The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Case study: How Huawei is developing eco-friendly products

As a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider, with ICT solutions, products and services used in more than 170 countries and regions, serving nearly 3 billion people around the world, Huawei, realizing that the ICT industry will inevitably play a major role in addressing challenges such as climate change, pollution and resource shortages, strives to provide customers with world-leading green and energy-efficient products and solutions.

This case study is based on the 2014 Sustainability Report by Huawei published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate that CSR/ sustainability reporting done responsibly is achieved by identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment and stakeholders and by measuring, managing and changing.

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Huawei has incorporated green ICT concepts into the entire lifecycle of products  Tweet This!, constantly looking for innovative ways to enhance the energy efficiency of Huawei products and minimize their environmental impact. After measuring and setting targets, Huawei took action to increase the energy efficiency of its wireless products, reduce the energy consumption of smartphones, adopt the Quick-LCA methodology to assess the environmental impact of Huawei’s product design, assess the water footprint of mobile phones – Huawei’s Honor 6 Plus became the world’s first mobile phone to be issued with a Product Water Footprint Verification Statement –, utilize eco-friendly materials to reduce the environmental impact of its products and, also, use packaging materials that are eco-friendly, safe, reusable, renewable and meet sustainability requirements.

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2014 Sustainability Report Huawei identified a range of material issues, such as integrity and operational compliance, product safety, communications for all, ICT application. Among these, realizing that the ICT industry will inevitably play a major role in addressing challenges such as climate change, pollution and resource shortages, developing eco-friendly products stands out as Huawei’s top material issue.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The organization should identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Huawei engages with:

Stakeholder Group                Method of engagement
Customers/Consumers

 

·         Customer satisfaction surveys

·         Onsite dialogues with customers concerning sustainability

·         Industry exhibitions and forums

·         Consumer surveys

·         Huawei Club

Employees ·         Communication with employee representatives

·         Employee well-being activities

·         Organizational climate surveys

·         Communication with the management and suggestion mailbox

Suppliers ·         Global Supplier Sustainability Conference

·         Supplier training and workshops

·         Supplier audits and appraisals

Governments

 

 

·         Cooperation on sustainability initiatives

·         Workshops

·         Policy communication meetings

Industry/Standards

Associations

 

·         Industry forums and association activities

·         Standards workshops

·         Publication of research achievements

NGO ·         Sustainability conferences

·         Joint cooperation projects

·         Workshops

Media ·         Sustainability conferences

·         Media interviews

Research Institutes/

Academia

 

·         Workshops

·         Sustainability report

·         Cooperation on ICT training and development

Community groups

 

·         Regular meetings

·         Charitable donations

·         Training

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

By managing its material sustainability issues, Huawei can fully understand and prioritize stakeholders’ concerns and respond to them in a more comprehensive and transparent way. In addition, Huawei can effectively identify areas for improvement and optimize sustainability management.

To identify the issues most important to stakeholders, Huawei surveyed over 230 stakeholders in 2014, including customers, employees, suppliers, consumers, governments and NGOs. The survey was conducted through onsite interviews, phone calls and questionnaires. It elicited an extremely active response from stakeholders, with a response rate of 98%.

What actions were taken by Huawei to develop eco-friendly products?

In its 2014 Sustainability Report Huawei set the following targets for developing eco-friendly products, based on the company’s approach to materiality – on taking action on what matters, where it matters:

  • Increasing the energy efficiency of wireless products

Through continuous innovation, Huawei has made huge breakthroughs in new power amplifier applications and new energy-saving technologies for LTE and HetNet (heterogeneous network). In 2014, Huawei increased the energy efficiency of its wireless products by nearly 23% compared to 2012 and sold energy-saving features and solutions to a huge number of carriers worldwide.

  • Reducing the energy consumption of smartphones

A long battery life is crucial for smartphones. To save energy, a mobile phone must have a powerful chip. In 2014, Huawei launched the Kirin 920 and 925 chips, which boast leading octa-core big.LITTLE architecture and 28 nm technology. These chips ensure high performance while decreasing energy consumption. Coupled with Huawei’s smart energy-saving technology, they boost smartphones’ performance and battery life. Powered by the Kirin 925 chip, the battery of the Huawei Ascend Mate7 smartphone can last for over two days with ordinary use.

