Leaders in Sustainable Global Enterprise speaker Chris Librie, senior director of living progress and strategy at Hewlett Packard corporate affairs, claims that “sustainability is more than charity. It is a tool to drive competitive advantage.”
Speaking to a Sage Hall lecture room filled with Johnson and other Cornell University students Sept. 24, Chris Librie, senior director of living progress and strategy for corporate affairs at Hewlett Packard, focused on driving sustainability within and outside the organization, and the actions HP has undertaken to see them to fruition. Librie spoke as a guest lecturer in a course offered by the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise: Leaders in Sustainable Global Enterprise Colloquium.
Sustainability is not just about compliance for HP, according to Librie. It is the fusion of good citizenship and business strategy. “Sustainability is more than charity. It is a tool to drive competitive advantage,” he said. With this in mind, HP uses its technology to drive economic, social, and environmental sustainability — the three pillars of sustainability, or the triple bottom line — through such programs as HP Life, eHealth Centers, and HP Earth Insights. HP Life is a program focused on encouraging entrepreneurs through business and IT education. HP’s ten eHealth Centers in India are mobile health care units created from used shipping containers that operate on cloud-based IT and connect rural doctors to urban medical centers. The company plans to launch 25 more of these in the next year. HP Earth Insights concentrates on providing software assistance to wildlife conservation efforts.
Librie also touched on HP’s recycling initiatives. One way in which it is addressing rudimentary methods of recycling in less developed countries is through its partnership with East African Compliant Recycling. Together, they have established a first-of-its-kind electronic waste recycling plant in Kenya. “We want to expand this to other countries too, but collecting material back from the consumers is quite challenging,” he said, emphasizing that communicating to consumers and changing their habits about recycling is an uphill task.
“Having a nuanced understanding of sustainability, this lecture gave me a picture of how HP markets sustainability rather than an in-depth look at practice,” said Amber Thomas, MBA ’15, who attended the lecture. “I did find it insightful that significant internal marketing and influencing is necessary to achieve change within a corporation.”
The lecture elicited a number of questions from students about the actual, quantifiable nature of these projects. Librie explained that while a lot of actions by HP relating to sustainability cannot yet be directly translated into numbers, correcting this is next on his agenda. Along with current financial goals (to drive reputation and ratings), Librie plans to introduce sales goals. How much will sustainability contribute to the bottom line? This might be the question many companies are asking and looking for answers to.
— Pallavi Rao
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