Corporate Executive Officer in charge of CSR appointed by the Board of Directors. The CSR Section plans and sets objectives for CSR-related initiatives, makes these initiatives known throughout the group, monitors the progress of activities, and provides relevant information to the public via various reports including the Sustainability Report.
In addition to disclosure, the CSR Section promotes dialogue with stakeholders, reports on various external inputs to the executive officer in charge of CSR, and ensures that these inputs are fed back to the management team and relevant headquarters departments (including those in charge of legal affairs, compliance, Corporate Communication, environment, product quality, procurement, investor relations, employees, and marketing). Accordingly, Sony addresses CSR from a Group-wide perspective and incorporates issues into management action as necessary. The CSR Section and other relevant headquarters departments then implement CSR activities throughout the Group by ensuring Sonyʼs policies and initiatives are conveyed to group companies around the world.
Once a year, in principle, the CSR Section reports to the Board of Directors on the status of Sony’s entire set of sustainability initiatives, and the Board reviews them. For matters of great importance, the Senior Executive and department in charge of the matter provide regular reports for the Board of Directors to review.

2. Contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have the target year of 2030, were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. They were formulated based on the outcome of the Millennium Development Goals, which had been established in 2000 with the intention of realizing a better international community. The SDGs are comprised of 169 targets organized under 17 goals related to issues such as poverty, inequality, education, and the environment. The initiative is not only intended for developing nations but applies to all countries, including developed countries. The purpose of the entire Sony Group is to “fill the world with emotion, through the power of creativity and technology.”
The essence of Sony’s responsibility to society is to strive for innovation through products, services and content that deliver emotional experiences to customers while conducting business in a sound manner. At the same time, based on an awareness that Sony’s business is only possible in a global environment and a society where people can live in peace and security, Sony conducts ongoing environmental and human rights initiatives throughout the supply chain. Accordingly, Sony believes that its diverse business portfolio, including education, healthcare and startup support, is very relevant to the 17 SDGs, and Sony will help to achieve the SDGs in the course of its business activities. Sony also conducts ongoing assessments of the various impacts and risks that its business activities have on the global environment and society, and manages them while carrying out appropriate disclosure of information. In addition, Sony aims to contribute to the SDGs through its technologies, products, services and content, as well as various partnerships.

2.1 Collaboration Agreement Signed to Pursue Innovation with UNOPS

In February 2020, Sony entered a collaboration agreement with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in the area of innovation. The first of the collaborations under the new agreement is Sony’s involvement in the Global Innovation Challenge in April 2020. The Global Innovation Challenge is a program hosted by UNOPS to support startups and companies providing solutions to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
UNOPS and Sony have jointly developed the theme of “Advancing resilient infrastructure with technology in the face of climate change,” calling upon organizations to submit business ideas around this theme. Startups and companies selected through this process will be able to move into the UNOPS Global Innovation Centre that will open in Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture. They will also have access to the UNOPS Global Innovation Accelerator Program, which includes participation in the Sony Startup Acceleration Program (SSAP) and other programs designed to offer various forms of support to realize their ideas. In their collaboration, Sony and UNOPS will make the most of their respective assets, knowledge, and expertise to support the launch and business operation of startups that can create new value for the world, while continuing to work on solutions to the various issues targeted by the SDGs, thereby helping to build a sustainable world.

2.2 Contributing to the SDGs – Sony Computer Science Laboratories

Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. (Sony CSL) was established in 1988 for the purposes of pioneering new research fields and paradigms and creating new technologies and businesses for the good of people and society. Sony CSL respects the freedom of its researchers to explore new fields of research and pursue truly creative research that goes beyond the imitative or mere improvement. In 2008, Sony CSL proposed and began applying Open System Science. Since then, Sony CSL has been conducting science for the future of humanity, moving freely between scientific disciplines and developing entirely new ideas that go beyond borders between nations, between scientific fields, and between science and business to put our ideas into practice. Sony CSL actively pursues research that makes a positive contribution to issues on the global development agenda, in areas as diverse as sustainable agriculture, energy, health, food, prosthetics, and urban planning. Projects that are linked to the achievement of SDGs and focus on social applications for fundamental research include Synecoculture™ and Open Energy Systems™ (OES).

3. Human Rights Initiatives

In response to the growing concern regarding the impact of increasing globalization on human rights, the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011. These Principles identify steps that global companies can take to prevent and mitigate the potential adverse human rights impact in their business operations and supply chains. In accordance with the Principles, Sony respects the human rights of all stakeholders in its business operations and supply chains and strives to ensure good labour practices in all of its business activities to prevent and mitigate potential adverse human rights impact.

