Dell Tech Summit: Want to help the environment? Start with your company culture

Dell executives dive into the company's 2030 moonshot goals, which focus on sustainability, inclusion, ethics, and privacy.

Dell Tech Summit: Autonomous infrastructure, as-a-service models, and societal change The tech giant highlighted Dell EMC PowerOne, Dell Technologies on Demand, and sustainability goals at its opening news conference in Austin.

A panel of executives during the 2019 Dell Tech Summit on Tuesday defined the company's four biggest economic and social goals for the next decade. As established by Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell Technologies, during the opening keynote, the theme of the conference is the next data decade. However, Dell plans to focus on more than data in the next 10 years. 

"We are in a period of unmatched advancement: From life expectancy being the highest ever, to poverty dropping to a record low of 10%," said Karen Quintos, executive vice president and chief customer officer at Dell Technologies during a conference session. "There is no question that technology has played an important role in achieving these goals, but we have so much more work that we need to do." 

SEE: IT leader's guide to achieving workplace diversity (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Technology companies, like Dell, are going to play an increasingly important role in driving measurable as well as sustainable change. One of Dell Technologies' key beliefs is centered on enabling human progress, to the point that stakeholders demand it from the company, Quintos said. 

Stakeholders include current and future employees, customers, and shareholders. "They are prioritizing social impact at an unprecedented rate," Quintos said. "This is a core expectation on whether they decide to work for us, or whether they decide to advocate on behalf of Dell." 

The majority of millennials (76%) now decide whether to work for a company based on the organization's social and environmental commitments, which is a contributing factor that led Dell to form its 2030 moonshot goals, Quintos said. 

The four goals are the foundation for Dell's 2030 Progress Made Real plan, also announced during the opening keynote, and were discussed at length by Dell executives during the session. 

Dell's four moonshot goals 

When developing these goals, Dell included the opinions of investors, suppliers, customers, and employees, said David Lear, vice president of sustainability at Dell Technologies, during a session. 

Dell surveyed 150,000 employees to see what their priorities were, cross matched them with ideas from other stakeholders, analyzed what these goals would look like at scale, and narrowed it down to the following four, Lear said. 

1. Advance sustainability 

The first moonshot goal focuses on sustainability. By 2030, 100% of Dell's packaging will be made from recycled or renewable material and more than half of Dell's product content will be made from recycled or renewable material. And, for every product a customer buys, Dell will reuse or recycle an equivalent product, Lear said. 

"We recognize that electronics waste is growing very fast, and we want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem," Lear said. "We're creating a circular relationship with our customers. That's the basis of this basic goal: Getting materials back, recycling and refurbishing them, and then putting that material right back into our product and handing it back to our customers."

The underlying motivation for these sustainable initiatives is climate change, Lear said. He explained that Dell is hoping to decrease its carbon footprint and meet climate goals by using more eco-friendly materials. 

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Image: Dell

To display these efforts, Lear brought the new Latitude 7,300 Anniversary Edition (AE) model to the stage during the session. The energy-efficient device will come packaged in recycled ocean plastics, he said. 

Dell partnered with Carbon Conversions to develop the product. Carbon Conversions takes waste material from the aerospace industry and integrates it into Dell products, to create an even higher level of recycling content, Lear said. The device he was holding was made of 18% recycled carbon content. 

Another example Lear mentioned was a reusable tote for Dell servers. The reusable tote will be sent to the customer, and once they are done transporting servers in it, the customer sends it back to Dell. 

Using this device will save Dell over 500 pounds of waste packaging, and will also allow Dell to ship more products per truck,  Lear said. 

Both of these products are just the beginning, Lear added.

2. Cultivate inclusion

The second goal shifted from sustainability to inclusion. By 2030, 50% of Dell's global workforce and 40% of Dell's global leaders will be women; 95% of employees will participate in  annual foundational learning; and 25% of the US workforce and 15% of people leaders will be black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino minorities, according to the Progress Made Real outline.

"Michael [Dell] built our company on the foundation that we will always get the best talent, and the best talent exists everywhere," Brian Reaves, senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Dell Technologies, said during the session. "And that best talent comes from a diverse set of backgrounds in a very diverse set of mindsets. That's the goal."

By 2030, there will be an estimated potential global tech labor shortage of 4.3 million. While that may be a startling number, the talent is out there, industries just have to look in the right places, which is often found with diverse talent, Reaves said. 

"With 7.7 billion people in the world, many have the will and all we need to do is empower them with the skill," Reaves said. "We see those numbers, and everybody sort of freaks out, but we can do this and we plan to do it." 

3. Transform lives

While all of these pillars are distinct, they also operate together. "So when we talk about generating a more inclusive culture, that really unlocks innovation and then feeds back into our technology portfolio," said Jeremy Ford, vice president of giving and social innovation at Dell Technologies, during the session.

"What we intend to achieve with our moonshot goal of transforming lives is with our technology and scale, we will advance health, education, and economic opportunity initiatives to deliver enduring results for 1 billion people by 2030," Ford said. 

The healthcare industry, in particular, has seen the effects of technology, which creates more personalized forms of treatment. But that only scratches the surface, so Dell established this goal to make a large scale impact, Ford said. 

"And we believe that technology is the key catalyst for enabling that," Ford said. "Like the other areas, we can't do this alone. And so we're developing ecosystems and partnerships to really drive the level of transformational changes consistent with the scale of built technologies."

4. Upholding ethics and privacy

The last moonshot pillar focuses on "fully automating our data control process in our own backyard, making it easier for customers to control personalization," said Sooji Seo, vice president and chief privacy officer at Dell Technologies, during the session. 

Dell designs its tech with customer privacy in mind and transparency at the forefront, Seo said. 

Currently, Michael Dell and a roundtable of tech professionals are urging Congress to pass comprehensive consumer privacy legislation in the US, because consumers "deserve transparency and control over their data," Seo said. 

"We believe [ethics and privacy] is in our culture," Seo said. "It's in our DNA." 

How other organizations can inspire change 

Dell has been working on these initiatives for years. "Some people forget that 35 years ago, some of our earliest designs put out by Michael Dell thought about things like design for serviceability, design for upgradability. And these naturally lend themselves to this concept of design for a cyclability," Lear said.

"Dell was the first technology company to launch an unconscious bias training and development. And we started nearly 10 years ago," Quintos said. "You've got to look for people that are making the commitment, but at the same time are driving the programs either internally or externally to make the environment a place where people of any ethnic background, gender, and age feel like they can be successful" 

While setting numbers and goals are nice, nothing is going to change if the company doesn't change its own culture to reflect its initiatives, Quintos said. 

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