This week HP released its 2012 sustainability report, or in HP’s lingo, Global Citizenship Report. The voluminous report–almost 150 pages if you include the GRI Index–jumps into minute detail about the work HP has accomplished on several fronts, from its corporate governance structure to the company’s leveraging of technology for health initiatives to scouring its supply chain for greater efficiency.
Yesterday, I spoke with HP’s Director of Environmental and Health Initiatives, Chris Librie, from his office at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters. I was curious about several issues: What does it take for a company to report on a tangled and complicated supply chain? Why would the company dive into health initiatives 10 time zones away? And what sets HP’s carbon footprint disclosure far apart from other multinational firms?
According to Mr. Librie, HP’s carbon footprint disclosure far outpaces that of any other company currently engaged in sustainability reporting and carbon reporting. The company evaluated its products and services’ carbon emissions across its entire value chain. “What we’re most proud of,” he said, “is that we’re making opportunities for other companies to become even more transparent about their carbon footprint.” Other sustainability professionals may raise an eyebrow (everyone claims they are the best or the first in this space), but in fairness, HP has invested a lot of time in this section of its report.
HP amassed all this carbon data through a variety of sources. First, to account for the 36 percent of its supply chain’s contribution to its overall footprint, HP underwent what Mr. Librie described as a rigorous lifecycle assessment (LCA). The total environmental impact of all of its products was based on the LCA of 100 products to account for factors such as raw materials extraction, manufacturing and logistics. Direct effects of HP’s operations, as in Scope 1 emissions, were easier to assess. For other impacts, HP used an input-output analysis model of carbon footprinting.
What about the supply chain’s effects on people? Mr. Librie explained HP is going against the grain of what has long occurred in China. More of HP’s manufacturing has shifted to Chongqing, a city of 7 million over 1,000 miles west of Shanghai. First, relocating factories here is a step in halting the flow of migration to China’s coast, a trend underway for 30 years as millions of Chinese have left their hometowns in remote and rural areas to find work in eastern and southern China. And Librie pointed out another benefit: PCs and other products can be shipped to Europe by rail, avoiding transport by airplanes and ships, with the benefit of reduced emissions for HP.
HP is also ramping up its efforts on the social enterprise front: immersion in such projects, in fact, is part of Mr. Librie’s job. In Kenya, HP has provided seed money and technology to speed up the testing of HIV in infants–as of now the total number of children tested is over 200,000. In a partnership with a local NGO (CHAI), Swarthmore College, the Clinton Global Initiative and the Kenyan health ministry, many of these tests are done in remote villages, and to speed up the process, lab analysis is completed in centralized locations and the results are then sent via the cloud to the remote clinics. The speedier time frame means infants infected with HIV can receive quicker treatment with anti-retroviral drugs.
And in India, HP is doing its part to increase access to health care with retrofitted shipping containers, which are transformed into “eHealth Centers.” The first one, located in Chuasala village in northern India, is outfitted with medical equipment, power generation and medicine. HP provides funds for medical staff, and as a result, thousands of patients have received checkups or medical treatment. Mr. Librie said the company plans to expand the program with 10 more centers, which the company will either haul in or airlift by helicopter.
Of course, there is a strategic, pragmatic approach to these programs. HP has found a customer for its servers and other products with the Kenyan health ministry and the same could very well occur in India with local companies. But this is more about sales; in the end, companies like HP know much of their future is in newly emerging markets. And as other other multinationals have learned, time and money invested in becoming a local stakeholder goes a long way when you are breaking ground in new territory.
The entire HP Global Citizenship Report is available here.
Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).
[Image credit: Wikipedia]