As a technology analyst, I spend a lot of time jet setting from conference to conference, covering the latest greatest advances in technology and IT solutions. Another part of what I cover, though, is the kinder, gentler material that’s under the hood—company culture, CSR, and the like. Environmental sustainability is a huge issue that in my experience doesn’t get talked about enough in big tech.
I believe HP is a company that is showing how adopting more environmentally responsible, sustainable ways of doing business can pay actual dividends—what’s good for the environment is good for business and society. I recently had the opportunity to take a look at HP Inc.’s 2018 Sustainable Impact Report. I wanted to share what I learned about the company’s history in sustainability, the progress it has made, and the new commitments it is making.
Sustainability before it was cool
Right now, there’s a public crisis of confidence in big tech, and it’s becoming trendy for many corporations to pay lip service to sustainability and CSR when under the gun. I have to question a company’s true commitment if it started under duress.
One thing I love about HP Inc., though, is that it has been doing this since way before it was cool (Cisco Systems is another company that fits into this category). HP made its first charitable donation (of $5) back in 1940, one year after the company’s founding. In 1942, it instituted health insurance for all its employees. HP enshrined its commitment to environmental stewardship and corporate citizenship in the company’s first set of corporate objectives, written by founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in 1957. These directives included “Citizenship,” the company’s commitment to making “contributions to the community and to the institutions in our society which generate the environment in which we operate.”
The list goes on. In 1966, an HP employee started a recycling program for computer punch cards, and in 1973, the company became the first in the country to give its employees flextime for family, leisure, or personal business. In 1987, the company debuted its hardware recycling program. It was one of the first companies around the table for the well-known Energy Star program for energy efficiency, and one of the first signatures on the UN Global Compact for labor practices.
A unique sustainability approach
This brings us to the present day. While HP is not the only company that is making efforts in these areas, there are several things I’ve noticed that set it apart from the pack. One of the interesting things about HP’s efforts is that it actively measures the business impact of its sustainable practices. According to the 2018 Sustainable Impact Report, the company brought in over 900 million dollars of new revenue in the year 2018 in which “sustainable impact” was a key differentiator. Additionally, 2018 saw a 35% increase year-over-year in “deal wins where Sustainable Impact was a key differentiator.” In addition to pleasing HP’s shareholders, the ability to show the monetary impact of adopting more sustainable practices should make these sorts of programs more attractive to other companies who might be watching.
Another unique thing that struck me about HP’s program is that part of its executives’ compensation is tied to sustainability. This helps to incentivize sustainable practices and goals from the top-down and is not something I’ve seen with other companies. Tying compensation to anything will get action.
The other big differentiator I noticed was how comprehensive HP’s program is—in addition to its own practices, the company holds its suppliers, distributors, resellers to high standards. While sometimes it’s not fun being on the other side of this commitment, it demonstrates just how serious the company is.
Progress and goals
The 2018 report highlighted several accomplishments from the past year as well as new commitments to the future. It announced that as of the end of 2018, its Personal Systems and print products portfolio utilized 7% post-consumer recycled content. Going even further, it announced a new goal of utilizing 30% post-consumer recycled content plastic across its personal systems and print portfolio by the year 2025.
HP also announced in the report that by the end of 2018 it was powering its global operations with 47% renewable electricity, and it set new goals to reach 60% by 2025, and 100% by 2035. I was impressed to learn that HP had already achieved 100% renewable electricity in its U.S. operations. HP also announced a new goal to cut its Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 60% come 2025 (compared to its levels in 2015). On this front, HP announced it had thus far reduced its levels by 41% from 2015.
In 2015, the company set a goal to enable better learning outcomes for 100 million people by 2025. In the 2018 report, it announced that over 21 million people so far had benefitted from HP’s various educational programs and solutions since 2015.
HP also announced it had increased new hires from under-represented groups to 59% in 2018. For that matter, the report also found that 88% of HP’s employees agree that the company values diversity. It also found that 89% of HP’s employees agree that HP is a socially and environmentally responsible company. These internal surveys, in my mind, say a lot about the culture within the company, and further illustrate that HP is living and breathing these ideals—not just waging a really good PR campaign.
Other interesting tidbits
Another thing I was interested to learn more about was HP’s collaboration with SmileDirectClub, a business currently disrupting and democratizing the orthodontics industry with affordable and safe orthodontic care. Recently, HP announced that SmileDirectClub would deploy 49 HP Jet Fusion 3D printing systems for the use of manufacturing over 50,000 unique mouth molds per day for the business. SmileDirectClub says that the productivity and manufacturing predictability of HP’s 3D printing platform gives the company savings that it, in turn, passes on to the consumer. In addition to the societal impact of bringing quality, affordable orthodontic care to those who traditionally couldn’t afford it, HP’s 3D printing offers a more sustainable way to manufacture plastic products. Together, HP and SmileDirectClub announced they were launching a recycling program to reuse excess plastic materials and mouth molds for traditionally injection molding.
Another thing that caught my eye was HP’s efforts to curb ocean-bound plastic in Haiti and divert it into HP products. HP says that since 2016, it has turned an impressive 716,000 pounds of ocean-bound plastic materials into HP ink cartridges. Globally, it says it has recycled 199 million pounds of plastic since 2000. Not too shabby.
HP Inc. has been doing sustainability programs before it was cool, all the way back to the 1950s, and I can argue that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard coined “corporate citizenship” as it was baked into the company’s original mission. HP’s sustainability efforts are clearly firing on all cylinders right now, and I believe longer than any other company in IT. From the 2018 Sustainability Report, it’s clear that HP has not strayed from those ideals. At a time when trust in big tech is at an all-time low, I believe, HP Inc. and its well-established sustainability program shines like a beacon for others to follow.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.