In 2019, businesses will need to embrace sustainability, or risk being left behind
What would you do if you only had 12 years to stop catastrophic climate change? At COP 24 in Poland earlier this year, 200 nations formed plans to collectively tackle this issue, and their message is clear: as nations, we will go beyond our commitments and ambitions from the 2015 Paris Agreement to further reduce emissions and tackle one of the world's greatest challenges.
Multinational agreements are a fantastic way to spark progress, but as HP’s own commitment to the pledges set out in Paris shows, the torch must also be carried by business leaders, who can set an even higher bar to reduce their footprint and create a sustainable impact which is larger than themselves and their companies.
Everything from day-to-day business practices to more energy efficient ways of designing, building, and delivering products or services should be under review. Why? Because it’s not only the right thing to do, but sustainability can be a business driver and differentiator. Last year we saw a 38% increase in deals where sustainability was a requirement – and we expect that to grow as consumers and business place even higher expectations on corporations. Companies and customers want to buy goods and services from entities that they trust to do the right thing for the environment, for their employees, and create a positive impact in their communities.
Not only is sustainability something to embrace in the short-term, but corporations must invest in longer-term initatives and push their entire supply chain towards reinventing how to explore, make, and source products.
Looking back at history, innovative solutions that shift towards low-carbon methods and embraced the concept of a circular economy, have not only spurred social change, but build entirely new industries. Take modern recycling which rapidly grew from the 1970s and today provides a sustainable method for businesses and consumers to take an active role in creating a cleaner environment, employing people, and safeguarding our world and future resources. Well, it’s now being super-charged for the 4th Industrial Revolution – at HP, for example, we’ve recycled over 271,400 tonnes of hardware and supplies since 2016, and are aiming for 1.2 million tonnes by 2025.
That’s not the only way that new technology is driving sustainability in business. 3D printing will completely revolutionize the manufacturing process in coming years, reducing emissions, eliminating waste, and enabling new economies in remote parts of the world. The possibilities are limitless. 3D printing will make manufacturing much more localized and much more on-demand, which will provide real benefits to the planet. Applied across nearly every industry, from medical to infrastructure - digitization of the supply chain enables just-in-time delivery, helping to create a world one day without warehouses, without inventory, and without waste.
Take the automotive industry as an example. 3D printing enables factories to print out a bespoke hubcap, rather than having to ship it in from a factory half a world away – taking days or weeks to reach them and burning fossil fuels in the process. The result of 3D printing produces a series of positive outcomes – cutting time, increasing efficiency, reducing inventory and capital tied up, and eliminating exorbant transport – a very real example of how businesses can reap the rewards of embracing sustainability.
Businesses can embrace sustainability across the entire supply chain while supporting the communities around them. By adopting a circular economy into their business and embracing an attitude of repairing, reusing and recycling as opposed to disposing of their products, this can help create new jobs and opportunities for individuals while helping the environment. Just recently, HP joined NextWave Plastics, a consortium of worldwide businesses who are scaling the use of ocean-bound plastics, and decreasing the volume of plastic waste before it enters the oceans.
Embracing sustainability is an effort which requires collaboration between businesses, governments and consumers, who all must take on an increasingly active role. Nonetheless, it’s our responsibility and duty as business leaders to be out front driving change and leading by example. Afterall, we need to make huge strides in sustainability in the next 12 years in order to help save our planet.
For us, sustainability is not only the right thing to do, it’s a business imperative, and good for our consumers, our employees, our communities, and for our world. Ensuring our global operations product portfolio are sustainable, prioritizing diversity and inclusion, and investing our time and resources in building vibrant and resilient communities are fundamental to our vision for HP’s sustainable impact – and we will continue our commitment to this in 2019 and beyond.Nick Lazaridis