3.1 Human Rights Policy

Sony’s overall commitment to ensuring the protection of human rights in its operations, supply chains and products is set forth in the Sony Group Code of Conduct. The Sony Group Code of Conduct is applicable to all directors, officers, and employees of Sony Group and provides: “Sony believes that all human beings should be treated with dignity and respect. Sony is committed to upholding internationally recognized human rights of all people. We will all use reasonable efforts to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts that may arise from our operations, products, services and/or business relationships and will act diligently to help remediate any impacts that may occur.” Sony Group Code of Conduct

3.2 Framework for Respecting Human Rights

The Sony Group Code of Conduct was established with the approval of the Sony Corporation Board of Directors and sets forth Sony’s basic commitment to human rights. The CSR Section at Sony headquarters in Tokyo is responsible for analyzing and monitoring human rights risks throughout the Sony Group’s business activities and supply chains. The CSR Section reports to the Corporate Executive Officer in Charge of CSR and works with relevant functions such as procurement, legal, compliance and human resources to effectively manage potential human rights issues related to Sony’s business activities and supply chains. Assessing and Monitoring Human Rights Risks Sony’s CSR Section leads Sony’s efforts to assess and monitor human rights risks throughout Sony’s operations and supply chains.
In 2012 Sony engaged BSR, an independent, non-profit, global organization devoted to building a just and sustainable world, to conduct an initial analysis of potential human rights risks across Sony’s various business operations and supply chains, which include electronics, entertainment and finance, as the salient human rights issues vary depending on the business segment. The initial BSR assessment identified potential human rights considerations in the electronics business supply chain, including materials procurement. In order to address our key risks, we collaborated with industry-wide efforts to protect and empower workers in the global electronics supply chain and were a founding member of the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA). Manufacturing sites of Sony’s electronics business and their suppliers were required to comply with the Sony Supply Chain Code of Conduct, which incorporates the provisions of the RBA Code of Conduct.
The Sony Supply Chain Code of Conduct is also consistent with the human rights commitment expressed in the Sony Group Code of Conduct. Sony’s electronics suppliers are also subject to ongoing assessments and monitoring for human rights risks. In 2018, Sony retained BSR to review and update its analysis of human rights risks in all Sony business areas to reflect the current state of global affairs, stakeholder concerns, evolving human rights laws and changes in Sony’s business activities. In particular, Sony referenced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international treaties on human rights to identify issues that are relevant to its business activities, and reviewed media and NGO reports to identify the human rights risks for these issues. This information was compared to Sony’s areas of the business to identify underlying risks of greatest relevance to Sony. This updated analysis identified human rights risks related to workers in the electronics industry supply chain, which has long been a key focus of Sony’s efforts, as well as risks related to new technologies such as AI.
Sony continues to monitor and address these and other human rights risks across its operations.

3.3 Human Rights Education and Training

Sony Group provides training to all of its employees worldwide in order to familiarize them with the Sony Group Code of Conduct and to encourage ethical business conduct, including respect for human rights. Relevant organizations within the Sony Group conduct additional specialized training for pertinent personnel to help detect and address human rights risks.

3.4 Global Social Justice Fund

Sony is committed to respecting and valuing diversity, inclusion and the human rights of all people. Sony believes that all human beings should be treated with dignity and respect. As Diversity is one of our Core Values, Sony believes in building a culture that makes business and employee diversity a strength. To further these efforts, in June 2020, Sony Music Group spearheaded the creation of 100 million USD Global Social Justice Fund with the full support of all Sony Group companies. The Fund will be used to promote diversity and inclusion and to support social justice and anti-racism initiatives around the world.

3.5 Human Rights in Products and Services

The Sony Group Code of Conduct states: “We will all use reasonable efforts to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts that may arise from our operations, products, services and/or business relationships and will act diligently to help remediate any impacts that may occur.”

3.5.1 Safety and Accessibility of Products and Services

Since the start of its operations, Sony has been firmly committed across all of its businesses to providing customer-oriented, high-quality products and services. Sony continuously strives to comply with or exceed legally mandated standards in all business activities to ensure the safety of its products and services. Accessibility concerns are also incorporated into the planning and design of Sony products and services in order to serve all kinds of people regardless of age or disability.

3.5.2 Information Security and Privacy

Sony is continuously improving its information management and security systems and initiatives to help ensure the privacy and security of information received from customers, employees, business partners, and other stakeholders.

