Insight Into DELL’s Sustainability Initiatives

Posted on April 13th, 2011 by

Trisa Thompson, VP of Corporate Responsibility for DELL, highlights successful programs that have come from the company’s sustainability initiatives.

Full Transcript:

Ben Lack: I’m with Trisa Thompson, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Dell. Thanks so much for being with us.
Trisa Thompson: Thank you for coming.
Ben Lack: Can you give us a high level view of why Dell has a Corporate Responsibility Program?
Trisa Thompson: Absolutely. To start with, it starts with our CEO, Michael Dell. He is highly committed to being a sustainable, responsible company, and it flows throughout the rest of the company. The entire company including all of our employees are behind us in this effort. It’s great.
Ben Lack: So, talk to us a little bit about this sustainability program. What types of initiatives are in this sustainability program and what’s the over-all mission of the program itself.
Trisa Thompson: So the mission of the program is to leave the planet a better place than we found it and to do the least damage we can do along the way. And, basically, we look at the life cycle of how Dell operates. We look at our operations, we look at our products, we look at our packaging, and we look at our recycling.  We take sustainability kind of from cradle to grave. If you’re looking at our operations, we consider: What is our manufacturing footprint? What is our data center footprint? What are our sub-basic facilities footprint? How can we improve on all of those as we go along? And then you move down the line to suppliers, because they are part of our operations. How can we work with those suppliers so that they leave a smaller footprint? So, we consider that whole life cycle one pack. Then we look at our products. How do we produce the most energy efficient products? How we continue to do that? So, for instance, over the last two years since 2008, we’ve made all of our desktops and notebooks 25% more energy efficient.
Ben Lack: Wow.
Trisa Thompson: It was a commitment we made publicly and we achieved it over the end of last year. It’s fabulous! You look at our data centers. You look at our servers. How do we make them the most energy efficient products that could be and that are out there? And we think we do have the most energy efficient products. But that’s part of the story. Then you have to get to our packaging. Packaging has a number of pieces. So, we look at the cube size, we look at the content of the packaging, and then we look at what we call the curves. So, it’s the three Cs. We are one of the first companies to do multi-pack. So, instead of getting each server into separate box or each notebook in a separate box on a commercial customer, we do multi-pack. Picture a carton having a whole bunch of notebooks stacked into an egg cart in between each notebook to protect the notebook, instead of having a whole separate box for each one that gets shipped to one of our corporate customers. That’s kind of one of the things we did. Really innovative was our bamboo packaging. And this isn’t 50% of the notebooks send on our consumers, it’s also what all of our, the Dell’s streak and the Dell venue trail. And this is fabulous. Bamboo, it grows 24 inches a day. It’s a fabulous, sustainable product. You’re not taking them on force that takes 50 to 70 years. You can bury it in your backyard if you wanted it to; it’s biodegradable. So, we’re really excited about what we are doing with our bamboo packaging. We’re going to expand that into the corporate side into our servers, so that’s one of the goals we got coming forward. We’re really excited about that.
Ben Lack: It sounds like that so that when you say footprint, it’s a little more than just CO2 savings and energy savings, it’s also with the actual materials of the products and the shipping itself.
Trisa Thompson: Absolutely. But when I said footprint… Yes, you’re right. But, if you think about it, if you’re not taking down a force, you’re leaving more CO2 out there. So, at the end of the day, all of it comes down to energy. Everything we’re doing will come down to energy saving somewhere. it also comes down to lessen the land fill. So, it comes down to other things, as well. But it is all, at the end of the day, about energy. I’ll give you another example I didn’t raise in our operations, we put in solar panels, in fact if you would come in next store in our parking lot, we’ve got a bunch of solar panels, and that helps power this facility. That saves 26 acres of pine for every year.
Ben Lack: Wow.
Trisa Thompson: So, I mean, it doesn’t completely power all of our buildings; we don’t have the space to do that. But if you’re just thinking about in terms of how it relates back to CO2, it’s a big difference. We’re also using those down in Brazil, so we’re experimenting with that. With this whole facility in Round Rock where you’re visiting with us today, it’s powered by clean energy. So, this is wind power right here in this facility. We max out on what we can purchase. We bought all that is out there to buy.
Ben Lack: That’s pretty impressive.
Trisa Thompson: And, globally 25% of our facilities now are running on clean energy.
Ben Lack: Yes. That’s a strong commitment.
Trisa Thompson: It’s very strong, and like I said it starts from the top down.
