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“Our focus is to transform the way we design our products and services for extended, sustainable use.”

In a conversation with Sustainability Outlook, Mr. Alok Ohrie, President and Managing Director, DELL India shares his thoughts on how businesses like DELL are rethinking their business models for circular closed loop systems. He also shares the sustainability strategy of DELL India and DELL’s Legacy of Good Plan.

As an Industry captain, what is your take on the slew of forward thinking efforts like Digital India and what opportunity does this present for the electronics sector (especially companies like Dell India)?

Dell believes that technology in India is a prerequisite to transform the country, grow the economy, provide a suitable environment for businesses, improve the quality of life of its citizens, and enable better governance and government services.

We are very excited about the new Digital India Program. This program has the potential to transform India into a digitally empowered society and a knowledge economy. Digital India program is also a huge opportunity for IT to enable and propel growth in India. The new government's investment in technology for the year 2014-15 is an estimated $26 billion comprising investment in digitization, infrastructural improvements, push for manufacturing and technology in healthcare and agriculture.

Major IT companies in India like Dell have a massive opportunity to partner the government and build the nation through technology. Our expertise and capabilities in most areas related to the Digital India program have been globally acclaimed and we expect to work closely with the government during its implementation. We’ve demonstrated these capabilities by successfully implementing projects at both the Central and State government levels for the last six years.

What key role do you think resource sustainability would play in shaping the electronics industry in India over the short and medium term?

We believe that resource efficiency is critical to the future of our industry and many others. Each year, only 13 percent of the e-waste generated gets recycled; the remainder winds up in landfills or in e-waste dumps in the developing world, according to the STEP initiative (also known as Solving The E-waste Problem). 

Technology relies on rare earth metals and while their demand is increasing the supplies of these metals available in the market continue to shrink. A circular approach (vs linear approach to take-make-dispose) could reduce these pressures. From the use of big data and the measurement afforded by the Internet of Things to the ability to transform the way we do business, technology is a critical enabler of the circular economy.

Leading companies are already rethinking their business models to engage a circular approach that puts a premium on getting the 23 most out of resources. Dell is committed to making this shift easy, efficient and productive for our customers.

Our focus is clear: to transform the way we design our products and services, looking at the whole system for efficiencies and extended, sustainable use; make it easy on our customers by leveraging our leadership in e-waste recycling to fuel a broader transition through tools, services and education; and collaborate, working with innovative partners and entrepreneurs to fill today’s gaps in the circles. 

How does Dell India view sustainability and what are some of the key focus areas of sustainability action for the company? Is the strategy and perspective on Sustainability elements common across your global operations and/or how is it different in the Indian context?

We at Dell, look beyond our walls to inspire sustainable practices throughout our entire ecosystem, making sustainability easier for our customers, communities and partners. We believe technology combined with the expertise and an entrepreneurial spirit can solve many of the world’s most pressing issues and transform the communities we serve.

That’s why we are committed to put our technology and expertise to work where it can do the most good for people and the planet. We take action on this commitment in three key areas: being good stewards of the environment, supporting our people, and making a difference in the communities in which we live and work. In 2013, we launched Dell’s 2020 Legacy of Good plan - a long-term corporate responsibility framework designed to aggregate and accelerate the ways that Dell and its IT solutions help customers.

With the overarching goal of promoting technology’s role in addressing environmental challenges, Dell has achieved several milestones globally and in India, showcasing progress towards the Dell’s ‘2020 Legacy of Good’ Goals.

Dell has in place a global consumer recycling collection program which allows customers to bring their used electronics to service centres known as Dell Carry-In Service Centres. 

Globally, Dell reduced the energy intensity of its product portfolio by 23.2 percent over the last two years (from 2014) – and that of its server portfolio by approximately 50 percent. Dell’s global flexible work programs helped the company avoid 6,700 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions last year, equivalent to eliminating nearly 16 million miles driven. Additionally, Dell reduced GHG emissions from facilities and logistics by 8 percent.