3.5.3 Artificial Intelligence and Ethics

Through the utilization of artificial intelligence (AI), Sony aims to contribute to the development of a peaceful and sustainable society while delivering kando — a sense of excitement, wonder or emotion – to the world. At the same time Sony understands that the influence of AI on society is still unknown and a topic of much discussion. Sony established the Sony Group AI Ethics Guidelines in September 2018 to guide all Sony officers and employees to utilize AI and/or conduct AI-related R&D in a manner that fits within emerging social norms. The guidelines were subsequently revised to align with Sony’s Purpose established in January 2019 to “fill the world with emotion, through the power of creativity and technology.” In order to help solve ethical challenges that may arise from the use of AI, Sony also communicates with diverse stakeholders. For example, in May 2017, Sony became the first Japanese company to join the Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society, a non-profit organization created to contribute to solutions for some of humanity’s challenging problems, including advancing the understanding of AI and addressing ethics surrounding AI technology. One of the most common issues in AI ethics is that of fairness, accountability, and transparency abbreviated “FAT.” Sony utilizes knowledge it has gained from its AI and robotics-related research, development, and business ventures and contributes to a number of working groups addressing this issue. Sony chaired the Social and Societal Influences of AI Working Group, which focuses on the social impacts of AI, and currently serves as an expert advisor to the group.
To contribute solutions for ensuring FAT in AI development, Sony released Grad-CAM, a plug-in for Sony’s Neural Network Console, AI development tool, in July 2019, and a similar plug-in LIME in December 2019. These tools create visualizations of input data that significantly impact AI recognition results and provide explanations of the rationale for the decisions made. Sony is developing and delivering technology to make reliable AI a reality, including the launch in June 2019 of Prediction One, an explainable AI machine learning tool. Sony uses e-learning tools to promote an understanding of AI ethics among its employees and invites speakers from outside the company to discuss this issue at lectures and symposia. Sony also has established a network system to promote information-sharing related to products, services, and internal operations that utilize AI in each Sony Group business unit and is also building a system for conducting AI ethics reviews.

4. Responsible Supply Chain

4.1 Responsible Sourcing of Minerals

In recent years, stakeholders have become increasingly concerned about violations of the human rights of workers and environmental issues in the sourcing of mineral resources essential for the manufacture of electronic products. Sony is working with its suppliers to address issues related to human rights, labour conditions, health and safety, and environmental protection at production sites, as well as in its procurement of minerals.

4.2 Establishing the Sony Group Policy for Responsible Supply Chain of Minerals

Some minerals that are used in Sony products carry human rights and environmental risks in the extraction process. Sony has pledged its strong commitment to ethical business conduct and respect for human rights in the Sony Group Code of Conduct, which sets forth such core values and establishes basic policies including the prohibitions of using any form of forced labour, and specifically, child labour.
To ensure compliance with the same standards throughout the electronics supply chain, including its own manufacturing sites, Sony has established the Sony Supply Chain Code of Conduct. All the suppliers are requested to fully comprehend and comply with the Code in supplier contracts.
In addition, in October 2017, Sony established the Sony Group Policy for Responsible Supply Chain of Minerals, replacing the Sony Group Conflict Minerals Policy that was established in 2014. In the policy, Sony pledges that, in order to avoid contributing to conflicts or serious human rights abuses through its sourcing practices, Sony identifies certain minerals that are sourced in conflict-affected and high-risk areas and that are high-risk for Sony from the corporate social responsibility viewpoint (“High-Risk Minerals”). Sony’s policy is to refrain from knowingly purchasing any products, components or materials that contain the High-Risk Minerals that contribute to conflicts or serious human rights abuses in the chain of custody. At the same time, in implementing the policy, Sony makes sure that it is still able to source responsibly from those areas and avoid a de facto embargo.

5. Environmental Policies and Targets

5.1 Sony Group Environmental Vision

The Sony Group Environmental Vision presents a philosophy and principles for environmental management activities throughout the global Sony Group with the aim of contributing to the realization of a sustainable society. Since enacting the Sony Global Environmental Policy which is a predecessor of the Sony Group Environmental Vision and the Environmental Action Program, in 1993, Sony has pursued a broad range of environmental initiatives. Concurrent with the formulation of its Road to Zero global environmental plan, in 2010, Sony revised the Sony Group Environmental Vision.

5.2 Environmental Plan and Mid-Term Environmental Targets

Since the early 1990s, Sony has pursued environmental initiatives in accordance with its environmental principles and targets. In April 2010, Sony announced the “Road to Zero,” a new global environmental plan. This plan consists of the Sony Group Environmental Vision and several sets of mid-term environmental targets, which form key milestones on the road to achieving the Vision.

