The Six Five – On The Road with Cassandra Garber at Dell Tech World

By Patrick Moorhead - June 2, 2023

On this episode of The Six Five – On The Road, hosts Daniel Newman and Patrick Moorhead welcome Dell TechnologiesCassandra Garber, VP of ESG.

Their discussion covers:

  • An introduction to Cassandra and her team’s role within Dell Technologies
  • Cassandra shares Dell’s top focus-areas for ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance)
  • We learn more what Dell’s customers and partners are interested surrounding ESG
  • How ESG has shown up at the Dell Technologies World event this week

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Patrick Moorhead: Hi, this is Pat Moorehead, and we are live at Dell Tech World 2023, Six Five On the road, here with my bestie Daniel Newman. We’re chatting about a lot of different topics here. And one of the biggest conversation topics in industry today are topics like sustainability and ESG, and yes, we’re not confused on the Six Five, we know they’re not the same, and in fact, we’re going to talk a little bit about the difference between the two. Dan, how are you doing?

Daniel Newman: Pat, you came out with a bang. We’re already having debates. You didn’t even get past the intro.

Patrick Moorhead: But that’s the Six Five, Dan.

Daniel Newman: That’s what we’re here for. We are here, we are on the road at Dell Tech world. It’s been a great couple days too, because we really have covered the gambit. We covered the cloud, multi-cloud, the edge. We had some big AI announcements. We heard from Michael, we heard from Jeff Clark. We heard from a number of the leadership team. And then we’ve been here doing some videos. Hopefully everybody’s tuning into those. And now we’re going to come back to something that’s been chatted about for a few years. We’re going to get an update on what’s going on at Dell Technologies with its sustainability and ESG strategy.

Patrick Moorhead: Let’s stop talking about ourselves, and introduce our guest. Cassandra, how are you doing?

Cassandra Garber: I’m doing great. It’s been a great week.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, thanks for coming on the show again. I think you’re a Six Five veteran, or you’re a video veteran with Dan. I don’t know which one it is.

Daniel Newman: You’re an alumnus.

Patrick Moorhead: You’re an alumnus one way, shape, or form.

Cassandra Garber: I’m an alumnus, I like it.

Patrick Moorhead: But thanks for coming on the show.

Cassandra Garber: Yeah, thrilled to be here. Thank you for having me. Thank you for the topic.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it is. And I know this is something you’re passionate about, something you’re super interested in talking about.

Patrick Moorhead: Well, she does run that part of the company.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, yeah. No, it doesn’t always mean you like your job. Just because you do.

Cassandra Garber: I do. Yes, yes.

Patrick Moorhead: But yes, she seems very passionate about it. And you know what? That’s probably a good starting point for those out there. As much as we do believe everybody spends all day watching the Six Five, there are a few people that maybe haven’t met you before. So let’s get off, Cassandra, just talk a little bit about yourself, your role at Dell. What are you focused on?

Cassandra Garber: Yeah. Well, I have the wonderful opportunity to run sustainability and ESG at a time when it is very popular. The joke we keep making is our team has never been so popular. We used to kind of bang on the door and say, “Let us in, let us talk,” and now we’re like, “We don’t have time for you because we have all of these people over here.” So it’s just a very different world than it used to be even a few years ago. And there’s lots of reasons for that.

But what we do on a regular basis, my team with sustainability and ESG, and not that we’re going to debate it, and quite frankly, spending too much time on debating the words takes time away from doing the work, and so we want to have clarity and we want to talk about it, and then we want to move on to the actual work. But when it comes to sustainability, we think of things like sustaining our business, sustaining the planet. And so we follow the United Nations and the sustainable development goals and the [inaudible 00:02:53] Commission’s definition of sustainable development, which is doing things today that are considering the future and not having a negative impact, and hopefully actually having a positive impact on future generations. That includes environmental and social. And sometimes it’s really hard to put them in one bucket or the other, which is the other reason we like bringing it all together, the E and the S. When you talk about things like environmental justice, that’s not an E, that’s not an S, that’s an E and S. And the governance across all of them means you have got to do the right things to report, to disclose, to manage, to think about all of it. So we put ESG over in the bucket of how we are measuring managing. It’s more of a function. Sustainability is more of a strategy. So that’s just a quick bit of it.

In terms of what we do on a daily basis, we have our priority areas that we spend all our time, a lot of times with my team in particular, it’s not just our professional time, it’s our personal time, thinking about climate change, circular economy, digital inclusion, inclusive workforce. Increasingly cybersecurity and trust is coming into our world, even though we of course have other parts of the company running it, but very much coming into our world.

The other thing we work a lot on is reporting. So all of the regulations coming our way from an environmental and a social standpoint in the US and the EU in particular, there’s just a lot of preparation to do, a lot of data, a lot of getting ready for what that’s going to mean. Similarly, from a customer perspective, customer demand is skyrocketing. It used to be, “Hey, can you talk to us about this? Can you think about this?” And now it’s, “I want it this way and I want it now and I want data and I want new products looking like this.” So it’s just a very different world. So we spend a lot of time on that.

We do philanthropy, volunteerism, those kinds of things as well. We do social innovations. We actually have projects that are all about how to use tech for good. And then we run signature programs, so if you’ve heard us talk about Girls Who Game, Student Tech Crew, Solar Community Hubs, and our Digital Life Care program in India or our Pro Bono program, those are our five signature programs. So we run those as well. And they are absolutely intended to make the world a better place, but we are increasingly seeing them be great customer and partner collaborations as well. So we’re also, again, seeing some business value in things that were very traditionally solely philanthropic in nature.

Patrick Moorhead: Let me ask, each company is different and they have different… They manufacture things differently. They might not even manufacture anything. They might be a services company. I’m curious, what are your customers and partners most interested in right now?

Cassandra Garber: I wish there was actually just one thing. It runs the gamut. You just said it, every company is different, so every one of our customers is different. They’re in a different place on their journey. Some of them are saying, “I just need to report for the first time. I need your greenhouse gas emissions because you’re in my scope three and I want to report on that.” Others are saying, “Hey, I’m sitting in France and I need to buy refurb products from you, and I need it now. What do you have available? What can I buy?” because there’s regulations increasing there. Some of them are saying, “I want to partner with you and create something entirely new. Let’s jointly innovate on these issues, on environmental and social issues.” That’s why I say it, the demand is increasing so much because they want everything from data to partnership to shared innovation, to just learning from us. We get a lot of that. Some of our customers are also our suppliers, so we also get a good bit of pitches, “Hey, why don’t you buy this from us?” and that kind of dynamic that we have sometimes as well. So it’s a lot.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah.

Daniel Newman: So talk to us a little bit, because I get that it sounds like you’ve got the kind of what I would call ESG sustainability supply chains. You’ve got the framework. You’ve got the whole kind of life cycle. Dell has a massive partner ecosystem and a huge employee footprint, and you’re constantly thinking of different ways to achieve this. I’m on the record saying this a lot. Over the last year, we went from a couple of years where it was very much a marcitecture to talk about ESG and sustainability. Every company he was talking about, every company had a story.

Patrick Moorhead: Every company was the best at it.

Cassandra Garber: Yeah, we are.

Daniel Newman: Every company was doing the most and the best, of course. And then what happened, I think, was ’22, the economy late ’21, ’22 slowed down, tech slowed down, the endless money, interest rates started going up, free money went away, inflation is here, now companies are kind of changing to a bit of a survival mode and obviously survive and thrive. But you heard a lot of companies step away from it. They stopped talking about it. And what I keep saying on the record is people want to hear about results. They want to understand, “How do we measure?” So all these things you’re doing, can you share a little bit with us about how you measure it to make sure that the story is being matched with the outcomes?

Cassandra Garber: Yeah. Well, one thing I want to say just about how this has evolved, and having worked in this space for a while, I have watched it do this. We don’t have any money anymore, environmental work, you sit back, social work, for sure, you sit back and come behind the environmental. That has happened. What’s fascinating this time, it’s not slowing down. And we expected that it would. Yeah. But just like the customer demand, again, because of regulations, because of those things, it is only increasing. So from a measurement standpoint, one of the success measures, and we can debate whether or not you would consider it a success, but I consider this success, one of the success measures we have internally is we track our customer inquiries and the varying levels of customer inquiries that we get. We are watching them continue to exponentially go up. And I consider that success because as the market goes down, as the economy goes down, interest in environmental and social work is going up. Similarly with our employees, our number one employee resource group is our planet group. Half our employee population is in our planet group, and they’re becoming very vocal. I consider that a success measure that many people are interested and participating and active.

From measurement and transparent reporting specifically on our goals, of course, we have our ESG report, and it’s actually going to be released at the end of June. And this week, I’m supposed to be doing some review that I got to find some time to work on because it’s about to come out. But we are going to release our progress. So of course against our goals, we’re going to show our progress against every single one of them. We’re actually refining and streamlining them, because again, this world is evolving so much that we’re getting much, much better about how do you measure this? How do you quantify these kinds of things? How do you audit, validate, verify in a way that it’s much more along the lines of how you would do financial reporting. So we are working towards that. So our report is definitely the best way that we measure our success. We hold ourselves accountable to it in a big way against our 2030 goals.

The last thing I would say is that some of it is certainly the things you would think, the environmental kind of things in terms of our take back and packaging and all of that kind of stuff, our climate action. But we also have a metric that’s around improving one billion lives through digital inclusion. And that’s a really powerful one that sometimes we can get lost in the number and we can get lost in the data, but when you have these stories and you have these examples, and you can actually see a human whose life has been improved and they’re no longer sick because they have access to healthcare they didn’t have, or a child is learning and has access to education that they didn’t have before. That is success. And all the other stuff is really important, but it’s a side gig. That’s the stuff that moves people in is why we’re doing this.

Patrick Moorhead: Appreciate some of those moving examples. And those types of things really separate. I don’t know, the numbers are required, but the stories and the personal impact on people is even stronger, and I believe that’s what motivates people as opposed to numbers, although numbers are important.

Daniel Newman: It’s qualitative and quantitative.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, exactly.

Daniel Newman: We love that in research.

Cassandra Garber: Yes.

Patrick Moorhead: Exactly. So we’re here at Dell Tech World 2023, thousands of customers, partners, strategic partners, employees, and apologies for the broad question. I know no other way to ask it, but how has ESG showed up at Dell Tech World? For instance, if you didn’t know you were looking at it, but it’s here. Can you talk to our audience about that?

Cassandra Garber: Yeah, we’re everywhere. That’s the cool part.

Patrick Moorhead: On the couch, on the chair.

Cassandra Garber: Yes, exactly.

Daniel Newman: This is sustainable material.

Patrick Moorhead: There we go.

Cassandra Garber: Good. I like to hear that.

Daniel Newman: No, I’m talking about me.

Cassandra Garber: Oh, you. Thank you. Nicely done. Well done. If you don’t mind, plant some of these and save the bees. It’s literally on our clothes. And I know Jeff was wearing a T-shirt the other day as well. But no, in all seriousness, we are so proud of how we’ve shown up here, not just because if you were watching a keynote, you heard Michael, you heard Ed Ward come up and talk about what we’re doing. Chuck talked about it, Jeff talked about it everywhere. We’ve had thought leadership here. So Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, who’s a climate scientist and she has this phenomenal TED talk about what we can all do for climate action and kind of simplifies it for everyone. We had Jessica O’Matthews who founded a sustainable infrastructure innovation company, and she shared some really cool ideas yesterday in a luminary lunch.

If you check out the microfactory with Concept Luna in the product expo, or you can actually take apart the Luna laptop. You can play with it or see the sustainable modular data center. We just have so many cool things. I didn’t even mention panels and all the things. Basically everywhere you go, you see it. Even the hotel itself has the largest contiguous solar array in the US or something like that. So you can feel it everywhere. So of course we’re proud of that. Of course, we’re proud that everybody can see that. But what I’m even more proud of is that my team didn’t force that to happen. We have integrated in the company so much that whether you’re here, whether you’re on the investor team, you’re on the finance team, whether you’re in product development, you are thinking about it. Because that has been our number one priority is radical integration inside the company so that it shows up everywhere. So we are here, we’re very present, probably annoyingly so to some people. “Good grief, I can’t talk about sustainability anymore,” perhaps. But yeah, we’re really proud of how much we’ve shown up here.

Patrick Moorhead: Thanks for sharing that.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, and this is definitely a job that you do, all joking, aside from the beginning, have to have passion about, to be successful. What it sounds like, Cassandra, that you’ve been able to do is integrate into the culture a sort of sustainable ESG-first thinking culture that is now manifesting itself in many ways every single day, whether it’s here at the event or back at Dell or in the product development or in the sales motion. And I think that’s a story worth telling.

Cassandra Garber: Well, honestly, I think, not to sound too corporate-y or something, but I think we’ve enabled that culture because some of this is just, we have people in the company who just want to do this. So we basically just kind of-

Patrick Moorhead: Empowered them.

Cassandra Garber: Empowered them, and created the forums so that they can make the connections and do it. So we can’t take credit because we didn’t create it from the start, but we have formalized it.

Patrick Moorhead: Teamwork.

Cassandra Garber: Teamwork makes the dream work.

Patrick Moorhead: Teamwork makes the dream work.

Cassandra Garber: Yes, for sure.

Daniel Newman: Cassandra, thank you so much for joining the Six Five On the Road here at Dell Tech World 2023.

Cassandra Garber: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

Daniel Newman: All right, everybody. Stay with us for all of our episodes here at Dell Tech World 2023. This is Six Five On the Road. We appreciate you tuning in. Check out all our shows, subscribe, stay with us. For now, we got to go. We’ll see you all soon.

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.