In India alone, there are 16 Dell Carry-In Service Centers. Other significant highlights in the country include decrease of the total freshwater consumption at Dell-operated facilities by 9% and installation of a new solar photovoltaic system at the Dell campus in Bangalore, in June, 2013, which helped Dell save 65535 KWH and reduce 59794 Kg of Co2e. Additionally, Dell products qualify for India BEE Star energy program.

What are some of the key measures being undertaken by Dell India to create more ‘sustainable’ products? Has a greater uptake been observed within Indian consumers for greener products?

Dell’s Legacy of Good Plan outlines 21 ambitious goals we are committed to reaching by 2020 related to the environment, our people, and the communities we live and work in, including: making our entire product portfolio 80 percent more energy efficient; making our packaging 100 percent waste-free and using 50 million pounds of recycledcontent plastics in our products.

We’re already making great strides toward our 2020 Legacy of Good Plan. We have reduced the energy intensity of our product portfolio by 23.2% over the last two years. Dell is also first in industry to offer a computer made with certified closed-loop recycled plastics from our recycling programs.

In May 2014, we launched the OptiPlex 3030 All-in One Dell, which received third-party certification from UL Environment for its closed-loop plastic recycling initiative. We have since expanded the closed loop program to include displays and Optiplex desktops with plans to expand across broader solutions portfolio over the next two years. Since May 2014, Dell has recycled 2.2 million lbs of closed loop plastics back into new products.

On the consumer awareness front, Dell has initiatives such as the free laptop battery recycling program according to which consumers are rewarded for return of their non-working lithium ion batteries for recycling, and the Dell Go Green Challenge that invited consumers/individuals to share ideas and innovations on green technology through photographs or videos online.

What would it take for the electronics industry in Indian to meaningfully embrace and deliver on Extended Producer Responsibility in context of electronic waste? What are the key barriers from a manufacturer perspective and what could aid this movement?

The implementation of the E-Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2011, featuring Extended Producer Responsibility in India from May 01, 2012 has paved the way for producers to provide take-back options for their customers. This would encourage an efficient and convenient product recovery option directly to consumers to facilitate responsible product retirement. We are happy that the Indian government prioritized the safe disposal of e-waste through the law. Dell supports the same through its various takeback options for customers, providing them with an effective means to facilitate responsible product retirement. 

In India's journey towards becoming a sustainability driven economy by 2040, which industries do you see falling by the wayside over the next 2 decades?

We believe collaboration is key to advancing sustainability for our industry, and consumers are an important part of this conversation and powerful agents of change, particularly in the era of digital.

Any business can become a sustainable business, but it is not an easy transition. It involves rethinking business models and incubating innovation. We're already seeing how innovative business models that take advantage of “spare capacity” are transforming the economy. Airbnb, Uber and other sharing sites turn us into entrepreneurs, getting more out of the unused time in our house, car, and more. In these cases, mobile computing, cloud services and other powerful technology solutions are making these new business models both practical and scalable.

What are the key ingredients for framing the business case and getting approval for embedding sustainability oriented investments within the Indian business context?

A good way would be to start by defining the benefits to your customers. We know customers want to operate a sustainable business and do business with responsible companies. 95% of the world’s largest company’s report on CSR activities, and approximately 60% of all our customer RFPs ask about our sustainable business principles.

It can save them money and help them meet their own goals. Developing industrystandards is also critical. We all have a different definition and criteria for “social good.” That’s why Dell is teaming up with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and Forum for the Future Net Positive Group to put industry standards to social good and help us measure the positive impact of technology on the environment and for the communities we serve.

How can businesses leverage sustainability as a brand differentiator to enhance their image? 

Businesses need to explain the benefits their brand or product will have on the consumer’s daily lives. They can do this by listening and connecting with customers. Businesses should spend their time rethinking processes and weaving sustainability into their decision making process so it becomes part of their company DNA.

Author: sustainabilityoutlook
Country: India
Industry Term: Corporate Action sustainability