As a tech analyst, I cover many different topics related to the industry. While the technology itself will always be my main focus, I also pay close attention to company culture and corporate ESG programs. I’ve found there to be significant overlap between those who excel at a technological and financial level and those who strive to give back and exemplify good corporate citizenry. There seems to be a growing appetite amongst consumers to support companies that align with their values and workers when considering employment options.
As awareness around climate change and its associated consequences has reached a fever pitch over the last ten years, environmental sustainability programs have become an increasingly popular aspect of CSR. Fittingly, Earth Day is the day each year when many companies choose to unveil their latest new environmental initiatives and what they’ve been doing to protect the planet. Wherever you sit on the environmental spectrum is that everyone I see agrees that doing more with less pollution is a positive thing.
This year, the flurry of news included announcements from Amazon, Microsoft, Dell Technologies, SAP and more. Today I’ll do a quick rundown of the news that caught my eye.
Alexa’s New Green Thumb
Amazon’s sustainability programs consistently rank at the top of the pack. Its Climate Pledge is one of the more impactful programs out there to reduce carbon emissions. I’ve written extensively about this pact—Amazon’s agreement with other environmentally-conscious companies to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040—an entire decade ahead of the Paris agreement’s target. In March, we learned that the number of signatories had surpassed the 300 mark, a 600% growth rate over the previous year. New participants in the past year include heavy hitters such as Procter & Gamble, Maersk, SAP, Salesforce, Nespresso, and HP Inc.
In addition to highlighting the progress of the Climate Pledge, we learned last week that Amazon is partnering with One Tree Planted, a nonprofit focused on reforestation projects around the world. With the simple command of “Alexa, grow a tree,” Amazon customers in the U.S. can donate $1 to the charity, which will plant a single tree in one of its focus regions. The organization’s initial projects include the reforestation of surface-mined land in Centre County, PA, the restoration of forest fire-damaged private land in the Mendocino National Forest, the planting of fruit trees to boost nutrition and livelihoods in marginalized communities in India and the reforestation of rivers and streams in the Pacific Northwest to protect salmon, the primary food source of the endangered orca whale.
Moreover, Amazon announced a million-dollar donation to One Tree Planted to go towards the planting of one million trees between April and December of this year. One Tree Planted has an impressive track record, having planted more than 40 million trees across 43 countries since 2014. In 2021 alone, One Tree Planted says it planted 23.5 million trees. With Amazon’s support on top of this momentum, 2022 is shaping up to be another big year for the nonprofit.
Lastly, I’ve been particularly impressed by Amazon’s efforts to help its customers discover and spend their money on more environmentally sustainable products in the past two years. A cornerstone of this effort is Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly (CPF) designation, stamped upon products that possess one or more of 39 Earth-friendly industry certifications. The CPF portfolio spans Amazon’s beauty, wellness, apparel, electronics, household, and grocery departments, including over 300,000 products across 20,000 brands. This year Amazon also launched its first, very own private brand of CPF products, which it calls Amazon Aware. Another program, Amazon Launchpad, serves as an incubator for providing support and expertise to new products and startups. In celebration of Earth Day this year, Amazon is highlighting Launchpad-supported companies and products geared towards sustainability—see here if interested.
Microsoft and partners launch eco-friendly laptops
Earlier this month, Microsoft and its device partners highlighted several new eco-friendly Windows laptops in advance of Earth Day 2022. Acer’s new Aspire Vero laptop uses recycled materials, utilizing 30% recycled plastic in its chassis and 50% on its keyboard caps. Its sustainability stats don’t end there—Acer designed it for maximum upgradability, longevity, energy efficiency, and battery life. To top it off, it ships in 100% recyclable packaging.
Packaging is a common area where many tech companies seek to reduce its footprint. Another new Windows PC, the ASUS ExpertBook B9, ships in cardboard cartons comprised of 85-90% recycled paper. In a particularly inventive move, ASUS designed the device’s accessory boxes to convert into laptop stands, hopefully keeping them from the landfill even longer.
Dell also dropped a new Windows laptop, the Dell Latitude 5000 series, which it calls its “most sustainable” yet. Incorporated into its design is a base made with 20% reclaimed carbon fiber, a lid comprised of 71% recyclable and renewable materials and fan housing built with 28% ocean-bound plastics. The Latitude 500 ships with 100% recycled or renewable packaging materials like the Aspire Vero.
