The Real Meaning of Being Green


Several Dell folks were surprised and perplexed to see Apple's new "green" MacBook ad since its release last month and we've been watching the discussions in the blogosphere. After chatting with our environmental teams about the topic, we realized that instead of ignoring it, we should have a conversation about the real meaning of being green from the viewpoint of a Fortune 500 company.


Our view is that companies who choose to lead have an obligation to be open and transparent. We have a responsibility to engage in dialogue about the environment, whether we agree or disagree with an individual person or group. It all contributes to the greater good.


What is not good is to skip steps, avoid dialogue and pray that people aren't smart enough to figure it out. That doesn't help any of us and it certainly doesn't further the environmental cause for those of us who care deeply about it.


In our view, here's what we believe companies should consider:


#1 – Be Part of the Conversation – It is important to listen, learn, ask more questions and be willing to admit it when you are wrong. We don't recall Apple joining the conversation about the environment, either via key conferences or the blogosphere or via reporter meetings. In fact, we believe Apple employees are not allowed to blog, as far as we can tell. If you want to make "big claims," you should be willing to tell "big stories" in an open environment and let others critique your efforts. Don't skip this step and go right to ads that may not even be truthful.


#2 – Stretch Goals are Different than Wild Claims – We have repeatedly said we want to be the greenest technology company on the planet. This is our aspiration. It really motivates us inside Dell to chase this goal. It's very different than saying "we have the greenest laptops," which Apple has said. Apple hasn't stated any goals, just made claims, which as far as we can tell, are not accurate. Our Latitude E-series makes energy efficiency, the use of BFR/PVC-free components and the elimination of mercury a priority. They were designed and built with the environment and easy accessibility in mind, arguably more so than the Macbook. In our view, our work is far from over, but we're encouraged by the progress we are making.


 #3 – Focus on Actions, Not Ads – we are highly focused on tangible actions, not rhetoric. It was in one of our regular sustainability meetings that Michael challenged us to offer free recycling worldwide for consumers. A big goal and we did it. We hope Apple does the same someday. We challenged ourselves in 2007 to meet a carbon-neutral goal for our operations in 2008 and we did it in August, about five months ahead of schedule. We hope Apple decides to do the same. We challenged ourselves to see how much packaging we could reduce and this led to our recent announcement that we'll eliminate 20 million pounds of laptop and desktop shipping materials. Again, same point. It's why we ask our primary suppliers to disclose GHG emissions data during quarterly business reviews. It's why we have green teams at Dell inside our company continually telling us how we can improve our lighting or flooring or any other aspect of our facilities. And it's why our engineers remain highly focused on ensuring our product line becomes increasingly green across the board. It's become a point of pride for our employees to reach and exceed each goal.


We wish Apple would be more bold in making a difference rather than making ads. If they do both, then fantastic, run all the ads you want. But don't forget what this is all about. And, remember, we're just getting started.

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  • alexandrews1981

    Two old adages come to mind, “talk is cheap,” and “action speaks louder than words.” Attempts to invalidate a competitors efforts merely because you do it differently is . My question would be why Dell does not advertise what environmental “value” its products have.

    As a technology consumer, I have never heard Dell’s claim to “want to be the greenest technology” Ease of accessibility is “arguably” a mater of opinion, and operating system. I shop and evaluate many competitors, for consultation.

    Their ad is a focus on an action. Your response to the ad is fallacious rhetoric. Your company offering recycling should not be necessary, a normal facility should be able to take the product, or break down its components.

    I will add finally, that I am glad I do not work at Apple in this instance as I can blog as an Apple and IBM Compatible user. Apple has been involved with, and specialized in the personal computing industry longer than anyone in the industry today. Moreover, they have been working on the environmental footprint of their products without the need for public posturing, and rhetoric.

    I also agree this link is valuable,

  • DELL-Bob P

    I appreciate the comments. Alexander1981 said he never heard our aspiration to be the greenest technology company on the planet, so I'm including a link to a tech outlet at that occurred after we announced our goal on June 5, 2007. Etherkiller provides a good update about Apple. So I am very clear, any changes by ANY company to improve the environment are always good to hear. My points in the blog post is that Apple is making claims that are not accurate and they are not stepping up in many very straightforward ways, although I hope they do so in the future.
    Apple is not offering free consumer recycling worldwide. That's a fact. Yes, it would be great if everyone could have a drop-off point and this just happened naturally, but the reality is this doesn't just happen and it requires companies to step up and make it easier, which we are doing. Reducing carbon is important. If Apple has carbon neutrality goals, it would be great to hear them. Reducing packaging is important. This is why we are eliminating 20 million pounds of packaging (see announcement this week). Launching products with EPEAT Gold status is important. There are many aspects to improving our environmental impact and we're pursuing as many as we can. I'll stick to my first point that action is more important than cute ads. In fact, I agree with Alexander1981 on this very point. It's exactly what we are focused on. I appreciate the dialogue. All the best

  • reagan9000

    I know that Dell offers a great recycling program for its products. Where do the components end up – recycled in the US or shipped overseas? This is a key issue for many companies' environmentally friendly efforts.

