HP’s shrinking wallflower attitude may not be Sustainable!

HP CEO L?o Apotheker addressing the HP Summit

So I wrote a post the other day entitled Have HP?s senior executives lost interest in Sustainability? after attending a HP event in San Francisco. It was a little unfair because I concentrated on the lack of mentions of Sustainability by senior management on the first day of the event while leaving out the fact that I had interesting discussions with people involved in sustainability initiatives within HP the following day.

One of those I talked to at the event, Deb Lyons, was concerned enough by my piece that she went to the trouble of emailing me some of HP’s more impressive Green initiatives:

  1. HP published a fascinating paper [PDF] to quantify the carbon savings associated with switching from analog to digital printing and came up with a savings of somewhere between 114-251 MMtCO2 eq per annum (MMt CO2 is million metric tonnes of CO2) – similar to the savings which would be achieved by a broad implementation of lighting automation or extensive implementation of telecommuting!
  2. When printing is absolutely necessary, HP have comprehensive paper conservation and sourcing policies which include “a goal that 40 percent or more of the HP branded paper sold will be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified or have more than 30 percent post-consumer waste content by the end of 2011”, an Eco Printing Assessment for customers and a reduction of paper shipped “in the box”
  3. While HP has yet to release its 2010 CSR report, its 2009 one is online and, in fairness, it is one of the better CSR reports produced by a tech co. (though it has a long way to go to catch-up to SAP’s 2010 Sustainability Report, which was released this morning!).
  4. I referenced the fact in my previous post that HP is becoming a devices company (between desktops, laptops, and more recently tablets and smartphones) so it is heartening to see HP have comprehensive policies around sourcing conflict minerals in Africa
  5. and finally, HP announced the other day that it had exceeded its target of reducing the energy footprint of its products by 40% by the end of 2011 and now HP products are 50% more energy efficient than they were five years ago. The release from HP went on to assert that “if all makes and models of printers, notebook and desktop PCs, displays and servers shipped in 2005 were recycled and replaced with new HP energy-efficient models, customers could save approximately $10.4 billion in energy costs, and avoid more than 40 million metric tons of CO2 emissions within a year” – a pretty impressive numbers!

Another release Deb pointed out to me was an announcement that HP are helping Shell extract oil and gas more efficiently from the ground – personally I believe that any technology which helps increase the amount of fossil fuels we burn should be criminalised, not praised, but that’s just me!

So, leaving aside the oil and gas announcement, HP’s green credentials do appear to be completely genuine, laudable even.

Kudos to HP for these and their other Green initiatives – however, I still believe it was a mistake for their executives not to have them as a theme running through their talks. I understand the HP thinking that “Sustainability is part of our DNA, so much so that we take it for granted that it is built-in to everything we do” – I’m paraphrasing liberally. But, the issue is that if your executives are not talking about sustainability, your stakeholders may not be as convinced about your commitment to sustainability. If Sustainability was left out of the talks because there was a lot of content to be worked in which had to be prioritised, just how far down the list of HP’s priorities does Sustainability lie? From talking to HP, I know it is not far down at all, but listening to their executives, you would not get that impression.

HP has a messaging problem around Sustainability. It isn’t that they don’t do Sustainability, it is just that they seem to be shy about talking about it. With the rise and rise of Ethical Consumerism, this shrinking wallflower attitude may not be Sustainable!

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Photo credit Tom Raftery


Have HP’s senior executives lost interest in Sustainability?

Bottled water at the HP Summit

I attended a HP analyst summit last week in San Francisco and I have been putting off writing down my impressions of the event because I was, frankly, very disappointed.

Writing recently about HP’s announcement of their new Energy and Sustainability Solution, I noted that HP’s new CEO L?o Apotheker’s legacy from his time at SAP, is SAP?s deep commitment to sustainability. And I went on to speculate that it looks like he is bringing his sustainability stamp to HP as well. Sadly, I set myself up for a bit of a fall!

Jeff Katzenberg speaking at the HP Summit

Jeff Katzenberg - HP Summit

The first day of the two day event was a series of talks from HP execs, starting, after the introduction, with L?o’s Keynote. After that there was a series of exec talks on Cloud, Connectivity, Digitization and Security followed by guest speaker Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks over lunch. During this he screened the trailer for Kung Fu Panda 2, which looked great!

In the afternoon there were talks on HP Services, Go To Market and HP Labs followed by a brief break and then back for a Q&A with L?o and the rest of the execs.

I waited the entire day and the first mention of the word Sustainability was by Prith Banarjee, director of HP Labs in the final session where he made a brief reference to it. The funny thing was that that was when Prith became most passionate and enthusiastic!

Earlier in the day, in the talk on digitization, Vyomesh Joshi (aka VJ) did mention that 200bn pages are going digital annually but he then ruined it by talking about one HP printing station which is printing 80m pages a month (that’s a lot of dead trees!) but worse was when he went on to gleefully talk about how many “gallons of ink” that requires. And, in fairness to her, Ann Livermore did mention energy efficiency when discussing servers and data centers but it was a very brief mention, when so much more could have been said. However, the fact that during a full day of senior executive presentations, from one of the largest technology companies in the world, only one exec made any passing reference to sustainability was, to me a huge let down.

HP do have some good sustainability stories to tell – for instance, the fact that over the last five years HP managed to reduce the energy its products need to operate by 50%. Also, there is the previously mentioned HP Energy and Sustainability Management solution and then there is HP’s recycling efforts when it comes to its ink jet cartridges (HP recently announced that it has made more than 1 billion ink cartridges from recycled plastic) – the fact that ink cartridges are themselves totally unsustainable, is a whole other discussion.

HP TouchPad

HP TouchPad

HP are in a funny position. They are ostensibly a printing company and now with the acquisition of Palm, they are set to become a devices company too (Smartphones and Tablets using Web OS). Neither of these businesses is particularly environmentally friendly and yet HP’s founders spoke of [PDF] HP’s commitment to the environment as far back as 1957 in HP’s first statement of corporate objectives, The HP Way.

I’m not sure why HP executives shied away from talking about sustainability at the HP Summit but for anyone attending the event, the lack of any mention of Sustainability was a surprise. Does it demonstrate a lack of commitment from HP executives to Sustainability, or does it signal that HP are abandoning their previous role as good corporate citizens? I don’t think either of those is the reason why but until I start to hear HP’s senior management talking about sustainability, I will have my doubts as to how seriously they now view it.

By the way, the photo at the top of this article was the table of bottled water at the Environment, Energy and Sustainability session on day two of the Summit!

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Photo credits Tom Raftery