Published on in Built EnvironmentResponsible Business

Responsible business: how do you do it?

This was the big question on the minds of everyone at Fujitsu World Tour back in July. In fact, it’s on the minds of the majority of people in the tech industry.

For me, the best way to uphold responsibility in your organisation is to avoid treating it as something alien and separate to normal operations. It should be about doing business as usual, responsibly.

At Fujitsu, our day-to-day business is all about partnerships, and harnessing those partnerships to find innovation and co-creation.

So we bring this to our corporate social responsibility (CSR) – with amazing results.

Our charity partnerships are a big part of this. Over the years, we’ve worked with some amazing non-profit organisations, including Macmillan Cancer Care and Shelter.

In January, we announced our new charity partner: Autistica, the UK’s leading Autism research charity.

Together, we aim to utilise the power of technology to help autistic people and their families have long, happy, healthy lives.

We’ve already made a great start – as we’ll explain.

A cause that matters to us

Our charity partnership programme has been running for many years now. But this time, we decided to do it a little differently.

We placed a £2 million turnover cap on all of our potential partnership candidates. This meant we chose a smaller charity, who would see a bigger impact from our involvement.

Colleagues across the business voted to select Autistica as our charity partner.

And it’s easy to understand why. It’s a cause close to many employees’ hearts, whether they are autistic themselves or have connections through family and friends.

More than 700,000 people in the UK are autistic, while 2.8 million people are connected to an autistic person.

Yet only 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time employment.

That’s a massive loss for businesses in this country. We’re missing out on all the talent, creativity and unique thinking that autistic people can bring.

In turn, autistic people are missing out on the chance of a full and exciting career.

It’s a serious problem – so we’ve tried to develop a solution.

Co-creating a more responsible future

We got together with Autistica to work out how we can use tech to empower autistic people in the workplace – an environment that doesn’t always feel comfortable for those with different needs.

This process started with a session in our Digital Transformation Center, and ended with a demo at Fujitsu World Tour 2019.

A panel of experts gathered at World Tour to talk about their experience – as you can see here:

As Martin Russell says, the team started with a blank piece of paper and in the space of three weeks turned it into a full demo.

The first step was identifying a problem that needed to be solved. This problem was the lack of accessibility for autistic people in the workplace.

Many autistic people experience the sensory world differently. They may be under or over-sensitive to sound, touch, taste, smell or light. This can make office environments challenging, and can prevent autistic colleagues from fully taking part.

Autistic people, like many of us, can find uncertain or unexpected situations difficult. They may also require more processing time to think through questions or new ideas. This can make meetings particularly difficult.

So, we worked with the Digital Transformation Center (DTC) to develop ways to reduce sensory overload for autistic colleagues and make meetings less uncertain and time pressured.

Some of these solutions were simple, non-tech measures, like circulating an agenda ahead of a meeting.

Others involved a technological component, like using a video call software to allow autistic colleagues to deliver a presentation in a different room (which might be helpful in reducing over-stimulation).

As Jennie Chambers, Autistica’s Director of Fundraising, highlights, it’s all about making reasonable adjustments to the business environment so that it suits everyone.

And we get there using the human centric design (HXD) approach, as Martin mentions.

This approach places people and their needs right at the centre of the work you’re trying to do. It’s the approach that we use with all of our partners, and it’s the foundation for the success of the DTC.

Passion with impact

Fujitsu staff love getting behind their charity partners.

And autism is an issue that we’ve always been passionate about as an organisation. Last year, we created the BuddyConnect App for employees with different needs.

And some of our colleagues have participated in other challenges to raise awareness of autism.

It’s a great part of working at Fujitsu – and it’s clear that it makes a difference.

As Jennie points out, Fujitsu’s support with the Discover conference livestream resulted in a huge increase in audience reach for Autistica.

Roughly 400 people attended the conference on the day, while a further 1,000 people watched over the livestream.

This massively extended the power of Autistica’s research – meaning more people will become aware of how to understand and support autistic people.

Business as usual, responsibly

I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved so far.

But this is just the start of our journey with Autistica.

We’re looking forward to all the other things we can accomplish in the next year and a half of partnership.

We’re building a better future for autistic people and their families – by doing our business as usual, responsibly.

That’s how you do responsible business.

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