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Sustainability & Social Responsibility

The Greenest Company in America — What Does Supply Management Have to Do With It?

Author(s):

RaeAnn Slaybaugh


January/February 2011, eSide Supply Management Vol. 4, No. 1

eSide talks sustainable supply management with Michelle Mosmeyer, sustainability communications manager at Dell, Newsweek's greenest company for 2010.

Every October, Newsweek identifies the 500 most sustainable companies in the U.S. and releases the findings in its Green Rankings list. This data-driven assessment quantifies large companies' environmental footprints, policies and reputations with the help of three leading environmental research organizations.

For 2010, the greenest company in America was Dell — and it's not the first time it has made the cut. In 2009 (the first year the magazine compiled the list), it ranked No. 2.

Most notably, Newsweek recognizes Dell's ambitious goal of reducing its total emissions by 40 percent by 2015 — an objective the company is already well on its way to achieving. Also applauded are Dell's extensive efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its products at all stages of their life cycles, from design to disposal, including:

  • Its laptops and desktops are now built to use 25 percent less energy than comparable systems made in 2005, saving customers more than US$5 billion in energy costs over the past few years.

  • Dell has used 7.2 million pounds of post-consumer recycled plastic to build new computers — the equivalent of recycling 263 million water bottles.

  • The company has one of the technology industry's most comprehensive recycling programs: It takes back and recycles any of its products for free. Dell will also take back competitors' products at no cost with the purchase of new Dell computers or peripherals.

  • Consumers can mail back old equipment, or Dell will pick up the items at their homes. Or, they can be dropped off at more than 2,000 Goodwill or 1,500 Staples store locations.

To drill down further into the supply management initiatives that make Dell stand above the rest, eSide talked with Sustainability Communications Manager Michelle Mosmeyer. Having spent 11 years doing public relations for Dell, Mosmeyer says her interest in public policy, social media and environmental sustainability made her "a particularly passionate fit" for her new full-time role.

eSide Supply Management: So, why do you think Dell stands out so much with respect to sustainability?

Michelle Mosmeyer, Sustainability Communications Manager, Dell
Michelle Mosmeyer

Mosmeyer: We're working hard to make being green easy and cost-effective for our customers, from convenient recycling [of our products], to sustainable packaging, to energy-efficient products. Our customers tell us they appreciate that.

We've also made sustainability a major concern in our supply chain management, which was a big factor in the Newsweek rating.

eSide: What does that look like in practice — Dell's supply chain sustainability initiatives, I mean?

Mosmeyer: The standard that comes to mind immediately is the EICC's Electronics Industry Code of Conduct, with which all of our suppliers must comply. The Code of Conduct provides guidelines for performance and compliance with critical CSR policies. EICC provides tools to audit compliance with the code, and helps companies report progress.

We've also done a lot to green our packaging supply chain. For example, we source and develop bamboo packaging.

eSide: According to the Newsweek article, Dell aims to reduce its total emissions by 40 percent by 2015. In what ways will supply management factor in?

Mosmeyer: We ask our tier 1 suppliers to report their greenhouse gas emissions through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), just as Dell, the company, does. Last year, our top suppliers representing 95 percent of our total spend reported through CDP.

eSide: At the midlevel-manager — and even buyer — levels, how are supply management staff expected to support Dell's focus on sustainability?

Mosmeyer: Every Dell team member plays a role in ensuring Dell's sustainability. On our packaging team, for example, team members have reduced the size of product packaging with solutions ranging from the simple (putting fewer items — disks, catalogs and so on — in the box, allowing for smaller packaging and a more straightforward "out-of-box" experience for customers) to using engineering tools to run various "what-if" scenarios.

With these tools, Dell has optimized its Inspiron 15 laptop packaging so that 63 laptops fit on each shipping pallet, up from 54. More laptops on each pallet means more laptops fit into each vehicle, which can result in fewer shipping vehicles and less shipping-related environmental impact.

eSide: Dell's senior manager of global packaging, Oliver Campbell, has been quoted as saying he "believes any job can be a green job." Can you expand on that mind-set?

Mosmeyer: Actually, he wrote all about it in an opinion editorial for TriplePundit a few months ago. You can find it here: http://www.triplepundit.com/2010/10/25/job-be-green-job-dell/.

Green Chain: Silver metal chain with one green link.

eSide: Does Dell offer its employees — in supply chain and beyond — specific incentives for driving sustainability innovations, or is it simply that they just do their jobs in the most sustainable ways possible?

Mosmeyer: In some cases, green strategies are part of the teams' overall performance goals. I can illustrate by talking about our packaging initiatives.

In December 2008, Dell announced a plan to revolutionize computer packaging. By 2012, Dell aims to reduce packaging volume by 10 percent; increase the amount of recycled content in packaging by 40 percent; and increase the amount of materials in packaging that's curbside-recyclable to 75 percent. To achieve these goals, the company is implementing a strategy based on three Cs: 1) Cube: How big is the box? Could it be smaller? 2) Content: What is the packaging made of? Could it be made of something better? and 3) Curb: Is it easily recycled?

eSide: Considering how well-known Dell is now with regard to sustainability, it might be hard to recall "where it all began." Can you remember?

Mosmeyer: It began with our founder and CEO, Michael Dell. He's passionate about environmental stewardship because he knows it's the right thing to do for our business and our planet.

He also recognized early on that technology is the ultimate tool for unleashing human potential, enabling efficiencies that help us minimize the impact our customers' work has on the planet.

The complete Green Rankings 2010 — both the U.S. 500 and in the Global 100 — can be found on the Newsweek website.



RaeAnn Slaybaugh is a writer for the Institute for Supply Management™. To reach this author, please send an e-mail to author@ism.ws.

For more social responsibility and sustainability resources, visit the ISM articles database.

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