5.3 “Road to Zero,” Sony’s Global Environmental Plan

As stated in the Sony Group Environmental Vision, Sony strives to realize a sustainable society by achieving a zero environmental footprint throughout the life cycle of its products and business activities. It is this long-term goal that prompted Sony to name its new global environmental plan “Road to Zero.” Under this plan, Sony aims to bring its environmental footprint to zero by 2050 and works to achieve incremental mid-term environmental targets toward this end.

5.3 Environmental Mid-Term Targets

Sony is working toward its goal of having a “zero environmental footprint” by 2050, setting mid-term (5- year) environmental targets progressively backcasted from 2050, and adjusting fiscal year targets based on current achievement levels. This approach will enable Sony to work steadily toward achieving the zero environmental footprint goal while making ongoing adjustments based on current progress. In 2011, Sony established the Green Management 2015 environmental mid-term targets (fiscal 2011–2015), which was its first step on the road to a zero environmental footprint, achieving almost all of its targets by 2015. Currently, Sony is implementing initiatives to achieve the goals it has set under the Green Management 2020 environmental midterm targets (fiscal 2016–2020).

5.4 Focusing on Four Environmental Perspectives

Sony’s environmental mid-term targets define concrete targets at each stage of the product life cycle, from the four priority perspectives of climate change, resources, chemical substances, and biodiversity. Sony is working with multiple environmental NGOs and experts to gain feedback on Sony’s initiatives under each priority perspective.

5.5 Policies on Four Environmental Perspectives

Sony carries out initiatives under the following policies, which it has outlined for four environmental perspectives of climate change, resources, chemical substances, and biodiversity, in order to achieve its environmental mid-term targets.

5.5.1 Policy on Climate Change

Sony strives to achieve zero emissions of greenhouse gases from its business activities and throughout the life cycle of its products and services. Sony sites make it their highest priority to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, use energy more efficiently, and switch to energy sources that generate less greenhouse gas emissions, while also promoting renewable energy use. Sony also develops and supplies energy-efficient, environmentally conscious products and services, and works with manufacturing subcontractors and suppliers of components and raw materials in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions both directly and indirectly

5.5.2 Policy on Resources

Sony seeks to minimize the consumption of resources and maximize resource recycling in order to use resources effectively in its business activities and throughout the life cycle of its products and services while striving to achieve zero consumption of new materials made from “key resources.*1 ” Sony minimizes resource consumption by reducing the weight of products and utilizing resources more efficiently in its internal operations. Sony is also working to extend the life of products through quality and durability enhancements, to indirectly reduce resource consumption. In terms of waste, Sony recycles waste generated from internal operations, with the goal of eliminating landfilled waste. Additionally, Sony designs products to facilitate recycling and implements ongoing programs to collect and recycle endof-life products according to the needs of local communities, while also promoting advanced recycling with recycling companies.
Policy on Water Use
Although water circulates around the earth continuously through the water cycle, the amount of water available for use by the planet’s inhabitants is limited. With population growth and other issues putting further pressure on water supplies, the importance of conserving this resource will increase in the years ahead. Taking into account the locations of its sites, as well as regional differences, Sony will continue taking steps to minimize its withdrawal of water and to ensure the water it returns to water sources is of a quality that does not negatively impact the environment.
Policy on Paper Resources
Recognizing that paper resources are limited, under the Sony Group Paper / Printed Material Purchasing Policy, Sony constantly works to reduce paper consumption while prioritizing the procurement of environmentally preferable paper, such as paper made from resources sourced from certified forests and recycled paper.

5.5.3 Policy on Chemical Substances

Sony endeavours to minimize the risk that chemical substances it uses might cause serious harm to human health and the environment. Chemical substances used in Sony products are suitably managed based on available data including national regulations, toxicity, environmental impacts, applications, and content level in components and products. Sony adopts a precautionary approach and takes steps to identify and strive to eliminate substances considered to be high-risk, even in cases where scientific evidence is insufficient, thereby reducing potential impact on the environment. Sony manages the type and application of chemical substances used at business sites, and for highrisk substances sets criteria for managing each substance to either prohibit their use or reduce emissions or amounts transferred. Sony also prohibits the use of certain substances in manufacturing processes in the supply chain which are restricted under international frameworks because of environmental impacts throughout the life cycle.

5.5.4 Policy on Biodiversity

Recognizing the importance of natural capital and the ecosystem services it supplies, Sony endeavours to conserve natural capital and biodiversity, both in its business activities and through community initiatives. Sony has identified the following basic principles to guide its initiatives. (1) Sony recognizes the importance of biodiversity issues. Sony recognizes that biodiversity is an important issue in its business activities, endeavours to reduce the impact of its business activities on biodiversity (both directly and indirectly in the supply chain),*3 and engages in community initiatives that help to conserve natural capital and biodiversity. (2) Sony helps achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets by engaging in initiatives to conserve natural capital and biodiversity throughout the life cycle. (3) Sony cooperates with stakeholders where needed in pursuing the above principles. (4) Sony actively discloses information about these initiatives and endeavours to raise awareness about biodiversity.

