As the corona crisis gripped the world and sent people into lockdown, they were nevertheless determined not to remain isolated. They reached in unprecedented numbers for digital tools to keep communication open. Intrigued by this phenomenon, we’ve translated it back into print and online media to bring you The debate. This new section aims to present interesting viewpoints about current developments from people in the know, people at the forefront of their field. They may agree, they may disagree – but in voicing their opinions they will engage in thoughtful, compelling dialogue.
To kick off this series, we invited Dr. Kirstie McIntyre, Director, Global Sustainability Operations, HP Inc., and Monika Schaller, Executive Vice President, Corporate Communications, Sustainability & Brand, Deutsche Post DHL Group, to present their thoughts about climate change in what many have termed the “new normal” – our everyday reality once the COVID-19 pandemic has abated.
Question: Climate change was among the most dominant public topics before the COVID-19 crisis. Will it ever regain the level of public concern and awareness that it had before? When will we be able to take the long view again?
Dr. Kirstie McIntyre
Even though some might argue that, due to the deep recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the most pressing need is to keep economies going, preserve jobs and support industries in whichever ways possible, I do believe there is no turning back where climate action is concerned. On the contrary – I see this crisis as something that will be propelling us forward. At HP Inc., for example, we offer multiple life cycles for a product – new, refreshed and refurbished. As the crisis hit, we suddenly saw an unprecedented demand for refurbished laptops and computers – in fact, we sold out! Where the acceptance of refurbished products was previously a very gradual process, users have now made the switch from looking at computers to looking at computing power, thus enabling us to take a big leap forward in terms of a circular economy.
Our Instant Ink service for subscription cartridges that get delivered just in time has also had an absolute boom, with deliveries to millions of home offices during lockdown.
Our company believes that sustainability is a powerful force for innovation. This belief is a driving factor across many aspects of our business, from product and service design through to new business models around new technologies such as 3D printing and supply chain digitization. It has also been a turning point for 3D printing and I believe we will continue to see a lot of growth here in future, including a move toward more local manufacturing and distribution, at least for a growing number of parts. HP Inc. has set itself bold sustainability goals, intended to drive progress across our entire value chain. These encompass a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and using 30% postconsumer plastic in our products by the end of 2025 – and we’re on track to achieve both.
While governments have set environmental targets ranging from the Paris Agreement to the recent EU Green Deal, I do believe it’s increasingly up to private industry to lead the way and pivot to a more sustainable future.
So, as we move forward to an eventual end to the crisis, and eventually also out of the economic fallout from COVID-19, it’s up to corporations to blaze the trail and ensure climate change action remains firmly in focus.
For us at HP Inc. a key growth area is device as a service (DaaS), with HP leasing the products to customers and managing supply, repair and returns, thus enabling businesses to focus on operating expenses rather than adding capital expenditure to their balance sheet – something I believe procurement departments need to focus on much more.
Climate change is an enormous challenge to humankind. It’s here to stay and, in the past years, more and more people all over the world have recognized that we need to act. Still, it’s understandable that we’ve adopted a shorter-term “damage control” mentality since the world was more or less ambushed by COVID-19. But as we gradually emerge from this first phase of the pandemic (at least in Germany and a number of other countries), there’s increased focus on the task of building more resilient societies and economies over the long term, and climate protection is an urgent priority in these efforts.
In late April, Deutsche Post DHL Group (DPDHL Group) and 67 other German companies across all sectors signed a letter urging the German government to include ambitious climate action in its response to the corona crisis. We believe that stimulus measures should promote long-term economic resilience, and that any such measures must include climate protection. There has never been a larger, more comprehensive appeal for climate action by the private sector in Germany.
Many of the signatories are major international corporations who, like DPDHL Group, have long since integrated climate protection into their business strategy worldwide. These companies are not going to use the crisis as an excuse to ease up on climate; they were committed to climate protection before corona, and they will remain committed after corona. At DPDHL Group, for example, we’ve been working toward our target of zero-emission logistics since 2017. Nobody asked us to do this. We’re doing it because we, like other leading companies, consider sustainability good business and a vital responsibility.
I don’t believe climate protection and sustainability will fade from view – because ultimately, this is about thinking long term and succeeding long term. And in today’s interconnected world, companies succeed long term by investing not only in their people and products, as they always have, but also in the health of the ecosystems, communities and economies in which they operate. At DPDHL Group, our sustainability programs span environment, economy and society, because all of these aspects need to be healthy if we want our business to thrive.
This is the reality today: In the globalized world, the factors that determine success are interrelated. Opportunities are borderless, and so are threats. The corona crisis has provided an urgent reminder that the great, borderless challenges of our time – whether climate or public health – call for knowledge sharing and collaboration across borders. And it has drawn attention to the fact that we need to be building resilience and promoting sustainability on all fronts.
Published: June 2020
Images: Victoria Adamson for Delivered.; Cornelis Gollhardt/DHL