By Deborah Fleischer

#1I was recently asked to highlight some of Hewlett-Packard’s environmental printing programs, but after reviewing the materials the PR folks sent, I decided the more interesting story was to reflect on which best practices got HP listed #1 in Newsweek’s recent rankings of green companies, as well as ranked highest in the category of electronics by Climate Counts.

So to find out why, I referred to an interview I conducted (for a piece I did on Tips for Getting Your Sustainability Project Off the Ground) earlier this year with Bonnie Nixon, HP’s director of environmental sustainability.   I went back to those notes to help answer the question, “What Does it Take to Be #1?”

Fast Company reflected on this same question last month and concluded, “What was confirmed to me is that behind every major corporate transformation story is a truly heroic man or woman. While I am sure HP has a team of hundreds who have contributed strongly to this position as number one on the Newsweek list, I was certain after spending more time with Nixon that she was an integral part of it.”

Five critical factors make a company like HP stand out:

  • #1:  Walk the talk
  • #2:  Educate and support suppliers
  • #3:  Engage employees
  • #4:  Reach out to a broad range of NGOs, including your greatest critics
  • #5:  Help your customers do the right thing

Walk the Talk

According to Newsweek, HP leads the pack because of its programs to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It’s also the first major IT company to report GHG emissions associated with its supply chain.

Climate Counts found that, “Hewlett-Packard has established clear goals to reduce its energy use and that the company has reduced its impact on global warming (i.e., its greenhouse gas emissions or climate footprint) via energy conservation and transportation reduction programs. The company has also worked to foster climate awareness among consumers, employees, and other businesses.”

Sustainability is embedded throughout the organization.  As Nixon put it, “HP understands the value of values.” It doesn’t just talk green, but has clear goals and programs to reduce its footprint. The company realizes that one of the hardest jobs is to reduce emissions and waste at its own facilities. To reduce its footprint, the company  has implemented a range of programs, including telecommuting policies, reducing its total number of data centers from 85 to 6, utilizing of solar and wind energy and reducing the number of software application used from 6,000 to 1,500.

Educate and Support Suppliers

HP has made a long-term commitment to educate and support its suppliers, helping them innovate and providing them tools to address such issues as factory health and safety, packaging, logistics, emissions reduction and product design. Last year HP was the first company to release a list of its top suppliers. This level of transparency makes HP’s suppliers more accountable and raises the bar for the competition to follow in its tracks. The 2008 Global Citizenship Report is the first to report on supplier emissions. It will be exciting to see what challenge the 2009 report tackles.

Engage Employees

HP also stands out for the way it engages its employees, in terms of sustainability. Nixon explained that, “HP  engages employees on multiple levels, ranging from providing them energy kits to reduce their personal carbon footprint at home, to offering incentives for biking to work, to encouraging them to innovate more and find ways to embed sustainability into product design, the supply chain and the sales process.”

With over 19 Site Sustainability Chapters, employees are also working to green the workplace; the teams are supported by funding and blue prints for projects that will create real environmental gains across HP’s diverse global facilities.

Reach Out to a Broad Range of NGOs, Including Your Greatest Critics

Nixon, who comes from an activist background, has been instrumental in developing HP’s open-minded approach to NGO engagement. She supports speaking with both ends of the spectrum, from collaborative organizations to more extreme activists and stresses the importance of listening to your greatest critics.

HP doesn’t shut the door to any NGO—be it making peace with Greenpeace who has actively campaigned against the company, or a strategic partnership with  World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who advises them on such issues as carbon reduction goals and metrics.

Nixon explained, “Allowing stakeholders to honestly critique us pushes us to improve our programs and helps us develop our thought leadership platforms.”

Help Your Customers Do the Right Thing

No piece on HP would be complete without mentioning their product and service offerings.  HP Eco Solutions includes a portfolio of tools, software, hardware, services and expertise to help customers reduce their environmental impact and save money.

HP’s managed print services saved 3M more than $3 million in the first two years.  The environmental impact included:

  • Reduced energy consumption by an estimated 79.9 percent, saving more than $1.2 million in energy costs;
  • 8,240 metric tonnes reduction of CO2 emission from energy and paper reductions, equivalent to taking 978 cars off the road for one year;
  • Estimated 353 million fewer pages printed; and
  • Over a 12-month period, recycling efforts diverted more than 17,000 print cartridges away from landfill.

University of California, Davis has estimated an annual cost savings of more than $68,000 from purchasing new HP printers with Energy Star certification and duplexing capability and implementing HP’s Eco Solutions.

“It’s amazing to realize we’re looking at 35 percent energy reduction when the printers print double sided. We’re also reducing costs for printer supplies by cutting paper usage and using high-capacity toner cartridges.It’s a program that’s right both environmentally and fiscally,” commented Janice King, director of materiel management, University of California, Davis.

The bottom line–HP has made many advances in its products and services, such as more energy efficient PCs and printers, duplex printing, print-on-demand, a carbon footprint calculator for printing and sustainable data centers, helping customers use less energy, save paper, conserve resources and reduce waste.

Final Words

There you have it.  Five key attributes that can help any company rise in the green rankings. And in the process, be a stronger contender as the sustainable business market grows.

I send best wishes to Bonnie for a speedy recovery!


Deborah Fleischer is president of Green Impact, a strategic environmental consulting practice that helps companies engage employees, strengthen their relationships with stakeholders, develop profitable green initiatives and communicate their successes and challenges. She brings deep expertise in sustainability strategy, stakeholder engagement, program development and written communications. You can follow her occasional tweet @GreenImpact

Sustainability Consulting Bay Area

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