Any Job Can Be a Green Job at Dell

Oliver Campbell, Senior Packaging Manager for Dell

When I became senior packaging manager at Dell back in 2006, my goal was to build the world’s best packaging team, not just in the PC industry, but in any industry. Not an easy achievement, nor a terribly measurable one. There’s no international ranking for ‘best packaging team,’ after all. So we outlined what ‘best’ meant to us, and it came down to three things:

1) to create truly innovative packaging,

2) using minimal and sustainable resources,

3) that helped reduce complexity for customers and cost for the company.

What I’ve found in executing against those guideline surprised me. While the words “environment,” “green” or “sustainability” don’t appear in my job title, these parameters have transformed my position at Dell into what you might call a green job. Doing so has convinced me that with focus and the right goals, just about anyone can do the same thing – no matter your title or industry.

When my team put an environmental lens on our work, it gave life to a new strategy we call our three Cs:

  • Cube: How big is the packaging?
  • Content: What’s it made of? Could it be made of something better?
  • Curb: Is the packaging material easily recycled by customers at their curbside?

That strategy has turned out to be a blueprint for success, producing exciting results for Dell, our customers and this planet we call home. And it all ties back to a familiar “green” phrase: reduce, reuse, recycle.

We’re using less. Over the past two years, we’ve eliminated the use of more than 18.2 million pounds of packaging material. At the same time, we’re reusing more. In two years, we’ve increased the amount of recycled content (such as plastic from milk jugs) in our packaging by around 32 percent. The company has integrated the equivalent of more than 9.5 million half-gallon milk jugs into its packaging. That’s enough to stretch from Florida to Maine – more than 1,500 miles!

And we’re making it easier to recycle. More than half of our packaging materials can now be conveniently recycled by customers using their local curbside pick-up programs. We’re shooting for that number to be 75 percent by the end of 2012.

The three Cs have transformed my team from great packaging engineers into inspired environmental champions within our company. It’s exciting to see other industries taking a similar approach. Whether it’s creating new, sustainable packaging for yogurt or potato chips, designing parking garages to accommodate electric vehicles or simply making the decision to become a paperless office, people are changing the way they think about the impact of their jobs.

I think you can do that, too.

Look at the raw materials and natural resources you consume in the course of your work day – paper, electricity, water, gasoline, etc. Consuming less could reduce both cost to your company and impact on the planet. If you lead a team or an entire division within your company, what operational or strategic changes could you implement to really reduce your consumption?

Align your sustainability goals to your business needs. We’ve found that many of the changes we’ve instituted have made better business sense than our old practices, and we haven’t sacrificed product or packaging performance for the sake of the environment. Take our bamboo packaging, for example. Our engineers use locally-sourced, fast-growing bamboo to create product cushions for the laptops we manufacture in China. The bamboo packaging is actually stronger than molded paper pulp alternatives, better protecting our customers’ products in transit. By choosing a more sustainable material, we’re better serving our customers and our planet.

And, perhaps most actionable, RECYCLE. Whether it’s using 100 percent recycled paper in your office printers or making use of recycling bins in the work place, make it a point to choose recycled goods wherever possible and recycle all that you can. At Dell, we’ve set a zero-waste goal in our operations. It’s a high bar, but it’s a worthy, actionable goal that helps keep employees’ vigilant about environmental stewardship.

When you think about it, any job can become a green job. You just have to put a lens on what you do day to day and start thinking about impactful changes. One thing’s for certain; the planet could sure use a few more employees on its side.

Based in Round Rock, Texas, Oliver Campbell is senior packaging manager for Dell.

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3 responses

  1. I wasn’t aware that there was such a post as “packaging manager” in the world and that it could do its bit in saving the environment. The most that I had heard in packaging was how a cultural phenomenon in India here, called Chetan Bhagat had published a best-selling book based on, among other things, a sound packaging strategy. I got interested about this with after joining a yet to be released website: where we have a vision of moving towards a paperless world through various strategies. Though the website is not live yet (it will be very soon), you can visit our FB/twitter page and we’d love your comment on it. You have my email address. Thanks, Kapil.

  2. This is a very postive and simple message. I would like to know when Dell will be implementing the bamboo packing for Latitude E6410 and Latitude E4200 laptops? Will bamboo packaging ever be implemented with LCD’s?

  3. This is an excellent good example of turning BVS and CR to business innovation and success. It starts from the people, who think in the direction of company’s purpose and strategies, and act proactively. They really delivered results that made positive difference!

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