Alison Rowe is Global Executive Director Sustainability, International Business at Fujitsu, a Non Executive Director of Environment Victoria, and a Non Executive Director of La Trobe University’s External Sustainability Advisory Board. Somewhere in her busy schedule she found time to answer some questions from The Switch Report.

Environmental performance is often viewed as being at the expense of economic performance. How does a large company like Fujitsu balance these competing areas?

The economy and the environment are not treated separately. We understand the importance of a strong business plan coupled with a major contribution to society. We review our targets and goals regularly to ensure we balance our approach. There is of course a constant tension but it’s the linkage that is critical.

Where does Fujitsu’s commitment to sustainability come from? How is it viewed at the board level?

Our commitment is part of our DNA and our Japanese heritage.  Environmental accounting was present in our business from 1938, when we calculated the environmental burden of building a new factory at Kawasaki and designed a park style campus to make a positive contribution to the environment & community.

Our President is deeply committed to sustainability and we have multiple levels of governance integrated into our business with a dedicated Sustainability Board.

Is your role more internal  or external?

My role is dual focussed; I take a value chain approach to sustainability.  In my first role at Fujitsu my focus was completely external and working with our customers on ICT sustainability. I then moved to a more internally  focussed role as the Director of Sustainability for our Australian business. For the past four years I have been combining both areas on a global scale. My day is never typical, I can be working with our Corporate team on group strategy or our teams in Asia on their business plan and go to market strategy or meeting with customers around the globe.

What value does Fujitsu realise from its sustainability focus?

There is sustainability value measured by numbers such as achievement of goals, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, operational efficiency and costs savings, reduced footprint, leadership rankings, new solutions, sales, market penetration (brand), external rankings i.e. CDP and DJSI etc.

Then there is value such as stronger community relationships, less time having to re-pitch sustainability as it is becoming more and more a daily conversation about how we do it, rather than what it is or why.

When did the sustainability bug bite? What lead you down the sustainability path?

Ten years ago when I was faced with an ewaste challenge. Legislation at the time could have allowed us to dispose of a massive amount of lithium batteries in landfill. We developed a business case for a recycling solution and went above and beyond legislation. At the same time I was participating in the Williamson Community Leadership Program and we had a whole day dedicated to the environment. Things really came together for me.

You have worked for a number of companies in a variety of roles; how do you see the status of sustainability across the broader corporate sector?

I have seen sustainability move from a soft side topic in a company to a more integrated business function. There has been increased capturing of risk in corporate risk registers, however my biggest concern is the immaturity in understanding the impact and scale of climate change.

What is your favourite example of a successful sustainability initiative within Fujitsu?

Tropical rainforests where more than half of species on our planet are living are very important ecosystems from a biodiversity standpoint. They are also essential from the viewpoint of preventing global warming because they supply 40% of the oxygen and absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide. Fujitsu Tropical Rainforest Regeneration Project (FTRR project) is one of our environment preservation initiatives to help regeneration of rainforest in Fujitsu Group’s Malaysia Eco-Forest Park located on Borneo Island in Malaysia. This huge park covers about 150 hectares and success of this project will contribute to the development of an important ecosystem where many species can live. This project was launched in 2002. Since then, Fujitsu Group members and their families have planted 37,500 nursery trees. The trees have been maintained by them for five years. Constant maintenance is essential for regeneration of rainforests because a few decades are needed for nursery trees to grow.

You describe yourself as a passionate optimist. How is that optimism holding up in the face of accelerating climate change and ongoing species loss?

A passionate optimist is not the same as an optimist. I foresee the future and consider what is actually happening in the world and implement actions in line with carefully developed strategies. A passionate optimist will never give up and devotedly seeks the solutions to improve the world.

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