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Putting sustainability promises into practice

Nurdianah Md Nur
Nurdianah Md Nur8/2/2022 05:00 PM GMT+08  • 7 min read
Putting sustainability promises into practice
Google, HP and Tata Communications are turning their sustainability ambitions into action. Photo: Unsplash
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The technology industry was responsible for up to 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions last year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. As we increasingly rely on technology for our daily activities, here’s how some companies offering technology products and services are embedding sustainability into their business to achieve net-zero emissions.

Google: Sustainability-driven innovation

Claiming to be carbon-neutral since 2007, Google is now working towards operating on 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030. This means matching each hour of its electricity consumption with carbon-free electricity sources in all its data centres and offices. By doing so, Google can deliver its services — be it search results, emails, enterprise cloud services or YouTube video plays — using clean energy, contributing to a greener Internet.

In line with its mission to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, Google is also building and enhancing its core solutions to help end-users reduce their environmental impact.

We want to help people make more sustainable choices through our products. So Google Maps or Google Flights, for example, will show eco-friendly options for getting from place to place.

Dr Frederik Pferdt, former chief innovation evangelist, Google

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“Nobody can save the planet alone. But if we work together — as governments, non-profits, research organisations, businesses, and individuals — we can get more done and have a pretty high chance of being successful [at realising a carbon-free future],” he adds.

One way Google encourages such collaborations is through its Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE), a free tool designed to help measure emission sources and identify strategies to reduce emissions. Over 320 cities worldwide have made their data available for the public to view through EIE, according to Google’s blog post in April 2022.

Besides helping cities shape their decarbonisation efforts using data, EIE can also be used to educate citizens on sustainability. This is exemplified in the case of Yokohama in Japan, which incorporated EIE into education programmes from junior high school to universities. Students can therefore visualise and better understand the impact of CO2 emissions, which helps encourage them to adopt more environmentally responsible behaviour.

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HP: Greening its end-to-end operations

At HP Inc, sustainability is not just a good-to-have or standalone function.

“Sustainability is integrated into every part of the company — from design to how we procure, manufacture, deliver to our customers, and finally recover them from customers. We work closely with our research & development, design and engineering teams right from the conceptualisation of the products to integrate more recycled materials,” says Vivian Chua, managing director of HP Singapore.

She adds that HP aims to use 30% post-consumer recycled content plastic across its personal computing systems and print product portfolio by 2025. To support that goal, the company has been working with Project Stop since 2019 to create a circular waste management system in the Indonesian coastal city of Pasuran, as part of HP’s Ocean Bound Plastics programme.

Under the programme, local collectors and sorters are trained to identify the correct grade of plastics. The plastics are then brought to a compounding facility, where they are treated, sorted, put through an extrusion process and made into high-quality resins. The resins are then combined with virgin plastics and moulded into a new generation of plastic lids for HP ink cartridge lids.

As of December 2021, the programme has expanded to other parts of Indonesia — namely, Muncar and Jembrana — to establish an effective waste management system to prevent plastics from leaking into the ocean.

Chua also shares that HP is working towards product circularity, continued improvements in energy efficiency, using more sustainable materials and making substantial investments in forests.

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“We extend product life through design, maintenance, upgrades, repair, and innovative service-based business models. At the end of service, we strive to reuse or recover all products. Supporting these efforts, we aspire to use 100% renewable energy and produce zero waste to landfill across our manufacturing process,” she explains.

Additionally, HP is engaging its partners through the HP Amplify Impact programmes to broaden its sustainability impact. The company is training, educating and empowering its production and non-production suppliers to create lasting positive change and maximise sustainable business opportunities.

More than 1,400 HP partners have pledged to enrol in the programme last year, and HP Amplify Impact partners have completed over 10,000 sustainability training courses as of April 2022. HP plans to get at least half of its more than 10,000 partners enrolled in the programme by 2025.

Besides benefitting the environment, HP’s sustainability efforts have positively impacted its business revenue too. Chua says: “Our Sustainable Impact initiatives helped the company win more than US$3.5 billion [$4.8 billion] in new sales in FY2021 — a three-fold increase over the prior year.

Doing good and pursuing growth are one and the same goal. Our customers are holding us to account, and we welcome that. As a business, we must play a role in the good of society, and we have to use our scale and reach to be agents of change.

Vivian Chua, managing director, HP Singapore

“We will continue to innovate throughout our products and services portfolio, and work with suppliers and channel partners to increase circularity,” she adds.

Tata Communications: Sustainability as part of the company’s DNA

Similar to HP, Tata Communications has made environmental stewardship one of its core values.

We believe digital technology and environmental sustainability go hand-in-hand. We see them as two sides of the same coin, with a shared objective of bringing about efficiencies and growth with considered utilisation of resources.

Amitabh Sarkar, vice president and head of Asia Pacific and Japan for enterprise, Tata Communications

He continues: “[This is why] we, as a digital ecosystem enabler, are committed to using the enabling power of technology to minimise environmental footprint and help our customers optimise their resources. For instance, we offer and are further developing a range of low-carbon products and services from our network, Internet of Things, media and entertainment, cloud, and business collaboration streams. These solutions help conserve their energy and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.”

One of the ways the company encourages its employees to develop sustainable innovations is through the Tata Communications InnoVista programme. It tests the ability of its employees to solve real business problems — including sustainability — using innovative solutions, with a focus on creating visible impact. This initiative, says Sarkar, is one of the company’s central enablers for nurturing the enthusiasm of its employees toward building a sustainable innovation culture.

In terms of greening its supply chain, Tata Communications ensures its suppliers follow its Code of Conduct, which includes sustainable sourcing aspects. It has also recently launched a Sustainable Supply Chain Framework that integrates sustainability into its procurement decisions, vendor selection, supplier engagement and vendor performance management. By doing so, the company will be able to better identify, assess and report potential sustainability risks in its supply chain.

“We’ve [recently] carried out a carbon value chain assessment to understand the environmental benefits of our low-carbon products and solutions at our customers’ end. The study confirms the potential greenhouse gas emission reduction to be around 661,543 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which works out to be six times less than the emissions produced by our operations in FY2020-21,” shares Sarkar.

As the world becomes more digital and data-driven, the negative impact associated with the trends — such as increased energy in data centres — must be minimised. Technology solution providers, therefore, need to not only review their operations and supply chains to minimise carbon emissions, but also develop solutions that can help consumers and other industries be more environmentally friendly.

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