Corporate responsibility: defending the common good
Zeiss’ Tonsley site (pictured) will switch to 100% renewable solar power this year.
Corporate responsibility has been rooted in the entrepreneurial spirit of Zeiss since its inception. Insight examines how its historic principles measure up to its commitments to Australasian employees and the environment in 2022.
OWhether it’s electric vehicles, smartphones, diagnostic devices, surgical microscopes or vision correction optics, there are few areas of modern human existence that Zeiss hasn’t no influence.
The German-headquartered group – which has operated in Australia for more than 60 years – aims to position itself as the innovation leader in all the sectors in which it operates, creating a rich corporate culture that places diversity of thought, inclusiveness and sustainability at the heart of its concerns. heart.
Most Australian eyecare professionals know Zeiss from its OCT machines, reference perimeters and biometers, ophthalmic lenses, intraocular lenses and surgical microscopes, but the company is also making changes in many other areas.
“In all areas of our business, we make products and services that help people, or help people help others, and that’s very rewarding,” said Mr. Rene Hessling, who has 20 years of career with the company and was appointed CEO of Zeiss. Australia and New Zealand last October, said.
“For example, we develop analytical instruments used in cancer research or drug discovery and are also integral to advancing the electronics market with our semiconductor technology. Thanks to our metrology solutions, we participate in the transformation of the automotive industry towards electric vehicles and additive manufacturing which require completely different quality control processes. Our equipment helps medical professionals provide better diagnosis or treatment and in every family there is someone who needs a lens for their glasses or to replace their cataract.
“It’s such an interesting place to work because of the positive impact we have in so many areas.”
Today, Zeiss’ business is divided into four segments: semiconductor manufacturing technology (SMT), industrial quality and research (IQR), medical technology (ophthalmic devices and microsurgery) and large markets. public (vision care/ophthalmic lenses).
Its competitiveness in various high-tech sectors is largely based on the importance it places on R&D. It aims to be at the forefront of technological advances by investing 13% of the group’s turnover in this area every year. In the last financial year 2020/21, Zeiss achieved the highest turnover in its long history at 7.5 billion euros (11.8 billion Australian dollars), with almost 1 billion euros (1.58 billion Australian dollars) devoted to R&D activities.
It thus creates approximately 450 patents per year, or 1.2 inventions per day.
“The dynamic of innovation within the company is strong and that in itself makes it exciting. Zeiss is in this interesting position with a strong history going back 175 years, while having to be nimble and quick to react to shape markets with cutting-edge innovations, and that creates a lot of positive momentum within the organization,” , adds Hessling.
Physicist… and social reformer
The rich history that Hessling alludes to dates back to its founding fathers. While Carl Zeiss started the company in 1846, he brought in physicist Ernst Abbe in 1866 to base the production and quality of his products on reproducible scientific principles. Abbe later proved instrumental in establishing the Carl Zeiss Foundation as owner of the business to ensure its longevity.
While Abbe was revered for his theoretical grounding in optical science, he was also known for implementing progressive labor policies for the time. These included an eight-hour working day at a time when most people worked 14, paid sick leave, a pension fund – and a holiday compensation fund.
“He was more than a famous physicist and driver of innovation; he was a social reformer. He realized that the long-term success of the company depended on the well-being of the employees,” says Hessling.
Equality was another principle introduced by the progressive abbot, which meant that an employee’s success was based solely on their abilities and performance, not on their origin, religion or political views.
“Today is not only about equality, but also about diversity. When I think of what drives the company forward, it’s diversity of thought. Zeiss has many employees who have long experience within the organization, which means we have experience in many areas, but we also need people to bring new and different perspectives,” says Hessling. .
“And that’s why we place a strong emphasis on finding people from different backgrounds and experiences, while providing opportunities for career progression by exposing them to other markets, cultures and ways of doing things. “
Ms. Elvina D’Cruze is an employee who personifies this approach. Seven years ago, at the age of 33, she joined Zeiss ANZ in Sydney as a senior accountant. Within weeks, she was promoted to CFO overseeing nine employees. Two years later, she joined the management team as head of finance for the ANZ business.
