“There has been a steady increase in global corporations focusing on implementing a successful business model that factors in the finite amount of resources on Earth. While we are always thinking of ways to leverage and extract resources, businesses fail to carry the conversation forward once the product reaches the hands of the consumers. We should not only be thinking about the ways to reclaim these products and materials but also assess the means through which we can reintegrate them into the business’ commerce cycle.”
I recently hosted a panel alongside colleagues and industry leaders, including Dune Ives, Executive Director, Lonely Whale, and the above comment from Dune really stood out to me.
The discussion, alongside colleagues Therese Cooney (Dell’s SVP, Client Solutions APJC), Pang Yee Beng (SVP, South Asia & Korea, Dell EMC) and Crystynna Ewe (APJ Director, Global Takeback, Dell EMC), as well as Lean In Singapore founder Uma Thana, explored how organisations can take the lead in helping to create a better, more sustainable environment, as well as the impact they have on the communities they serve. Organisations large and small are increasingly starting to look at how their business models consider both people and planet. Why? Because there is significant advantage to be gained from doing so.
Here are four major themes from the panel that really stood out to me:
Workplace inclusion and the benefits of gender parity
Despite conversations about gender equality being pushed to the forefront in recent times, huge gender gaps remain, and notably in the technology industry. There are many things that organisations can do to help change this paradigm: building inclusive work-spaces that enable everyone to succeed is a great place to start. Uma Thana developed this further, sharing examples of where the status quo has been questioned to great effect: she described how, in one case, senior business leaders were moved to actively challenge the diversity of their organisation’s promotion cycles. In addition, Therese Cooney reinforced how sales teams led by women often outperform teams led by men, and how cross-functional and diverse teams are better-positioned to solve complex problems.
The protection of the planet
Today’s business leaders are now responsible for the stewardship of environmentally-friendly practices in the circular economy in which we now operate. Personally, it is heartening for me to be in an organisation that genuinely contributes to the wellness of the planet. Dell’s initiatives, like the Global Takeback programme and our closed loop recycling efforts in partnership with Lonely Whale, have reaped some important results, including the establishment of NextWave – a cross-industry consortium of global companies committed to broader use of ocean-bound plastics.
Technology and people make a powerful team
Technology can be instrumental in solving seemingly insurmountable issues and, as a gender-neutral enabler, it democratises businesses: networking technology, for one, has made flexible working easy, allowing new working patterns to emerge. At their heart, however, business transformation challenges are essentially people challenges: the key to maximising transformation-centric technology investments is ensuring that employees have the skills and qualities needed to use those tools to the fullest effect: flexibility, creativity and resilience will each become much more important. It is equally critical that the company’s culture is ready to receive and embrace those tools, too. This will require mind-sets to change at all levels of the organisation, starting with the Board.
Innovation is changing business approaches to people and planet
In the panel I mentioned above, my colleague Crystynna Ewe shared that there is 800 times more gold in a ton of motherboards than in a ton of iron ore, and this speaks volumes about the potential for innovation and the genuine business advantage to be gained from driving a new, circular economy model where that ‘old gold’ is harvested and re-used. These are exciting times, and we can continue to expect technology to have profound, far-reaching effects for all of us, as we harness it for innovative approaches to business and the environment.
As we prepare for a future with a global population of 9.6 billion by 2050, we are facing inevitable change in the way we think about work, business, individual products and economies. Socio-environmental issues are becoming more and more important today, and there is no way that business leaders can ignore these topics as they look to successfully navigate this future.
If you are keen to learn more about Dell’s social initiatives, do read our 2020 Legacy of Good annual report here.