Not surprisingly, HP Inc., a longtime leader in sustainable products and packaging, also designed its latest HP Elite Dragonfly G3 to be highly eco-friendly and lightweight. Aside from utilizing 50% recycled plastic in its keycaps and shipping the laptop in 100% sustainably-sourced materials, the computer features recycled magnesium in its cover and ocean-bound plastics within its speaker enclosure.
Dell Technologies doubles down on recycling
Dell Technologies also highlighted its sustainability efforts ahead of Earth Day 2022, announcing an expansion of its popular Asset Recovery Service. Now operating in 36 countries worldwide, this service does what its name implies. At a customer’s behest, Dell will pick up all brands of leased or owned hardware no longer in use, sanitize and wipe all data on the device and lastly, resell it, returning value to the customer. If reselling isn’t an option, Dell will responsibly recycle the hardware, providing a detailed accounting of the process to the customer through the company’s online TechDirect portal.
On a similar note, Dell’s free Trade-In & Recycling Program allows customers to earn Dell eGift cards returns when they trade in certain eligible personal electronics, regardless of brand or condition. After registering a device and receiving a quote for its worth online, customers can conveniently drop their device off at a FedEx location or dropbox. Once the device is received and scanned, the customer will receive a virtual pre-paid debit card they can use on Dell products and services.
The company also announced last month it was joining Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft in piloting a year-long, city-wide, collect-from-your-door electronics recycling program in Denver, CO. Through a partnership with recycling startup Retrievr, the program hopes to gather insights to understand consumer behavior better, applying those learnings to improve e-waste recycling processes.
Lastly, since the beginning of April, Dell has been running an awareness campaign designed to engage people in a “Global Recycling Drive for the Planet.” Dell hopes this campaign will inspire those in its ecosystem—employees, customers and partners—to take measures to maximize and extend the lifespan of hardware in the interest of reducing global e-waste.
If you are interested in learning more about Dell’s environmental sustainability efforts, see my past coverage.
SAP, the Germany-based multinational software company, is another corporation that embraced the spirit of Earth Day 2022. In mid-April it released the latest edition of “Leading With Purpose,” the company’s quarterly sustainability magazine. SAP, like Amazon, is working to not only improve its own processes, but also to bring others along with it. This quarter’s magazine highlighted SAP’s partnership with Boston Consulting Group. Together, the two organizations provide technology, consulting and analytics expertise to businesses undergoing their own sustainable transformations, working towards the goal of zero emissions and zero waste.
To that end, SAP launched three new solutions in 2021 that aim to embed sustainable practices into businesses’ core strategy and operations. SAP Product Footprint Management targets emissions, analyzing a business’s carbon footprint and simulating abatement techniques to determine the most promising approach. SAP Responsible Design and Production takes a similar tack, but for the purpose of helping businesses achieve zero waste. The solution analyzes the potential for circularity across a business’s portfolio and supply chain. Lastly, SAP Sustainable Control Tower gives businesses the ability to measure data, such as GHG emissions and other KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), in real time, giving them the visibility they need to steer operations towards their sustainability goals.
Earth Day was founded in 1970 to raise awareness around the variety of human-induced environmental crises plaguing the post-industrial world. It often receives credit for the birth of the modern environmental movement—the force behind the formation of the EPA and the passing of legislation such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Heck, the city I grew up in, Cleveland, river was so polluted it caught fire! On a smaller scale, Earth Day encourages every single person to spend at least a couple of minutes, one day out of a year, thinking about the planet that nurtures and protects us.
While proponents of environmental stewardship and free-market capitalism are often at political and philosophical odds, it’s very encouraging to see these tech titans—some of the most profitable and influential corporations in the world—now working on rewriting the narrative in such a visible way. A cynic could argue that these Earth Day announcements are nothing more than a good PR opportunity, but I believe these efforts and their impact go beyond that. I think the visibility these measures provide is very much in the spirit of the original Earth Day. Responsible corporate citizenry doesn’t necessarily have to come at the cost of the bottom line. Just tune into these company’s next earnings call if you don't believe it.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.