Ben Lack: So, how does Dell decide, when they’re just choosing on different initiatives to pursue, how does Dell manage the give and take of one project having energy savings, and other projects having environmental impacts? Some are financially driven; others are more environment-related. How do you guys balance this? 
Trisa Thompson: That’s actually not that hard a question. You take your business strategy and you line your sustainability strategies to your business strategy. If you take the bamboo packaging, there’s a fabulous story. It’s light weight, it’s lower cost, and it’s sustainable. It’s a win-win, across the board. That’s what we’re looking for in our packaging. How do we have a smaller imprint and how do we bring down the cost? How is it better for our customers? And at the end of the day, thats the solution we got. If you at Dell, we focus more on carbon emissions than we do water. Water isn’t one of the big resources we use, although our suppliers do, so, you are going to see it’s focus more on that. Going forward, PAB centers like per Intel and AMD they use more water than we do. But, it hasn’t been our traditional focus because that has been really part of our core mission. We kind of take what’s the business strategy and how do we tie our strategic initiatives right to it. 
Ben Lack: Are carbon credits a part of the plan for sustainability or is really the carbon that’s saved for energy efficiency through energy measures?
Trisa Thompson: Now we’re focusing more what we can do in terms of energy saved and really our products. What can they do as we go forward? I’ll give you a quick example. If you take Emerson, they have been a big customer of ours, we just help them virtualize their products and all their data centers. We reduced their servers by 3600 servers, and we’ve increased them by 200. They went from a hundred data centers down to four. That’s a pretty amazing carbon story right there.
Ben Lack: That is a big footprint.
Trisa Thompson: Yes. It’s a big difference.
Ben Lack: And I assume that you guys are trying to replicate that model working with your other clients.
Trisa Thompson: Every day.
Ben Lack: Where is Dell really taking the lead?
Trisa Thompson: Dell is taking the lead in a number of areas. Clearly, we’re the leader in recycling. We’re the only company that’s offering the pre-recycling. We’re the leader in packaging. We’re the first out there and the bamboo packaging and there’s more to come, but I can’t tell you that yet. We’re the first ones who really talked to our suppliers and say that you need to report to the CDP. We’re the first one to tell suppliers they have got to do the carbon disclosure project and do the reporting. We’re really pushing the edge. We’re the first company that come and banned the export of e-waste to developing countries, and that was our own internal decision. We’ve also pushed the legislation in that area. So, Dell has been a leader in this for a long time and we plan to continue that leadership.
Ben Lack: I know that recycling was a big initiative that you guys are really trying to pursue more. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Trisa Thompson: Absolutely. So, Dell has global recycling that’s free for all of our consumers. We’re the only company that offers free recycling with the consumers today. From the business side, we also have a recycling service that we offer. It’s not free but it’s a very unique service that we’re offering. And it’s really important to Dell. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t be the person who’s out there offering free recycling. We also partner with Goodwill on our recycling and we’re looking similar Goodwill like organizations internationally. It’s another great story about how do we use our equipment, but still has life left in it and get it to the hands of other people, as well.
Ben Lack: What’s one of the bigger obstacles that you guys might be facing right now as you try to achieve some of this additional goals on the sustainability side and what types of steps are you taking to overcome these obstacles?
Trisa Thompson: Honestly, I’ll put it in a very short phrase: Get there faster.
Ben Lack: Okay.
Trisa Thompson: So, if we could move all of these faster, we have just really started about 18 months ago. We really started much more seriously into these services business when we acquire Perot Systems. And so, we have a large group now– Perot Systems that’s over 25,000 employees. But we need to make that even a bigger group and we need to increase our service offerings, and that’s what we’re working on. We also are joining, on average now, I say, 68 acquisitions a year. A lot of those are going to help in our energy story, but we’re in the middle of that process. So, it’s how fast can you integrate the acquired companies and bring along.
Ben Lack: Trisa, why are you doing what you’re doing?
Trisa Thompson: Because I love it. I have my meeting with Michael Dell about this job and I told him, “I know you’re thinking of the best job at Dell, but I absolutely have the best job.” This is my passion before I even came into this job. I’ve written articles on this topic. I walked into this job after 25 years as a lawyer. And so, you just don’t walk away from a long career easily and I haven’t looked over my shoulder yet.
Ben Lack: Thanks so much for being with us. I really appreciate the time and I wish you success in the future and I look forward to staying in touch.
Trisa Thompson: Thank you.

Related Posts:

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree