HP’s 2019 Sustainable Impact Report: The Corporate Eco-Footprint, Workplace Culture and Serving Communities

HP’s 2019 Sustainable Impact Report: The Corporate Eco-Footprint, Workplace Culture and Serving Communities

The company’s annual report is a thorough and encompassing analysis of its progress and goals for environmental and social change around the world. With new announcements, familiar commitments and impressive goals, HP’s 2019 Sustainable Impact report is surely a business model you want to check out.

As one of the world’s leading players in the printing and technology industry, HP is a clear example of the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility.” The release of its 2019 Sustainable Impact Report outlines all the ways the company is using its power to affect serious environmental and social change—on the macro and micro levels.

HP is not new to the conversation on sustainability or the responsibility of a business’ eco-footprint. Ellen Jackowski, Chief Sustainability & Social Impact Officer, spoke with Environmental Protection (EP) not long ago about how companies can push sustainability forward through a global pandemic.

HP’s newly released 2019 Sustainable Impact Report shares the company’s notable strides towards a better environmental, social and human rights future. While HP already offers sustainable products like printers made from recycled plastic, runs a cartridge recycling program and supports eco-friendly 3D printing technologies, it did not stop there.

The 2019 impact report discusses HP’s efforts to do the follow, among other goals:

  • better drive diversity, inclusion and people of color on their teams
  • expand its social justice organizations to combat systemic racism and inequality
  • commit to eliminate 75 percent of single-use plastic packaging by 2025 compared to 2018
  • expand the HP Sustainable Forests Collaborative
  • continue to drive transparency and long-term community impact (see the HP Human Rights Progress Report)

I asked Ellen Jackowski a few questions to better understand how HP is driving change in the industry, across borders and within company culture.

Why should companies address their eco-footprint? What kind of benefits come from questioning the sustainability of their products, resources and systems as a business?

“Our world is facing unprecedented challenges—be it COVID-19 and the urgency on climate change,” Jackowski said. “At HP we believe that taking steps to reduce the environmental impact of our entire value chain—operations, products, and supply chain—is a business imperative and vital to the longevity of our company and every living being on this planet.”

Evaluating your company’s environmental impact is not just a PR ploy. It is a commitment to the company, its employees, its clients and the health of every community on the planet. She continued:

“By taking action, companies can become more resilient to the range of policy, market, and physical risks that climate change can bring. In addition, efforts such as reducing energy use and lowering emissions in their operations and within their supply chains can also reduce costs.”

Furthermore, Jackowski explains that “setting goals, including science-based targets, further elevates a business in the eyes of its customers, investors, and employees—even for companies, like HP, with long legacies of working to reduce environmental impact. Goal setting shows that a company is serious about protecting itself from business risks, including those posed by a changing climate. It’s about being bold.”

HP’s new goal of eliminating 75 percent of single-use plastic packaging by 2025 “will contribute to a low-carbon, circular economy and help advance the cause of environmental justice, as communities of color and lower income households are disproportionately impacted by climate change and other environmental threats,” according to the HP press release.

Check out HP's packaging video below, which demonstrates the process and the importance of eliminating single-use plastics:

Jackowski noted that making your operations eco-friendly have benefits for consumers, too, as more people care about the eco-footprints of the companies they support. “We also know that customer expectations are rising. They want to buy from companies that demonstrate a clear commitment to sustainability, and they are rewarding those companies that are taking action,” she said. “For example, in fiscal year 2019, HP completed more than $1.6 billion in new sales wins due, in part, to our sustainability efforts—an estimated 69 percent increase from the previous year.”

Reshaping your company to be more eco-friendly can be a daunting and overwhelming task. How do you recommend businesses start?

“Our HP culture is built on values of equality and sustainability. How we do things is just as important as what we do—and we hold ourselves accountable for living up to these values,” said Jackowski.

The answer to this question depends on a few aspects. Jackowski explained, “The first challenge companies face is deciding which efforts to focus on first. That oftentimes comes down to where they believe they can have the greatest impact or achieve the quickest ‘wins’ that they can build upon. For some companies it might be initiating the use of renewable energy in their operations; for others it might be improving the energy efficiency of their product portfolio; and for others it might be creating better waste management programs at their sites.”

However, this means doing more than sending a company-wide email or simply providing recycling bins to employees. “For any program to be successful, it’s critical to get executive buy-in at the organizational and corporate level,” Jackowski said. “That means creating a high-level business case for senior leaders that outlines the goals of the initiative, the business benefits, the risks if action isn’t taken, and metrics that will be used to measure success. It also helps to show how a company’s current efforts look in comparison to their competitors, especially in terms of perception as an industry leader or laggard.”

But there is no time like the present. In fact, climate change is a pressing and threatening issue. “The one thing to remember is that there is always a perfect time to start this work—right now. Climate change and social inequalities will not wait, and we shouldn’t either,” she said. “There will always be organizational shifts, competing priorities, and changes in management or business strategy. Companies can overcome some of these potential disruptions by tying the work to their business priorities and culture.”

How does HP inspire or encourage employees to participate in eco-friendly initiatives? Do you have any specific memories or activities that stand out to you?

Setting goals as a company is almost not worth it if your employees are not committed to the goals, or the eco-friendly culture. Jackowski said, “We also know that we’ve built a company culture that employees can be proud of. For example, according to an internal survey conducted in April, 92 percent of employees agreed that HP is socially and environmentally responsible.”

