Sustainable IT will become a winning pitch for resellers as a new generation of more environmentally and socially aware millennials begins to exert dominance over IT decision making.
That is the message of HP's UK managing director George Brasher, who spoke to CRN following the vendor's recent Sustainability Summit.
At the event, held in London last week, HP pledged over the years leading up to 2025 to reduce its supply chain-related greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent and involve at least 500,000 of its factory workers in worker skills development.
Brasher claimed HP is responding not only to global "mega-trends", such as the growth of the global middle class and rise of the sharing economy, but also increased pull from customers.
Born between the early 1980s and late 1990s, millennials are typically more socially and environmentally conscious than those who came before them and - crucially - will soon make up the majority of IT decision makers, Brasher said.
"I've been at HP for three years and the questions [about sustainability] have amplified over that time; we're hearing more and more about it each day," he added.
"Not only does it show up as part of tenders - whether public or private - but also, we're having specific customers calling for it. In 10 years, millennials will be more than 50 per cent of the IT decision makers, and they really value it, so I think you're only going to see its prevalence grow. Second, we are seeing employees calling for it. They really value it as part of being prideful of the place they work, and, again, this is especially true of millennials."
Everything as a service
Brasher highlighted device-as-a-service (DaaS) as an easy sustainability win for resellers.
"Getting on board with 'everything-as-a-service' is the biggest and most impactful thing you can do," he said.
"It's already the de facto standard in print, and I think that's where computing will go, and like in print what we're seeing is the larger companies doing it first. But I think it will permeate across the whole system, from SMBs up to the largest globals."
A second area Brasher (pictured) said partners can focus on is ensuring they are offering products that are easy to repair.
"Without naming names, one of our competitors has a detachable device and it's not repairable; the screen doesn't come off," he said.
"You have to get a blow dryer and blow it for 30 minutes until you can pull the screen off and repair the device underneath, and in fact you break the screen when you do it. With ours, you turn eight screws and four suction cups to take it off, and you can repair it in two minutes. You need to think about what the impact is, as that will have a significant impact on your service costs."
Head to head
HP isn't alone in raising noise levels around sustainability, with arch rival Dell unveiling new sustainability targets in its 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility report. This includes the pledge that by 2020, Dell suppliers representing 95 per cent of direct materials spend and key logistics suppliers will set specific greenhouse gas emissions targets.
In the report Dell chief responsibility officer Trisa Thompson also name-checked millennials as being part of the motivation, citing research suggesting that 62 per cent of this demographic would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company.
HP and Dell, along with Lenovo, have recently certified their PCs with sustainability body TCO Development. HP last week announced the launch of ink cartridges made with plastic from bottles recycled in Haiti, while Dell is currently building a supply chain for ocean plastic.
However, Brasher claimed that HP is among the leaders on the sustainability front.
"You've always got to look at third-party sources, whether that's the FTSE4Good, or the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, or being part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's Circular Economy 100. We've been recognised as a leader," he said. "Look at any of those and you see that - out of the major channel manufacturers in the UK - you'll see we are the top of the list."
Although HP said its carbon footprint decreased by one per cent in 2016, it admitted a shift towards more energy- and feature-intensive products saw its greenhouse gas emissions rise last year in the area of printing.
But Brasher defended HP's record.
"I think you've got to focus on the totality," he said.
"The direction of travel is we are continuing to drive it down. If you look at some of our computing lines, they are designed for repairability and sustainability. If you compare it with our next-biggest competitor, it's a lot harder to repair their products, whereas we get 10 for 10 on iFixit. You've got to look at the entire portfolio and we are making collectively the right decisions to drive down our impact."
HP's Instant Ink programme, an ink replacement scheme HP claims reduces material consumption per printed page by 57 per cent, reached one million subscribers before either Spotify or Netflix, he added.
The big hardware OEMs have been accused in the past of exaggerating how quickly their technology needs to be refreshed in order to sell more kit, but Brasher denied that such a mentality cuts across HP's sustainability efforts.
"Companies that want to flourish need to focus on what their customers' needs are, and I think we have significant pull from a customer perspective on everything-as-a-service, whether that's managed print, Instant Ink or DaaS," he said.
"Second, if you look at what HP says, whether that's at global partner conferences, investor days, or in the press, we are 100 per cent behind this. Instant Ink is a great proof point of a programme put together to drive great things that work for customers, partners and us; MPS is one of our key growth initiatives and it's the same with DaaS. These are things we are building organisations behind. I can understand your point, but look at what customers are demanding, and look at what we are doing from a programmatic perspective. We are getting behind it in a meaningful way."
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