How HP leads in sustainability through innovation, partnership and sharing

HP now stands out as a segment leader in sustainability – particularly with their printers. And Sims Metal Management is helping give HP leverage that no single company could otherwise hope to accomplish.

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 [Disclosure: HP is a client of the author.]

This week I was in Nashville where HP showcased their sustainability efforts. While this push goes back to David Packard, one of the founders of HP, it’s evolved over the years. The latest changes – made with the help of Ingrid Sinclair, the charismatic Global President of Sims Recycling Solutions – have made it even more impressive.

What makes it different isn’t just that it’s a sincere effort (as opposed to most of the others I’ve reviewed, which seem more like marketing exercises) but how HP – like Mercedes Benz does with safety in cars – is sharing what they’re doing with other major companies both inside and outside of tech segment.

Sustainability is critical to the future of the human race and no one firm can make a significant enough difference. Efforts that don’t drive industry support won’t have the impact needed to assure this planet is still habitable next century.

Millennials are really the first generation facing this dire outcome and, given advances in medical technology, they’re also the most likely generation to have a lifespan that comfortably exceeds 100 years. In short, they truly need to be serious about this…and they are. And as Millennials replace Boomers as the power generation, what they say is increasingly driving purchase decisions – which is why most every company has sustainability effort.

So, what makes HP’s effort so powerful?

Innovation

One of the things that really struck me when I was touring the Sims plant in Nashville was how much of the hardware and packaging solutions came from the food industry. They were using a modified corn shucker for opening packages, a high volume sorter that was developed to get the bones out of fast food, orange squeezers to recover ink, and the packaging was discarded containers for peanuts and produce that otherwise likely would have ended up in landfills. On this last that meant that their effort wasn’t just making HP greener, but it was making the food industry itself greener.

I was impressed because my grandfather, who was the CEO of Collier Carbon and Chemical (now a subsidiary of Union Oil), did something similar with peach pits and BBQ briquets over 70 years ago and for a time made his company a household brand.

We need innovation in this space and HP mirroring my own grandfather was showcasing it. But that wasn’t the big takeaway or what impressed me most.

SIM Metal Management

Thanks to Ingrid Sinclair and Sims Metal Management, HP had also moved to share what they have learned with other firms. As I walked through the plant, I saw products being recycled from a variety of vendors both inside and outside the technology market. This showcased that HP was a true believer in sustainability.

The only company I know of that does something like this is Mercedes Benz who, long ago, put in place a policy to license safety technology for free to any other car company that needed it putting the safety of all drivers ahead of corporate profits.

That’s what I think we need regarding sustainability: companies that are willing to put aside competitive advantage in order to drive needed change and make a true difference in the world.

HP should be credited with that effort.

This clearly starts from the top of HP with Dion Weisler (the outgoing CEO) and Enrique Lores (the incoming CEO) and the leadership of their sustainability effort. Folks like Ellen Jackowski, Shelley Zimmer, David Lary and Camille Caron each impressed me with their sincerity and their passion for saving the world we have. I enjoyed getting to know them at this event.

Led by women

It should be obvious to everyone that sustainability is critical for our mutual survival. Millennials agree, with the majority favoring vendors who are aggressively focused on this critical movement. But one other thing struck me at the event: In an industry typically dominated by old guys, this effort was largely led by women, showcasing a visible commitment to diversity (another critical trend).

Companies need to stand up and drive change if we are to avoid the dystopian future or avoid the lack of a future we seem to be headed for. HP showcased they are willing to solidly step up and I’d like to thank them for their service.

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