“Having someone who had only known me for a few weeks believed in my abilities was something that stood out,” she says, noting that she was first struck by the long service many employees.
“As a young manager I felt like part of a team and the learnings I learned in two years as CFO, you can’t get that anywhere else because you’re constantly dealing with new projects and systems, while receiving clear instructions on where we are heading as a group Even though there are people with much more experience, my ideas are never closed, you are always encouraged to offer your thoughts.
Ms. Gail Giordani, another long-time Zeiss employee of 23 years, began her career in her native country with Zeiss South Africa in 1999 as a member of the microscopy division. In 2014 she was appointed Managing Director of South Africa and last year moved to Adelaide to run the ANZ Vision Care business.
“I come from a very diverse country, but if there’s no inclusivity, you’re not leveraging the aspects of having a diverse team,” she explains.
“We don’t hire people for a job, we hire for a career and that’s why you see a lot of people who have stayed over 20 years. There are so many ways to advance your career, and the opportunities aren’t limited to just one area of the business, we’re looking for talent across the many business units where people can broaden their experience.
Another key driver of Zeiss’ business in 2022 is sustainability. Most notably, these include ambitious targets to supply carbon-neutral energy by the end of this year and to achieve CO2– neutrality in all activities on a global scale by 2025.
“Overall, Zeiss was able to set such ambitious targets because we launched specific programs on energy consumption, waste and the circular economy more than 10 years ago,” says Hessling, noting that one of its fundamental principles is to operate in a sustainable manner.
These initiatives are well advanced in Australia, where Zeiss’ state-of-the-art site at Tonsley in Adelaide will soon switch from 60% to 100% renewable solar energy. This is in addition to other initiatives to reduce water consumption through dry smoothing of glasses, removal of single-use plastic from packaging and 100% recyclable packaging. End-to-end electronic ordering and integration with optometric practice management systems has also reduced paper usage.
In Sydney, Zeiss has upgraded its ANZ headquarters, moving to a new site last September in Macquarie Park that will supply 100% renewable energy. The company is also using hybrid working models created by COVID, reducing travel and has reduced the use of printer paper and toner, among other initiatives.
The new Sydney premises also have a customer center where customers can try out new instruments and see how they fit into their workflow. A training laboratory has been created where people can learn to operate microscopes or perform surgery. Large screens were installed so that local engineers could connect with overseas factory experts for technical training.
“We’re taking our science equipment like electron microscopes even further by moving to virtual reality (VR)-based training, so our engineers can learn how to disassemble this very complex equipment in a 3D virtual world without having the equipment locally or need to travel overseas for weeks at a time,” adds Hessling.
Elsewhere in the Australasian sector, Zeiss has focused on sustainability in another way: eye health for disadvantaged communities. Its Back-to-Bush initiative, established in 2005, provides local and visiting ANZ clinicians and surgeons with access to state-of-the-art functional diagnostic and surgical technologies.
This philanthropic work is divided into three areas. The first provides recent and reconditioned Zeiss ophthalmic and ENT equipment to needy centers in the Australian hinterland and Oceania, acquired by exchange from private and public hospitals against new purchases.
The second element provides ANZ surgeons with access to a portable surgical microscope for use on loan during goodwill surgical visits. And third, he donates refurbished diagnostic equipment and new diagnostic equipment for charitable services, the most notable of which is the Lions Outback Vision North West Center in Broome.
Through Back-to-Bush, Zeiss has shipped more than 100 ophthalmic and ENT surgical microscopes and ophthalmic diagnostic instruments across the region, including Cambodia, Vietnam, Solomon Islands, East Timor, PNG, Fiji, in Kenya, the Philippines, Laos, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. .
Zeiss ANZ head of medical technology, Mr Dane Moloney, said equipment used in outreach programs may be outdated.
“Sometimes these surgeons also train local doctors during their stay to ensure a more sustainable service. The Back-to-Bush program focuses on caring for patients in local areas and training local doctors, while supporting ANZ doctors and their ambition to give back to these communities,” he adds.
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