How empowering employees helps Asahi meet its sustainability goals

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September 13, 2022

Sustainability goals: man stretching against backdrop of Tokyo

Sustainability has become a hot topic in corporate circles in recent years, but few companies have made a concerted effort to embed this concept into their core operations. For Japanese food and beverage (F&B) giant Asahi Group Holdings, sustainability is an increasingly urgent imperative, one encapsulated in a philosophy it launched in January 2019.

This philosophy adapts the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into guideposts for business decisions, taking into account factors such as climate impact and sustainable procurement of raw materials.

As one of the top F&B conglomerates in Japan based on revenue, and the 20th in the world, Asahi aspires to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across everything it does by 2050. More immediately, by 2030, the company plans to reduce emissions by 70% for Scopes 1 and 2 and by 30% for Scope 3.

Given that the F&B sector is responsible for one-third of those emissions, according to Ceres, Asahi’s move could play a significant role in the battle against climate change and other environmental challenges.

Asahi’s 2050 goal is largely aligned with international climate targets, particularly a global benchmark for meeting net zero across the broader economy set by the International Energy Agency. Many of Asahi’s F&B peers—including Kraft Heinz, Nestlé, and Danone—are targeting the mid-century milestone as well, according to Just Food.

Sustainability starts with employees

When 30,000-employee enterprise Asahi set out in 2019 to become a sustainability leader, it initiated a new way of thinking about work and technology that treats employees as customers.

This entails giving staff ample opportunity to provide feedback as part of a continuous cycle of improvement and iteration in worker experience. It also emphasizes a personalized approach that adapts to the needs of each individual rather than all employees as a group.

“When I moved to Asahi from the automobile industry, I strongly felt that Asahi is a company that values its employees very much,” says Hiroshi Shimizu, a manager in the system management department at Asahi Group Holdings.

Although the pandemic cemented Asahi’s long-held principle of workplace flexibility, it hampered communication and the overall ease and flow of operations. To overcome these challenges, the company adopted a new approach to digital technology.

We...have a policy of promoting innovation in processes, organizations, and business models. - Tomokazu Yamakawa, Executive Officer, Asahi Group Holdings

Previously, different departments operated in silos with their own applications and approval processes. Information employees needed to do their jobs was difficult to find. New initiatives rolled out in the IT department over the last few years have attempted to make this information easier to locate.

“In Japan as a whole, digital transformation is equivalent to business transformation,” explains Tomokazu Yamakawa, executive officer of Asahi Group Holdings’ digital transformation department. “We therefore have a policy of promoting innovation in processes, organizations, and business models.”

Increasing efficiency

ServiceNow IT Service Management helped the company streamline workflows and reduce the steps to complete tasks. Asahi realized it needed to go beyond simply digitizing previously paper-based processes to eliminate wasteful and inefficient procedures wherever possible.

Although the IT department is largely synced with ServiceNow solutions, other verticals are still works in progress. Asahi intends to upgrade an additional 3,000 processes as soon as possible. “We are working on transformation in close cooperation with each department,” Yamakawa says.

In May 2022, the company adopted ServiceNow App Engine, a platform that enables low-code/no-code development of business-grade applications. The product can connect workflows both inside and outside of IT.

Going forward, ServiceNow HR Service Delivery will be a key component of Asahi’s continued transformation. The platform empowers employees to log in from anywhere and access the information they need to do their jobs efficiently and easily.

“Simplicity is an important keyword,” Yamakawa says. “I want to eliminate the impact of new technology installations and eliminate the ‘black box’ as much as possible. Visualization, for instance, makes it easier to estimate the time and cost required for change. I felt that ServiceNow is the best technology partner for us to achieve this goal.”

Simplifying the employee experience, meeting goals

With a projected high return on investment over three years, Asahi’s approach to treating employees as customers is paying off. “Previously, an employee needed to seek approval from their line manager to create a new folder to share information internally,” Shimizu notes.

“The IT department used to set this up manually only after the approval was received from the manager, in a process that could take up to a week. Now, the process has been completely automated. Once the approval is received, it is immediately transmitted to the file sharing service, and the folder can be created in a few minutes.”

“We want to make full use of ServiceNow to reduce the things that are consuming employees’ time,” Yamakawa adds. In turn, this shift spurs workers to be good social and environmental stewards, furthering Asahi’s sustainability.

Find out more about how ServiceNow helps companies meet their sustainability goals.

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