Five things you should know about Dell’s CSR efforts

By Dell Inc.

When a company like Dell says it’s committed to doing good, you may ask:what does that mean for me?

The second annual update on its 2020 Legacy of Good Plan holds important clues, showing how the goals Dell set are starting to pay off by delivering real, measurable value for customers, communities and the planet.

The plan itself, which was released in 2013, lays out Dell’s long-term strategy for creating social and environmental good as part of its everyday business objectives. Dell also set 21 goals to measure its progress in these areas. The update reports on the 2014 progress of each of those goals, detailing accomplishments.

Among them, five key accomplishments stand out:

Dell is leading the way with its recycling efforts

E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams, especially in the developing world. According to the StEP Initiative/United Nations University, 75 million tons of electrical and electronic equipment will be discarded globally in 2015. These used electronics – whether warehoused after an organizational refresh or at home in the back of a closet – still have embedded value. 

So Dell is stepping up its game in this big word, by helping its customers easily recycle electronics in 78 countries – and by expanding that global reach with moves like its new partnership in 2014 with the U.N. International Development Office (UNIDO), to increase recycling opportunities in developing countries.

As the demand for electronics continues to grow, so too does Dell’s recycling leadership.

Collecting 1.4 billion pounds of used electronics through its global takeback programs has helped Dell grow its program – now the largest in the industry with consumer takeback in 78 countries and territories and its commercial Asset Resale and Recycling services in more than 40 countries. Dell is well on its way to the goal of collecting 2 billion pounds by 2020.

Of course, taking back all that equipment is one thing, but what do they do with it? All of the equipment either gets donated for reuse (if it still has value) or broken down for recycling. And in the case of their growing closed-loop supply chain, Dell is even recycling plastics back into new parts. Last year, nearly 3 million pounds of plastic were recycled this way into 16 desktop and monitor product lines – reducing costs and environmental footprints while putting those recyclables back to work.

Improving energy efficiency across the whole product portfolio

It makes sense that energy efficiency would be important to customers, so it came as little surprise when an internal analysis of customer RFPs and other surveys showed that energy consumption was an important consideration for customers.

Dell has jumped on the opportunity to lead in this space – by committing to making its entire product portfolio 80 percent more energy efficient by 2020.

And so far, their efforts are paying off. When looking across the whole product portfolio, Dell has reduced energy intensity (a way of comparing the relative energy efficiency of different types of products) by more than 30 percent.

The improvements are even more impressive when you look at the trajectory of the past few generations of PowerEdge servers produced by Dell. Since the eleventh generation (launched in 2011), the energy intensity of Dell servers has come down 65 percent – which can translate into significant savings on data center energy bills.

Dell reports that customers will spend USD $450 million less on electricity with their FY15 purchases than with their FY12 purchases. They will also produce 2.4 million metric tons less CO2 emissions.

And it’s not just through more efficient products – though that’s led to more than 150 ENERGY STAR-qualified products. Sometimes, helping customers transition to other ways of using technology yields great results. For example, The University of Massachusetts Lowell shares its customer story in Dell’s annual update on its 2020 Legacy of Good Plan. The university implemented Dell desktop virtualization solutions that helped reduce energy bills by nearly 50 percent while at the same time giving students greater access to the software they need to learn.

Innovative packaging solutions mean less waste

For many of us, packaging is simply the “stuff” between us and our purchase. It is there to ensure products arrive safely, but beyond the unboxing, packaging can quickly become a headache. In fact, the volume of packaging waste is staggering: nearly 80 million metric tons generated in the E.U. in 2011 alone.

It’s another global challenge that Dell has identified as an opportunity to innovate. After all, the company ships a lot, globally, to its customers. 

With its goal to ensure 100% of product packaging is sourced from sustainable materials and is either recyclable or compostable by 2020, Dell has gotten serious about sustainable packaging innovation.

The company is pioneering the use of innovative materials that are rapidly renewable and easily recyclable or compostable. It was the first in the industry to use bamboo (2009), mushrooms (2011), wheat straw (2013) and AirCarbon made from captured methane (2014), all while continuing to shrink the amount of material it sends to customers and looking to make it all waste-free.

So for customers, 100 percent of tablets and 92 percent of laptops are arriving in waste-free packaging – meaning 100 percent sustainably sourced and 100 percent recyclable or compostable.

Creating possibilities for underserved populations

When it comes to the way Dell does giving, the focus is on education and healthcare because these are two major areas where children’s needs and the company’s capabilities intersect.

Take, for instance, the work Dell has been doing to put technology in service of cancer researchers. Dr. Giselle Sholler, a pediatric oncologist at the Neuroblastoma Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC), is using technology in clinical trials to discover new ways to fight for children’s lives. The NMTRC partners with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to use every tool at their disposal in this battle, including high performance computing and analytics software, donated by Dell, to process the billions of pieces of genomic data of every child they treat.

Since working with TGen, Dell’s solution has reduced the total time needed for whole genome sequencing, from approximately eight weeks to two days, which means patients can start care plans sooner.

Doctors like Dr. Sholler – who is featured in Dell’s annual update on our 2020 Legacy of Good Plan – and others across the world are now using Dell’s donated technology and cloud solution to analyze patients’ molecular data and collaborate on targeted care plans.

As part of its Legacy of Good Plan, Dell has captured goals that drive initiatives like this, putting its technology and expertise to work where it can do the most good in communities. The goal: Apply our expertise and technology in underserved communities to help 3 million youth directly and support 10 million people indirectly to grow and thrive. In the last two years, Dell has helped 1.4 million youth through funded programs.

On the education front, Dell is partnering with leaders in the field through its Youth Learning initiatives to bring solar-powered classrooms to South Africa, to bridge the digital divide in India, and to address the unique learning requirements of students with special needs, just to name a few examples.

Flexible workplaces yield more productive, more satisfied employees

Where do you do your best work? We all have different styles and employers are increasingly keen on ensuring they attract and retain the best talent by ensuring they can work where and when they do their best. In fact, according to the Global Evolving Workforce Study (commissioned by Dell and Intel), 86 percent of the 4,700 study respondents believe they are just as productive or even more productive at home than they are in the office.

There are other benefits, too: offering flexible work solutions can help an organization to reduce their facilities’ environmental footprint while simultaneously fostering creativity and collaboration in ways that were not possible before. For example, Dell was able to save $21 million over the last two years in real estate savings.

Of course, the best practice isn’t to just turn everyone loose. Dell has invested in this commitment. In addition to trainings offered to managers on how to best manage a remote workforce, Dell launched the Conexus employee resource group this past year. The groups purpose is to bring remote team members together, sharing their ideas and creating virtual volunteer opportunities.

This commitment is getting noticed. In fact, Dell again earned a spot on Working Mother Magazine’s 2014 Best Companies list (for the seventh year in a row) and was named one of FlexJobs’ 100 Top Companies with Remote Jobs.

For more information on how Dell’s Legacy of Good Plan is creating change for the better, you can read their full report.