Q&A with CRN Tech Impact headline partner Logitech

Doug Woodburn
clock • 11 min read

Logitech's head of global sustainability Robert O'Mahony on how Logitech has eliminated more than 7,000 tonnes of virgin plastic from its supply chain, and which other companies he respects the most for their strong stance on sustainability

Why have you chosen to headline partner this event?

Sustainability is a key part of our company culture, and one of our core values. We have spent the past decade infusing good sustainability practices across our activities, working to reduce our impact on the environment. This includes reimagining product design throughout all lifecycle phases and progressing on several key environmental goals that are aligned to our Paris Agreement commitments, from neutralising our carbon impact and driving toward 100 per cent usage of renewable electricity, to the use of circular materials including post-consumer recycled plastics and rolling our carbon transparency labelling on our products. We believe that a more sustainable future is about partnerships and collaboration within, and across, sectors of industry and society. This headline partnership opportunity not only aligns with our commitment to sustainability but also reflects our dedication to our IT channel partner network.

How would you assess the IT channel's record on sustainability overall?

I think it's safe to say that everyone can do better. It's the nature of the tech value chain - from manufacturers like us through the IT channel - to focus on the customer and offer what the customer demands. However, it's easy to forget that what we all offer, shapes that demand. For many years, the industry has been offering choice based around form, function and price of tech products. Today Logitech, with our channel partners, is reshaping that choice model by adding carbon labelling on our portfolio so customers can be empowered to choose products based on their carbon impact too.

What does the term ‘sustainability' encompass for you and Logitech?

For me personally, I am motivated by the capability Logitech has deployed across our activities to ensure we have  informed insights on our environmental impact. We take those insights, interrogate them and innovate to find better solutions for a more sustainable future.

We eliminated more than 7,000 tonnes of virgin plastic from our supply chain as a result and reduced our product carbon footprint by more than 11,000 tonnes of Carbon

We achieve this approach via an active Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) programme. This provides a measure of carbon impact for each product by quantifying the environmental impact of all of the life cycle phases of each product, from source, manufacture and transport to market, consumer use and end-of-life phase. This LCA approach, verified by qualified third-parties, quantifies the impact a product or service creates in a science-based approach, utilising carbon as the measure of impact, that then allows us to innovate around hot spots of environmental concern to achieve something better or reduced carbon impact. We also measure impact on toxicity, water, circularity, and other environmental indicators so we have a holistic view of our impact and opportunity for improvement.

A good example of how we use LCA insights to make a difference is when we determined that a significant portion of our mouse and keyboard carbon impact resulted from the use of virgin plastic. We developed a circular supply chain that supported  moving away from virgin plastic materials to post-consumer recycled materials. By doing so, we created a circular supply chain that utilises waste material as raw material and gives that material a second life.

We eliminated more than 7,000 tonnes of virgin plastic from our supply chain as a result and reduced our product carbon footprint by more than 11,000 tonnes of carbon. Logitech is now on track by the end of 2021 to ship more than 50 million products that contain post-consumer recycled materials, significantly reducing the overall environmental impact of those products.  

Are sustainability and commercial success mutually exclusive?

The idea that sustainability in some way constrains commercial success has not been borne out by our experiences. From a practical perspective, a more sustainably-designed product or solution may require less materials, energy or resources, which in turn can also mean less cost. More importantly, less resources equals less carbon impact and less carbon impact means better for the environment.

I am also acutely aware that we are witnessing a generation of emerging consumers who are engaging in sustainability in a way we have not seen before. These consumers know exactly what they want, and they want sustainable brands.

This is also being borne out in a somewhat different way in Enterprise channels. We have observed that, since the pandemic and work from home scenario, end users are asking their employers about the sustainability characteristics of the products they are using for their work from home setup. These users are influencing their employers to ask Logitech and others about environmental credentials. I am spending more time now talking to enterprise customers more than ever before. It is anecdotal, but the message I take away on each engagement remains that sustainability has gone mainstream and sustainable brands and characteristics are a key differentiator in the battle for customer share and consumer commitment. Sustainability is good for the planet and good for business.  

What's the most alarming sustainability-related stat you have seen recently?

I had the privilege of sharing a fireside chat with Paul Polmann, the former Unilever CEO,all-round sustainability good guy and CEO activist, who continues to advocate for positive change. Paul challenged his audience by sharing three shocking stats during his discussion that continue to resonate with me.  1) In just the the last 40 years we have lost more than 60 per cent of our global biodiversity, 2) we have already cut down half of the Earth's rainforest habitats and 3) if we don't curb irresponsible use and disposal of plastic we are on track to have more plastic than fish in our oceans within the next 30 years.

We really have taken our Earth's resources for granted. While we didn't intend to create this situation, it is now our reality and it is time for us to collectively address these and many other areas requiring us to shift from ‘business as usual' to a more sustainable collective future.

What is the most ambitious goal Logitech has set around environmental or social sustainability?

