When I think of the big tech companies demonstrating a commitment to environmental sustainability, HP Inc. is always top of mind. While it’s become a more fashionable PR move in recent years for organizations to devise and tout their sustainability programs, HP was doing all of this long before it was cool. For example, a company employee developed a recycling program for HP’s computer punch cards back in 1966. HP implemented its hardware recycling program in 1987. It was also one of the first companies to sign on to the well-known Energy Star efficiency program. I detailed these efforts and much more in a column I wrote on the topic several years ago on HP’s 2018 Sustainable Impact Report—you can find that here, if interested. The company has also been at the forefront of the circular economy movement in recent years, in which old, often non-renewable resources are phased out for more sustainable materials, including recycled plastics, metals and paper. There are other sustainability programs out there, but HP’s, in my opinion, is amongst the cream of the crop.
With climate change coming more into focus with every record-setting wildfire and hurricane season, it’s become clear that half-hearted incrementalism isn’t going to cut it if we’re to stave off the worst impacts of this slow-motion, potentially human-made disaster. The planet needs aggressive action, and HP Inc., like always, seems determined to set an example. Let’s take a look at HP’s new set of ambitious climate action goals, unveiled this week in advance of Earth Day 2021.
HP’s overarching motivations are to achieve a “net-zero carbon, fully regenerative economy,” reduce its overall environmental footprint and create “the most sustainable portfolio of products and solutions in the industry.” It’s already a clear leader in the sustainability sector, recognized as the first worldwide IT company to publish its carbon footprint and set carbon emission reduction goals across its operations, supply chain and portfolio. Also, amongst the companies with them, the Science Based Targets Initiative ranked HP’s GHG emissions reduction goals in the top 10%. The company also touts its place as the only tech company appearing on the CDP’s “A lists” for climate, forests and water.
This week, HP Inc. announced specific targets, timeframes, and partnerships to advance its sustainability vision. The company plans to:
- reach net-zero carbon across the HP value chain—defined as its operations, supply chain and customer use of products and services—by 2040
- carbon neutrality and zero waste mark in HP operations by 2025
- carbon neutrality in HP’s supplies business by 2030
- achieve a 50% reduction in value chain greenhouse gas emissions, Scopes 1-3, by 2030 (based upon 2019’s emissions)
- reach net-zero deforestation
- counteract deforestation resulting from using any non-HP paper in its products and print services by 2030
- achieve 75% circularity in materials by weight for its products and packaging by 2030 (regarded by HP as the boldest target)
- achieve zero waste in HP-managed facilities by 2025
- reach carbon neutrality in HP’s Customer Support organization, across both HP and partner-run operations
Not only are these some of the most aggressive, comprehensive goals in the tech industry, but they even blow past the Paris Agreement’s targets and match significant U.N. Sustainable Development goals. Which begs the question—how does HP Inc. intend on achieving this?
Do these five things:
The company cites a five-component strategy for divesting growth from carbon emission and resource consumption. First, it is transitioning its portfolio to print and Compute-as-a-Service models, implementing supplies renewal services such as its Instant Ink program for printers and adopting more circular hardware solutions. Second, HP says it is focusing on increasing its usage of renewable and recycled materials. Third, it is throwing its considerable weight behind the decarbonization of its supply chain, encouraging the shift towards renewable electricity, surface transportation, alternative fuels and electric vehicles to ship its goods. Fourth, HP says it is focused on designing products with both existing and new energy-efficient technologies. And lastly, but not least, HP is investing in forest restoration and stewardship to help mitigate the loss of trees harvested for printing and packaging. Hand in hand with that, HP says it will continue to source either certified or recycled materials that don’t contribute to the destruction of the world’s forests.
In a recent conversation I had with HP Inc.’s Ellen Jackowski, she emphasized the word “comprehensive” in referring to the new sustainability push, condensing the efforts outlined above into three categories: cutting carbon emissions, moving to a more circular economy and protecting the forests. Jackowski explained that HP is shifting to a more holistic vision of sustainability, focusing on the interconnectivity between those three areas and how they feed into each other.
No company is an island
HP Inc. also announced news around several new and preexisting collaborations—designed to help achieve its goals. These include expanding the HP Sustainable Forests Collaborative to include new partners Andhra Paper Limited, Crown Van Gelder, Felix Schoeller Group, International Paper Company, Lenzing Papier and Mondi Uncoated Fine Paper. HP also announced the joining of the Arbor Day Foundation in an advisory capacity to the organization.
In the realm of resource protection, HP announced its participation as a founding sponsor of the Forest Stewardship Council’s digital marketplace, called “One Simple Action.” This website aids consumers in understanding why the FSC matters, providing suggestions for ethically sourced products that advance the organization’s mission of protecting the forests, its inhabitants and the workers who rely on them for their livelihood.
The last partnership announcement was that HP had joined the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance. It will sit on the Steering Committee for the organization’s latest signature initiative, ASPPIRe (which, of course, stands for Advancing Solutions to Plastic Pollution through Inclusive Recycling).
HP Inc. continues to drive the sustainability conversation in the IT space, with this new set of goals further demonstrating its long-term commitment to the cause. I like HP’s new focus on the interconnectivity of emissions, circularity and the natural environment. I haven’t seen any other companies talking about their sustainability programs in these terms. Still, it makes all the sense in the world—make a change (positive or negative) to one part of the circle and affect the whole shebang. Happy Earth Day 2021, and may others follow HP’s example!
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.