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Women in CSR: Gabi Zedlmayer, HP

By Andrea Newell

Welcome to our series of interviews with leading female CSR practitioners where we are learning about what inspires these women and how they found their way to careers in sustainability. Read the rest of the series here.

TriplePundit: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.

Gabi Zedlmayer: I am Vice President of Sustainability and Social Innovation at HP.

I started my career 1985 in the airline industry and joined the IT industry in 1987. Since then I have been hooked to technology and the way it is changing the way we live and work.

I was asked to lead HP’s social innovation initiatives in 2009, and have since then been developing and driving programs in alignment with HP’s business strategy to solve social and environmental challenges by uniting the power of our people and technology.

3p: How has the sustainability program evolved at your company?

GZ: Global Citizenship has been in our DNA at HP from the very beginning. In 1957, our founders, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, first put Global Citizenship on the list of HP corporate objectives. And we still know today that being a leader in the sustainability space is integral to our innovation and performance. It is central to our corporate purpose of advancing the way people live and work.

As an example, we started to recycle punch cards back in the 1960s, followed by recycling paper, and then recycling our products earlier than any other company.

Today, we are leading the way with a strong commitment to providing solutions for our customers that address business issues in ways that can also positively impact society and the planet. We take responsibility for our supply chain which is the largest in the IT industry, and we are transparent with regards to our own environmental impact.

3p: Tell us about someone (mentor, sponsor, friend, hero) who affected your sustainability journey, and how.

GZ: The spirit and responsible thinking of Bill and Dave still inspires me and has a unique quality that lives on in HP today.
A great mentor for me was Debra Dunn, who I had the honor and pleasure to work with when she was driving and shaping HP’s Global Citizenship strategy. Debra is a true thought leader in this space, and I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from her.

Nowadays, I am very glad to work with our External Global Citizenship Council which is comprised of a diverse group of environmental and social thought leaders who advise us. Each individual member of this council helps me learn and grow on a continuous basis.

3p: What is the best advice you have ever received?

GZ: Be confident in what you can achieve! This advice has made me strong. I think it is particularly important for women.

3p: Can you share a recent accomplishment you are especially proud of?

GZ: What is maybe most important is the collaboration we were able to build out with our key stakeholders. We are working with governments, NGOs, customers and partners to create solutions that solve challenges in the areas of health, education and the environment.

One example is the Early Infant Diagnosis project we developed in collaboration with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), the Ministry of Health in Kenya and Strathmore University to speed up early testing and treatment for infants exposed to HIV. This initiative gives babies a better chance of survival by greatly reducing test result turnaround times and thus enabling an early start of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. The collaboration between HP and CHAI won the 2013 Ethical Corporation Responsible Business Award for the best Business/NGO partnership.

3p: If you had the power to make one major change at your company or in your industry, what would it be?

GZ: I would like to see more transparency when it comes to sustainability across all industries. At HP, for example, we disclosed our complete carbon footprint this year (including scope 3). This insight allows us to commit to new goals like reducing the carbon dioxide emissions of our operations by another 20 percent by 2020. Achieving this goal will help lower HP's operating costs and energy-price risk, providing business benefits as well as environmental benefits.

If we include sustainability goals into every aspect of the business, we can collaborate with our suppliers, customers and partners to create a better future.

3p: Describe your perfect day.

GZ: A perfect day for me starts with a 90 min run in the woods very early in the morning. I usually go running at 05.00 am. After that, I love having breakfast with my family. I specifically enjoy visiting our sustainability and social innovation projects around the globe. Recently I went on a trip to Haiti to attend the opening of the Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais– a phenomenal project where HP has taken a collaborative approach to strengthening Haiti’s healthcare delivery systems. We have partnered with Partners in Health on building out this new teaching hospital, 60 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince, by designing, and implementing innovative IT infrastructure and communications systems.

Andrea Newell headshot

Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at andrea.g.newell@gmail.com and @anewell3p on Twitter.

Read more stories by Andrea Newell