Hewlett Packard Enterprise's CSO Lara Birkes on sustainability

Taking the helm of a major corporation’s sustainability program is rarely easy, but when Lara Birkes became chief sustainability officer of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, she found the transition smoother than expected. She was faced with a peculiar position — joining a brand-new, multinational company with a nearly 80-year history of sustainability and citizenship leadership.

In 2015, HP separated into two new publicly traded Fortune 50 companies — Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which comprises HP’s enterprise technology infrastructure, software and services businesses, and HP Inc., which will comprise HP’s personal systems and printing businesses.

And sustainability at HPE is not thought of differently than it was at the “old” HP, said Birkes who chatted with GreenBiz Executive Editor and Co-founder Joel Makower during a recent GreenBiz Twitter chat sponsored by the electronics giant.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise looks at sustainability holistically, using the triple bottom framework that emphasizes human, economic, environment progress, Birkes said. AS CSO, she leads a global team focused on driving the company’s “Living Progress” programs and x-enterprise integration of sustainability.

Living Progress, the company’s overarching sustainability platform, encompasses HPE’s social and environmental programs, as well as its “economic progress” — the jobs and revenue HPE generates around the world, including taxes and shareholder dividends it pays out. Birkes said HPE works to engage employees on sustainability through three primary avenues: Living Progress, Kiva's Matter to a Million campaign and HPE Gives.

Meeting mounting data and energy demands

However, as HPE’s technology continues to grow, it is expected to create a bigger demand on data centers and energy use. Growing data demands comprises one of the largest hurdles HPE faces, said Birkes.

But building more data centers to keep pace with demand isn’t exactly a best sustainability practice. That’s why HPE is looking to do more with less, which technology enables, said Birkes.

To get there, the company is taking a portfolio approach, including on-site generation and power purchase agreements.

In Texas, a 112 MW wind deal ongoing since July 2015 is supplying energy to power HPE’s global internal IT demands, Birkes cited as an example.

Collaboration for common challenges

The technology industry faces many of the same sustainability challenges — particularly data and energy issues — which is why companies looking to meaningfully address them will need to work together.

Most importantly, companies ought to be focused, yet creative, Birkes said. The industry needs audacious solutions

“We need audacious solutions to address today’s challenges,” she tweeted. “Innovation is key.”