  • DELL-Bob P

    Reagan 9000, good question, thanks. In our sustainability report, we outline our commitment. Here is exactly what we say: "We believe that no computer, materials or component should go to waste. We also believe that all manufacturers should partner with consumers and government to recover and sustainably recycle electronic products at end of life to ensure that all e-scrap enters a new life cycle either as refurbished products or as
    commodity materials. Simply put, compared to other scenarios, producer responsibility is the most economically efficient approach to e-waste. It also provides incentives to eliminate substances of concern in product designs, affords transparency to downstream processes, and maintains an
    important relationship with consumers."

    The answer is yes, we handle recycling locally. One program we have that is a favorite of mine is our partnership with the National Christina Foundation. Through Dell Recycling, consumers can donate their computers to the National Cristina Foundation to help disabled and economically disadvantaged children and adults in your own community. The foundation will pick up your computer at your door and put it to good use in your community. This is the ultimate way to recycle locally. ewalk153, also appreciate your comments on a separate train of thought. Agree transparency and discussing what we do openly is important. We'll stay focused on achieving our results everyday. All the best

  • ewalk153

    I completely agree with you that the ultimate path to success on environmental improvement will be through setting and achieving high goals. Dell will ultimately receiving proper recognition from its effort by pursuing a grass-roots transparency campaign. Blogger pick up on the transparency campaign and the traditional media often get their leads for tech stories from the bloggers, so I believe you will get the word out in the most authentic and influential way possible by pursuing this avenue. Thanks for this great post. I look forward to your follow-ups.

  • etherkiller

    From 2007:

    Apple completely eliminated the use of CRTs in mid-2006.
    Apple plans to completely eliminate the use of arsenic in all of its displays by the end of 2008.
    Apple plans to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of mercury by transitioning to LED backlighting for all displays when technically and economically feasible.
    Apple plans to completely eliminate the use of PVC and BFRs in its products by the end of 2008.

    -1 Epic Fail.

  • tuffghost
  • JimBowen

    Oh dear Bob! How embarrassing that you clearly did no research at all before posting this!

    "We don't recall Apple joining the conversation about the environment,"

    So, you completely missed the page below on Apple's web-site then?

    And the update posted more recently here:

    What about the fact that Apple is currently going up on Greenpeace's Green scale, yet Dell is going down. Worried much?

  • dev singh

    I am sorry to say this but from reading this blogpost it seems like a good idea for Dell to not allow it´s employees to blog…
    poorly written and no fact-check ? Huh ?!

  • eyerhyme

    Let's put an issue I feel is very important into perspective. The majority of PCs used today are in the corporate world. The majority of "fix it" shops are based on PCs needs. It has been proven numerous times that for every 100 IT in a PC environment that Macs only need 2-5 IT. SO… let's start adding in the hydro used by these extra 95+ IT staff to maintain Windows. I think we shall see quite an increase in hydro from the actual computers on, lights on, AC/Heat on, burning of natural gas, transportation pollution, etc. etc. In other words, the amount of green house gases caused by IT trying to "maintain" inefficient PCs with inefficient Windoze is huge! These corporations are all about profit yet waste so much money, time, effort, etc. into a system that DOES NOT WORK EFFICIENTLY! Plus what about all those "versions" of stupid expensive Windows Vista (especially Ultimate) with their plastic boxing, etc. instead of one small, nicely packaged, very little plastic, properly priced box of OSX Leopard? Or that my Mom's 11 year old Powerbook G3 can still run that last version of OSX "Tiger"10.4.11. How many PCs that are 11 years old can run the latest version of WinXP? Pretty much NONE! I think the landfill is piling up even more now. The only PR I see here is a cheap publicity stunt by Dell's Bob P to slam Apple. This "comment" on Apple being Green is dribble. Face up to the REAL facts.

  • rapid13

    Apple isn't 'stepping up'? Because they don't want their products and yours linked in consumers' minds in any way (and let's be honest, who can blame them) you claim they aren't being 'transparent'? Apple was brave enough to put a national TV ad out there claiming to have the greenest laptops KNOWING that there are literally millions wishing to disprove the claim. Where is Dell's national TV ad about being green? Oh wait – you're still trying to achieve what Apple already has. While you are trying to open a dialog about being green with industry insiders, Apple has forced your closed door open and aired the topic on national TV allowing ALL people to get involved. Who's not being transparent here?

    So while Dell is just getting started Apple has already accomplished what it set out to do last year and you're trying to hold Apple's feet to the fire? You should look to clean your own house first. You know Bob, some companies focus on DOING as opposed to holding press conferences and issuing press releases about what they're going to do. That might explain the market cap gap between you and Apple eh?

