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Social Innovation

Facing up to the Future - on Earth Day and Beyond

By Lorena Dellagiovanna, Senior Vice President and Executive Officer, Chief Sustainability Officer, and CDEIO, Hitachi, Ltd.

When the future is sat right in front of you it’s hard not to feel the weight of responsibility staring you in the eye – this is exactly what happened to me a couple of weeks ago at our annual Career Kickoff Session for new employees in Japan. As I presented our sustainability plan, looking back at me were not just 800 people starting out on their career journey, but the hopes and fears of a generation who will be my age when we reach the deadline for many of our climate targets.

My generation owes it to their generation to deliver a better future and the theme of this year’s Earth Day (April 22) “Invest in our Planet” is a timely reminder that we have no time to waste.

This investment starts with the decisions we make today which is why our Mid-term Management Plan spells out our ambition to protect the nine planetary boundaries and to improve wellbeing by developing best-in-class technology powered by world-leading innovation built on diversity and inclusion. When it comes to planetary boundaries, we are walking a delicate tightrope – these boundaries are complex and inter-connected so what you do for one, for example, climate change, will absolutely have an impact on another, like freshwater.

Balancing this requires a holistic approach and this starts with a better understanding of your own actions – at Hitachi, our actions can have a direct impact, for example with greenhouse gas emissions, but also, as a major global business working across many different industries, an indirect impact through our value chain and relationships with suppliers. Getting this balance right is the key to improving the quality of life, for today and for tomorrow. 

So, where do we start? For me, Hitachi has to act as an engine of change powered by a global perspective with local understanding, a world-leading product portfolio and a diverse, innovative workforce with a singular focus on a cleaner, greener planet – as of today, we are directly contributing to 13 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, seven of which are related to planetary boundaries.

However, through our active involvement in a broad range of business fields, we can contribute extensively to the achievement of SDGs beyond the 13 goals identified, and we will strive to contribute to the achievement of all 17.

As a business, we are investing substantially in new green technology to tackle climate change including advanced research and development. These investments will help us decarbonise our own operations by 2030, and we have set a target of helping our customers reduce their CO2 emissions by 100 million tonnes per year by 2024.

From helping to decarbonize transport to supporting the energy transition we believe innovation can play a key role. Which is why we have also released on Earth Day a short video that highlights some of the climate innovations going on across our businesses.

With so much work in front of us, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. But, for me, it’s all about understanding the impact of our actions and the bigger the impact, the higher the priority.

For example, our direct value chain gives us some huge opportunities to really make an impact alongside our partners and suppliers. This is why we have developed sustainable procurement guidelines for our suppliers, adding environmental considerations during product design and introducing energy-saving and renewable energy equipment.

Since 1910, Hitachi’s role has always been to power good in the world. Today, that means my generation standing up for generations to come. So, going back to my meeting with the latest group of graduates eager to know what’s coming next, I’d say that Hitachi has a pivotal role to play. But I’d also say that we can’t deliver the future on our own – to do this we need to work with like-minded businesses, governments and nations. If we make the right decisions today, then we really can promise every graduate in that room the quality of life and future they deserve tomorrow.