“Managers encourage and empower their people to participate—and even initiate—environmental programs,” she said. “For example, HP employees around the world hold Earth Day and World Environment Day activities at HP sites, helping educate others about the actions HP is taking, as well as steps they themselves can take to make a positive impact.

With employees working at home this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a team of employees developed virtual events, including offering a plastic education workshop designed by Learning For a Sustainable Future that provided the instructional materials that would enable employees to engage their children on the problem of single-use plastic.”

Jackowski has been present at many of these company volunteering initiatives. “One of those was a trip I took in May 2019 to participate in the inaugural Ocean Plastics Leadership Summit,” she said. “The event was organized by SoulBuffalo and took place on a boat in The North Atlantic Gyre. Representatives from global companies such as Dow, Coca-Cola, Procter and Gamble, Nestlé Waters, GE, and Colgate-Palmolive, came together to experience first-hand the impact of ocean plastics and work together to develop solutions to reduce the amount of plastics that enter the ocean each year.”

HP incorporates its environmental efforts with social justice efforts, like helping communities and supporting education. For someone who does not yet grasp the connections between social issues and environmental issues, how might you help them better understand the relationship? Where should they start?

You might have heard the phrase “environmental justice is social justice,” which basically means poorer communities, as well as communities of color, are often much more susceptible to climate change disasters, and they are suffer from the impacts before other communities.

HP is working to fight environmental issues by tackling social issues. Jackowski said one of the best examples of this work is from their work in Haiti. “Back in 2016 we launched an initiative to source ocean-bound plastic bottles from Haiti for use in our closed-loop recycling process to manufacture new Original HP ink cartridges,” she said.

“Through this program, we are helping address the growing problem of ocean-bound plastics, clean the environment of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, create new jobs and microbusinesses, improve working conditions for Haitians collecting these materials, and provide educational and healthcare opportunities for the children of Haiti. The program has also strengthened the recycling processes and expertise in Haiti, enabling the country to perform at levels required by other Fortune 500 companies.”

Check out some of HP’s other initiatives, including HP Turn to Learn, which “delivers educational content primarily focused on STEM and environmental topics to Title I school districts across the U.S. in partnership with TIME for Kids, NASA and Britannica.”

HP is one of 155 other business that signed the ‘Recover Better’ statement. What is the purpose of a statement like this, and what kind of impacts does this kind of advocacy have for the industry, communities and the planet?

HP is one of 155 other businesses that signed the ‘Recover Better’ statement urging governments worldwide to align their COVID-19 economic aid and recovery efforts with the latest climate science because planetary health affects human health.

Jackowski explained that signing statements like ‘Recover Better’ “signals to our customers and partners, analysts and investors, companies in and outside our industry, governments, and nongovernmental agencies where we stand on critical global issues such as climate change, human rights, and racial and economic inequalities…The challenges we face today require collective action from purpose-driven companies. We can’t do it alone. By working with like-minded companies and organizations that are interested in taking action, we can capitalize on the combined knowledge, expertise, and experience to create innovative solutions for the greater good.”

Other Great Things

HP is incredibly involved in communities across the globe with many goals in mind: providing education, reducing plastic use, reusing materials and even restoring and saving forests by addressing its paper products—a big player in the printing industry, you can imagine. In fact, since 1991, HP has kept: 875 million HP cartridges, 114 million apparel hangers and 4.69 billion postconsumer plastic bottles out of landfills—instead, upcycling them to make new HP products.

Paper products. The HP Sustainable Impact Report notes that “the paper used by (HP’s) customers in HP products represents about 20 percent of (HP’s) carbon footprint and 35 percent of (HP’s) water footprint.”

“After eliminating deforestation in the supply chain for HP brand paper in 2016, the company is on track to do the same for its paper-based product packaging by the end of 2020,” said the HP press release. In 2019, HP partnered with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and simultaneously launched the HP Sustainable Forest Collaborative, “which aims to restore, protect and conserve 200,000 acres of forest, an area equal to the size of New York City. Over five years, HP is contributing $11 million for WWF to restore part of Brazil’s threatened Atlantic Forest and increase sustainable management of state-owned farms and forest plantations in China.”

EP even wrote an article about this Sustainable Forest Collaborative, and you can check it out here. EP also attended HP’s Sustainable Impact Summit in October of 2019, which gave attendees an exclusive inside look into some of the company’s cartridge recycling systems and a chance to talk to HP executives about the company.

Energy. HP has even addressed its energy systems, too. Energy sourcing is as much a part of the climate change fight as are resources for products. HP’s energy sources are largely renewable. In fact, 1.26 million tonnes of supply chain carbon dioxide emissions have been avoided since 2010. HP can claim 43 percent renewable electricity use in global operations in 2019 and a 18 percent decrease in product use GHG emissions intensity, compared to 2015.

Diversity and inclusion. The need to diversify workplace and encourage better inclusion has been a historical struggle for most American workplaces. HP’s Board of Directors demographics include 42 percent women and 58 percent U.S. minorities. Forty percent of new hires are U.S. minorities, and 40 percent are women.

While HP admits it is not where it wants to be regarding diversity and inclusion, its report noted what its next plans are to address workplace concerns for diversity and inclusion efforts. In February 2020, HP re-committed to the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Conclusion

HP’s 2019 Sustainable Impact Report proves all-encompassing. The large printing and technology corporation executes transparency to its employees, its investors and its customers by laying its its progress and its future goals out on the table. While 2020 has already proven to be an unprecedented year in many regards, it is clear HP is not slowing down for anything.

Check out HP's infographic that summarizes the report's main points here.