In 2019, the company announced support of the Paris Agreement, pledging to reduce its corporate carbon footprint to support the ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C and committed to being powered exclusively by renewable electricity by 2030.

Our climate actions efforts are focused on 3R's - Reduce, Renew and Restore. Our goal is to Reduce our carbon footprint in support of the 1.5 °C goal to address climate change; Renew our footprint by using 100 per cent renewable electricity; and what we are not able to reduce or renew we will Restore through investments in ‘net zero' forestry while supporting climate-impacted communities.

Most recently, the company committed to increasingly incorporate post-consumer recycled plastic (PCR) into its products at scale in an effort to reduce its carbon impact and increase circularity of consumer products. By the end of this year, more than 50 per cent of mice & keyboards in Logitech's largest product portfolio will use recycled plastic, eliminating an estimated 7,100 tons of virgin plastic and 11,000 tons of carbon per year. These commitments come after more than a decade of prioritising designing for sustainability across our operations and its products. 

Have you or Logitech's outlook towards environmental and social sustainability changed in the last year?

In an industry reliant on electronic components and plastics, understanding and being transparent about the carbon impact of those ingredients is an important step in driving positive change. To empower informed consumer purchasing decisions and lead the technology industry in sustainable operations, Logitech became the first consumer electronics company to commit to providing Carbon Impact Labelling across its entire product portfolio, beginning with our gaming portfolio in 2020.

In an industry reliant on electronic components and plastics, understanding and being transparent about the carbon impact of those ingredients is an important step in driving positive change

This is an industry first and a big challenge. Over the last decade, Logitech has developed and refined our Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) capabilities within the context of its unique supply chain to quantify each individual product's carbon footprint. LCA is not new, but by quantifying the carbon footprint of each product, we capture learnings to incorporate into the eco-design of the next generation of products for further impact reduction and enable us to provide greater transparency to consumers, empowering them to make an environmentally informed decision.

Looking at Logitech's products, solutions and services, how often is sustainability now part of the conversation at an end-user level?

Sustainability is now integral to how we measure a products' readiness for the market. In the past we utilised Cost, Schedule and User eXperience or CSX as key performance indicators and we have now added Sustainability (CSXS) as a key performance indicator (KPI) to deliver a more sustainable product. These KPIs are integrated into our product development ‘playbook' process and reviewed during the design, review, and development process by P&L owners and key decision makers for those products. If a product doesn't hit certain Sustainability milestones during development then it doesn't proceed to the next step and could potentially not be launched until certain sustainability criteria are achieved. We are utilising this approach to help us engage with customers and consumers during our launch plans. I am seeing more and more emphasis being placed on sustainability-based messaging as we roll out products and services to the market.

In addition, I can personally attest to the fact that each week I am in some way involved in at least one new stakeholder engagement discussion around sustainability, including with clients, consumers, investors, suppliers, and other key partners.

There is an increasing clamour of interest around the topic and Logitech is being recognised at consumer and throughout stakeholder levels for the commitment and progress we are making. Our approach is resonating with industry and partners. The UN- sponsored World Benchmark Alliance has included Logitech in the SDG2000, a list of companies with the greatest potential to influence a more sustainable future. In 2019 and again in 2020, Logitech  won the World Finance Magazine Sustainability Award for our sector. Logitech is  listed as a ‘Leader' in the technology sector for ESG performance by Sustainalytics and maintains inclusion on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) Europe, the FTSE4GOOD Index and Swiss SIX Sustainability Index as one of the "top 25 most sustainable Swiss companies."

Are there any quick wins for MSPs and resellers that are looking to become more sustainable?

It's all about understanding your impact and advocating for change.

I would encourage any company to look at their own operations and quantify each area based on carbon impact - then set about to see what can be done to address that impact - this is a science based approach and usually allows for really significant changes to be made. Check out the resources at the greenhouse gas protocol website at ghgprotocol.org where you will find useful online calculation tools and training programmes.

I would also encourage you to advocate for adoption of carbon transparency with your other partners and suppliers. Imagine a future scenario where we have full transparency on the carbon impact of all the products and services we collectively provide. This will create a scenario where I expect there will be significant competition on reducing that carbon. We are doing it through carbon labelling all our products and are sharing our calculation methodology royalty or licence free with anyone interested in doing the same.   

Which [other] tech company do you most admire for its sustainability credentials?

Microsoft has been doing the right thing for many years and continues to inspire others.

I really admire the approach and commitment that Microsoft is making at a corporate level to address its current and legacy carbon impact footprint. I can't help but feel that this is a values driven commitment that is born out of their founders philanthropy and not one that is driven by business motivations. Microsoft has been doing the right thing for many years and continues to inspire others.

There are other companies outside of the tech sector that really excite me. The UK company Dualit is up there on my list when it comes to designing their ‘classic' products that are built to last - inherently durable and repairable - thus extending their useful life and breaking the consumer cycle. Miele, the German household appliance company,  would also hold similar durability values by delivering a quality product that delivers on its well engineered and durability promise. As a consumer I personally try to buy well and this usually means I buy once!  

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