This article is sponsored by HP Inc.
In the past year, we faced a once-in-a-century pandemic, unprecedented wildfires across the western United States, historic floods in Asia and a record-breaking hurricane season in the Atlantic. These relentless disasters were not a matter of coincidence confined to 2020, however. They were a matter of consequence, and events like them will continue to challenge humanity for the foreseeable future.
It’s clear that our climate is changing due to human activity. We must significantly increase our efforts to combat these effects and shift the conversation towards how we must all collectively respond — as corporations, as consumers, as communities and as concerned citizens.
HP has long been committed to the health of people, the planet and communities, which we know to be inextricably intertwined. In a time of urgently needed action and competing priorities, businesses must place big bets — backed by data-driven insights — in order to aggressively reduce our carbon footprints, advance social justice and human rights, and meet the educational and technological needs of communities around the world.
But where to go from here?
Looking at the role businesses will play in the coming years, leaders should identify strategic ways to move forward with a materiality assessment to evaluate their business impact compared to their societal impact. This assessment allows organizations to answer critical questions: Where can we make the biggest positive impact? Where can we find business value as well as societal value? Here are some ways we believe companies can rise to the challenge of creating a sustainable and socially responsible future.
Manufacturing as a means to environmental equity
Hardware producers have long worked to minimize the amount of waste resulting from our products. For better or worse, COVID-19 — as it stalled global supply chains — created a new outlook on goods production entirely, one that’s more local, more responsive and efficient, and more sustainable.
In the past year, HP has reoriented how it thinks about sustainable impact as it relates to printing, packaging and digital manufacturing. Well before that, the company was committed to creating a more circular economy and resilient recycling processes. HP has helped customers extend the lifespan of their PCs via HP Refresh, which helps schools and nonprofits organize reclamation centers for donated desktops and notebooks. HP Refresh works, in part, because it provides free software to erase and restore any brand of PC, so individuals and companies can donate confidently and securely.
Promoting reuse and recycling is important. But we also must create innovative products and services with sustainability at their core — products and services that shorten supply chains, create less waste and have smaller carbon footprints.
Digital manufacturing is already showing promise in this area, enabling localized 3D printing that provides goods when and where customers need them. The flexibility of this technology also fosters sustainability: 3D printers can easily and efficiently shift production to needed items without costly downtime for retooling. We saw this flexibility in action during the pandemic, as companies such as Smile Direct Club and Superfeet quickly shifted from producing custom orthodontics and insoles, respectively, to respirators, face shields and other much-needed personal protective equipment.
Molded fiber packaging for HP’s Desktop Mini PC contributes to HP’s goal to eliminate 75 percent of single-use plastic packaging by 2025. Source: HP.
The pandemic also spurred a dramatic increase in online shopping, which creates both demand for packaging materials and concerns about the environmental impact of those materials. HP has developed a molded fiber tooling solution for its 3D printers, which creates a more sustainable and cost-effective packaging material than plastic. As digital manufacturing continues to advance, we expect to see more solutions like these, which provide opportunities to improve an industry’s efficiency and sustainability.
Partner and supplier accountability will become paramount
In 2021 and beyond, siloes must be torn down.
In the not-so-distant past, it might have been enough for companies to commit to their own sustainability efforts. Today, however, we believe enterprises have an opportunity to scale their impact by collaborating across their business ecosystem — from suppliers to partners to end customers.
HP Amplify Impact, part of the global HP Amplify partner program, gives channel partners resources, training and guidance to drive diversity and inclusion, engage with their communities and create a lasting sustainable impact. Source: HP.
That’s the strategy behind HP Amplify Impact, the newest benefit for HP partners. Our team works with this ecosystem to drive the three pillars of the company’s global sustainable impact efforts: planet; people; and community. Partners want to create longevity for their businesses, and the surest advantage they can create — for themselves and for customers — is one centered on sustainability. Amplify Impact is a first-of-its-kind partner assessment and training program that will provide education and resources for partners to identify sustainability gaps, set ambitious goals and work with HP to drive business growth.
Accountability is critical to this work because we are entering a new era for corporate social responsibility. Sixty-one percent of people believe sustainability is mandatory for business today, and consumers are holding companies to task. So how do we measure our impact? Our team is not just tracking how how partners select their suppliers — we’re measuring the carbon reductions across the value chain. We’re also tracking the overall impact on people and on communities, collectively with our partners. That’s where we’ll find real inspiration and momentum.
Ethical decision-making will become ingrained in everyday operations
At the beginning of the pandemic, many businesses were forced to make difficult decisions. Do employees need to be in offices? Do customers need in-person support? Which business imperatives can be sacrificed to protect employees? These were decisions at a level that we hadn’t needed to make in the past.
However, that ethical decision-making will not end with a vaccine. The focus on sustainability that the pandemic helped accelerate is here to stay, and companies no longer can get by with a catch-all sustainability mantra or a couple of talking points. They need big initiatives, with built-in accountability that deliver tangible, measurable impact. We are confident this focus on ethical business decisions — on real action around sustainability, people and communities — will be with us forever.
What’s good for our world and our communities is also good for business. At HP, internal reporting suggests that the company is well on its way to generating a substantial portion of annual revenue — more than $1.6 billion, in fact — specifically due to its sustainability strategy. We strongly believe that companies that continue to invest in both sustainability and the well-being of their customers will be better positioned for growth in the years to come.
Our current moment has held a mirror to the private sector’s contribution to our changing climate. It also has given us an unmatched opportunity to make urgently needed change. Our efforts no longer can be incremental — they must be bold, they must be collaborative, and they must be now.