Corporate sustainability moving beyond company’s own environmental footprint

Windmills, Teslas and dark blue squares adorning roofs across the nation. When people think of sustainability, these images often come to mind. Yet, the same fundamental demographic factors underpinning the need for environmental sustainability are creating broader, equally pressing sustainability challenges for society at large. A population that is on track to reach 9.4 billion by 2050; a global middle class at 3.2 billion and growing rapidly; demand for water slated to exceed supply by 40% in the next 20 years; 74 million young people worldwide that – today – don’t have access to educational resources.

These trends are not sustainable, and will further exacerbate issues ranging from migrant labour standards, human trafficking and conflict around increasingly scarce minerals, to healthcare and access to clean drinking water.

>See also: Going green: technology’s battle to save the planet

HP joins with business leaders in the UK and across the world who have backed the Paris Agreement, making a strong pledge to lower their carbon footprint. Outlined in HP’s Sustainability Report launched this week, the company are committed to working towards 100% renewable energy use, with a 25% emission reduction benchmark by 2025, as several of our sites, such as our Palo Alto and Barcelona are already fully run on renewables. It is also lowering the GHG emissions intensity of its product portfolio by 25% by 2020 compared to 2010 levels.

But leading UK businesses are also using their scale and influence to become a significant force for good beyond the doors of their own company. To not only change how they do business, but leverage the impact they have in the market – reaching across their respective supply chains – to take positive action for society.

Image sourced by HP
Image sourced by HP

HP is working across its supply chain to take action on 15 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For example, it is working with its partners towards a supply chain free from conflict minerals. The company received the top spot in KnowtheChain’s benchmark for tech companies taking measures to fight modern slavery in their supply chains. And its Energy Efficiency Program (EEP) has helped supplier sites save more than 500 million kWh of electricity and prevent a cumulative 940,000 tonnes of CO2e emissions.

And it’s good business. HP’s suppliers achieved these remarkable emissions standards, all while saving around $73 million. As sustainability creates efficiencies, we will see more money for innovation.

>See also: IoT and smart cities: meeting sustainable development goals

Sustainability is also about opportunity for a rapidly growing global population – equal access to the great economic potential technology has to offer. Towards this goal, digital education courses offered by a growing number of technology companies create a strong foundation. Through HP LIFE, for instance, more than 650,000 people have accessed free online courses that provide basic business, IT and entrepreneurship skills. These skills are no longer a ‘nice to have’, they represent the knowledge and expertise that employers need and want.

In the UK HP, alongside many industry leaders, has pledged its support to the Government’s Digital Strategy with. Businesses have a responsibility to partner with government, teachers, parents, pupils and other industry organisations to enhance digital learning and close the knowledge gap.

Finally, there are also areas where companies can fundamentally re-think the relationship between growth and impact, what we call full-circle innovation. Tech companies are particularly well placed for this, reinventing the way products are designed, manufactured, used and recovered, decoupling growth from reliance on increasingly scarce raw materials.

For instance, through our closed-loop recycling program, HP has manufactured more than 3 billion ink and toner cartridges using more than 88K tonnes of recycled plastic. In doing so, we’ve kept 735 million cartridges, 70 million coat hangers, and 3.7 billion plastic bottles out of landfill.

>See also: The small data centres’ renewable journey

In their original form, those 3.7 billion water bottles alone were enough to fill a quarter-mile-long container ship – nearly five times over. And we’re taking it a step further by thinking about exactly how we divert those bottles from landfill. In Haiti, organisations Thread and the First Mile Coalition are working to improve the lives of the collectors of recyclables, tackling undignified child labour and supporting local entrepreneurs. HP have just this week have also announced its support for the programme with the first ink cartridges made from recycled materials from the country.

This form of ‘circular economy’ was the subject of a lively discussion at HP’s Sustainability Summit this week as part of London Tech Week, where I was joined by experts, partners, charities, customers, colleagues and media to discuss how businesses can drive change with products, practices and services that let customers do more and consume less.

As tech companies, the impact they can have on sustainability is enormous. Whether it’s combatting climate change and pollution, providing access to fundamental education and healthcare, enforcing labour standards or ensuring the resources people consume do not fuel conflict – the actions businesses take today can have deep, lasting and positive impact. And in turn, they can be good for business.

 

Sourced by George Brasher, Managing Director – UK and Ireland, Vice President and General Manager at HP

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is the editor for Information Age. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and cyber security.

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