  • Adopting the Quick-LCA methodology to assess the environmental impact of Huawei’s product design

In the ICT industry, Huawei is one of the leaders in ecological impact assessment and standardization, especially when it comes to ICT equipment lifecycle assessment (LCA) and mobile device eco-rating. In 2014, Huawei facilitated and contributed to the agreement between ITU (International Telecommunication Union) and ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) on the environmental impact assessment methodology and standards for ICT products, networks and services. Huawei also played a crucial part in setting and promoting eco-rating standards for the mobile phone industry. Over the years, Huawei has been adopting the Quick-LCA methodology to assess the environmental impact of its product design. In 2014, Huawei expanded this methodology and combined key product ecological indicators to develop the EcoSmarT methodology that guides the product eco-design and development process.

  • Assessing the water footprint of mobile phones

The product water footprint refers to the amount of freshwater consumed directly or indirectly throughout a supply chain to produce a product. It is a multidimensional indicator involving total water consumption, water source type, total pollution and pollution type. The product water footprint assessment is designed to evaluate the direct and indirect water use of a consumer or producer. It can be viewed as a comprehensive indicator for measuring water use. In cooperation with TUV SUD (an international certification organization) and based on industry standards, in 2014, Huawei developed its capabilities at analyzing the water footprint of device products. As a result, Huawei was able to assess the water footprint of two mobile phones. Huawei’s Honor 6 Plus became the world’s first mobile phone to be issued with a Product Water Footprint Verification Statement. Huawei is the first company to assess the water footprint of mobile phones and attaches great importance to water management and protection. Huawei’s efforts are conducive to promoting environmental protection in the mobile phone industry. Mobile phones are now an integral part of daily life. Therefore, Huawei mobile phones that feature the Product Water Footprint Verification Statement will greatly raise consumers’ environmental awareness and reshape their consumption habits. During product design and manufacturing, results of water footprint assessments are taken into account to maximize water utilization and minimize water consumption and pollution. In the future, Huawei will continue to adopt leading sustainability assessment methodologies and tools during its operations, product design, manufacturing and sales processes. Huawei aims to offer more eco-friendly products to consumers.

  • Utilizing eco-friendly materials to reduce the environmental impact of products

Eco-friendly materials promise multiple benefits to minimize negative environmental impacts. At the beginning of the product lifecycle, eco-friendly materials can indirectly reduce resource consumption and environmental damage. At the end of the product lifecycle, they can minimize waste and reduce the amount of energy needed for waste disposal. Compared to traditional materials, eco-friendly materials can be applied more flexibly and on a larger scale. Huawei has enthusiastically explored and utilized new eco-friendly materials to reduce environmental impact to the greatest extent possible.

Use of Bioplastics: Huawei has used bioplastics in its mobile phones since 2013. Bioplastics are much more eco-friendly than traditional plastics because they are made from plant extracts rather than petroleum – a non-renewable energy source. Therefore, bioplastics can help greatly reduce environmental pollution and damage. In 2014, bioplastics were used in more Huawei products, including the G730, P7, Mate7 and Honor 6 Plus mobile phones. The bioplastics of each product contain over 10% of castor oil.

Soy Ink for Greener Printing: Soy ink contains a proportion of soy oil. It reduces reliance on petroleum, prints well and is much safer than traditional inks due to fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Products printed with soy ink are easy to de-ink, which enables packaging materials to be recycled. Huawei has extensively used soy ink in its device product packaging since January 2014.

  • Using packaging materials that are eco-friendly, safe, reusable, renewable and meet sustainability requirements

At Huawei, compliance with environmental protection requirements has always been a top priority throughout the lifecycle of packaging materials, from selection and manufacturing to use and disposal. Huawei uses packaging materials that are eco-friendly, safe, reusable, renewable and that meet sustainability requirements. Huawei’s commitment to green packaging reduces both resource use and CO2 emissions. Huawei has developed the green packaging strategy of “6R1D”: Right Packaging (the core), Reduce, Returnable, Reuse, Recycle, Recovery, and Degradable. In 2014, Huawei shipped a total of 247,193 units in green packaging, saving 44,164 m3 in wood and cutting CO2 emissions by 19,130 tons.

Which GRI indicators/Standards have been addressed?

The GRI indicators/Standards addressed in this case are:

1) G4-EN12: Description of significant impacts of activities, products, and services on biodiversity in protected areas and areas of high biodiversity value outside protected areas – the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 304-2 Significant impacts of activities, products, and services on biodiversity

2) G4-EN27: Extent of impact mitigation of environmental impacts of products and services

3) G4-EN28: Percentage of products sold and their packaging materials that are reclaimed by category– the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 301-3 Reclaimed products and their packaging materials

 

References:

1) This case study is based on published information by Huawei, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:

http://database.globalreporting.org/

2) http://www.fbrh.co.uk/en/global-reporting-initiative-gri-g4-guidelines-download-page

3) https://g4.globalreporting.org/Pages/default.aspx

4) https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/

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