5.6 Tackling Ocean plastic pollution

Sony has established the Green Management 2020 Environmental Mid-Term Targets based on its Road to Zero environmental plan. It is actively working to reduce the amount of virgin oil-based plastic used per product while curbing the amount of waste generated at each site and protecting the surrounding biodiversity. On top of that, Sony has taken on the issue of plastic pollution in the oceans, which has become a worldwide crisis in recent years. In August 2019, Sony launched the One Blue Ocean Project, an initiative to help reduce ocean plastic pollution. It involves promoting even more activities to reduce the amount of plastics used in products and in workplaces, as well as collection of plastic waste and cleanup activities at each Sony site.

5.7 Environmental Technologies

5.7.1 IoT for a Sustainable Society

In order to realize a sustainable society, it is necessary to continue the conservation of various regions such as mountain forests, satoyama (woodlands surrounding rural settlements), rivers, and coasts. Furthermore, it requires the detection of anomalies to prevent problems from arising, instead of addressing environmental pollution after it has already arisen. Such systems can only be realized through the ability to acquire and transmit data extending to mountainous and coastal areas not serviced by conventional mobile networks. They also require devices and networks that can function in areas where electricity service is difficult. To address these needs, Sony is pursuing R&D for a system that provides sensing almost anywhere on the planet and employs AI processing to provide society with essential information. The system combines ultra-low power SPRESENSE™ edge AI devices that offer advanced sensing in a battery-powered device, with Sony’s expertise in edge AI technology for embedded devices led by Neural Network Console software, and ELTRES™ IoT network service that enables low power and low bitrate data transmission with a range over 100 km. Sony is advancing the system through a number of projects including a pilot project in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture. These projects will help to prevent environmental pollution and predict emergencies such as volcanic eruptions, river floods, and wildfires, as well as increase agricultural and livestock productivity. SPRESENSE Neural Network Console ELTRES IoT network service Edge AI devices provide constant monitoring, and upon detecting an anomaly transmit data to a distant base station at a low bit rate comparable to Morse code  Harvesting monitoring Landslides Wave warning monitoring River/Bridge monitoring Livestock monitoring Harvesting monitoring Landslides Wave warning monitoring River/Bridge monitoring Livestock monitoring Receiving station.

5.7.2 Synecoculture

Conventional agriculture largely focuses on increasing productivity from a single crop, by ploughing topsoil, spreading fertilizer, and applying pesticides based on the characteristics of the crop. These practices damage ecosystems and cause environmental problems. Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. (Sony CSL) is testing applications for Synecoculture, a sustainable agricultural practice that highly balances productivity and biodiversity. Synecoculture eliminates the need for ploughing, fertilizing, and pesticide use that impact the environment, by taking maximum advantage of the material cycling that occurs naturally in ecosystems, aiming to create rich ecosystems with a diverse mix of plants that coexist together and grow lushly. Synecoculture requires a vast knowledge of plant ecology, and for several years Sony CSL has been conducting tests at a number of farms, cultivating a blend of plants in order to collect data on plant compatibility and soil conditions. Sony CSL is also using IT to develop systems to support greater social-ecological diversity including Synecoculture. The Synecoculture project is directly related to 11 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is registered as a good corporate practice with the Japan SDGs Action Platform promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

5.7.3 Open Energy Systems

Although renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power generation have been attracting much attention in recent years, there are significant issues to overcome before widely distributed renewable energy can be utilized effectively. Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. (Sony CSL) is conducting research on Open Energy Systems (OES), a whole new type of bottom-up, distributed electric power system, which mainly uses renewable energy sources. Sony CSL and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) are conducting a joint research project for OES. (The project was supported by Okinawa Prefecture as a subtropical and island energy infrastructure technology research subsidy program from fiscal 2013 to 2016 and as an energy infrastructure research program using advanced technology from fiscal 2017 to 2019.) Under the project, Sony CSL has installed photovoltaic panels and energy storage systems at 19 faculty housing units on the OIST campus and built a DC-based OES (DCOES) to interconnect the housing with DC power lines. The installation has been used to test automatic power exchange between the housing units since fiscal 2014. The OES Project is directly related to seven out of the 17 SDGs and is registered as a good corporate practice with the Japan SDGs Action Platform promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Disclaimer: This article primarily contains excerpts from the Sony Sustainability Report 2020 published earlier this year.