  • santafen

    Wouldn't it be interesting to actually do some sort of innovation in the eco space? Like Sun has done with their low-power servers? Rather than just cutting down on the amount of packaging or other fluff (which you should, honestly, have never done in the first place. Face it. All that packaging was ALWAYS a waste. It's not like it's only a waste NOW).

    Try innovating, you might actually like it. Oh, and some fact-checking before you blog would be good too. Maybe. Worth a shot anyway.

  • madukan

    Do you have a skip marked '8400GPU based Motherboards' and does it get emptied once a week?

  • bojanera

    This is great to see how responsible and reasonable the people of America are.


    You wouldnt beleive what is happening in Canada.


    For example in British Columbia, we daily melt down 1000's of computers, monitors and laptops without anyone checking if they are still working or not.

    According to the people that run the program, not even 1 power cord they have received is reusable, out of the some 100,000 computers they have melted down already. We find that a little hard to beleive. Here is more info, I am really looking for some help to resolve this issue.




    I am looking for comments from Dell users and people in BC, Canada on this issue. The BC Government has setup a recycling program, and put it into private hands. Now 1000's of computers and laptops are melted down under the pretense or recycling and being green. 

    Supposedly not even 1 power cords is reusable, not to mention not even 1 laptop or computer.???


    Read more :



    January 26, 2009


    Barry Penner

    Minister of the Environment

    Parliament Buildings

    Victoria, BC, V8V 1X4



    Dear Mr. Barry Penner,


    I sincerely appreciate your letter in response to me. Unfortunately the letter does not address the issues I have outlined in a satisfactory manner.


    Firstly, you talk about their legislative obligation to “reuse” first prior to recycling, and that it is mandatory to reuse material prior to recycling. I am convinced and 100% certain that is not taking place. I invite you to jointly tour Encorp’s warehouse where thousands of computers are stored, Teck smelter, and a few of the busiest bottle depots, so I can personally show you the useful and working computers and components which are getting melted down unnecessarily.  Items such as power cords, printer cords, network cables that are never too old and can always be reused, on top of hundreds of laptops and computers.


    I am very disappointed that you didn’t invite me for the tour with you, and that you didn’t visit the Encorp warehouse where the goods are stored prior to being shipped to the 3 recyclers (1 of which is Ecycle, the smallest of the 3). I hereby invite you to come and visit Encorp warehouse, Teck and a couple bottle depots together so I can personally show you the breaches in the legislation.


    In regards to the Western Canada Computer Industry Association, they have been greatly discredited for shipping items to China, due to their inability to pay for the work their recyclers do, so they are forced to do the only profitable thing. This is all also due to Encorp’s “monopoly” and their “we own it all“ attitude when it comes to this program. I blame them for material going to China 100% as they are unwilling to even pay us the collection fee that every bottle depot and Salvation Army receives. For example if ERA ships 100 tons per month to Encorp, we get $0. If our next door bottle depot ships the same 100 tons they get $20,000.


    This type of behavior and monopolistic practices are forcing companies in our industry to ship material to China where at least they are willing to pay for it, and therefore Encorp has to be held responsible for that. ERA has already shipped over 200 tons to Encorp, more than any bottle depot or collection depot Encorp has setup, and ERA has received $0 for its efforts, and Encorp has even refused to provide services to us, on top of warning our neighborhood bottle depot, that if they share any of the recycling revenues with ERA, they will get shut down.


    These are very serious issues that need to be addressed immediately. Encorp cannot be allowed to break its legislative obligations by not reusing material; it cannot be allowed to punish companies that reuse material, while financially rewarding bottle depots and other collection depots that do NOT reuse material.


    As you can see this is a serious contradiction of the legislative obligation they have to you, me and every resident of British Columbia.

    ERA is attempting to implement a real reuse system within this electronics recycling program, which brings me to the next issue.


    You talk about Recycling Council of BC, and ESABC creating a website to promote reuse?  Can you honestly tell me that you consider this good enough? Have you seen the website? It has 2 postings; 1 old monitor and 1 old keyboard. I can’t believe that in the entire province there are only 2 reusable items. The Recycling Council also does not allow nonprofit organizations or any computer stores to post their ads on there that they wish to receive these items. The Recycling Council receives huge financial contributions from Encorp and it is my personal opinion and knowledge that they are purposely denying the public of BC and ERA and similar organizations the opportunity to receive these computers.


    I have called the Recycle hotline to be told the only place to take my computer is a bottle depot.  The Recycling Council receives too much money from Encorp to be entrusted with a task of reuse which goes directly against the best interests of the “Industry led program” and the directors of this “ESABC”


    I ask of you, sincerely and with the best intentions in mind, to please meet with me personally to discuss these grave issues that I have outlined above,



    Bojan Paduh

    Electronic Recycling Association

    (604) 215 4483