Targeting Action to Combat Climate Impacts: A Conversation with HP’s Global Head of Energy and Sustainability

by Nate Hurst Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer at HP
May 22, 2019 10:15 AM ET

Climate change is one of the most significant and urgent issues facing business and society today, affecting not only the environment but the core foundation of economies, livelihoods, food security, health, and quality of life.

As a business community, it’s urgent that we understand our impacts in the world and take decisive actions that align with what climate science tells us are needed to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

At HP, we are working to transform our entire business to drive a more efficient, circular, and low-carbon economy. We view the need to act not only as our responsibility, but vital to the long-term success of our business, the customers we serve, and the communities where we operate.

Our commitment to climate action has earned HP placement on key ratings and rankings. Today, I’m honored to announce that CR Magazine ranked HP #1 for climate change and #5 overall on its annual 100 Best Corporate Citizens list. CR Magazine ranks the top 100 of the 1,000 largest U.S. public companies based on performance and transparency in 98 environmental, social, and governance practices, as verified by the independent, investor-focused rating organization ISS ESG.

Thirty-six percent of the Best Corporate Citizen evaluation weighting rests in factors related to climate change and environment. At HP, the key organization responsible for the strategy, implementation, and tracking of the environmental policies and practices in our operations is Corporate Real Estate and Workplace Solutions (CREWS).

I recently sat down with Mary Curtiss, Global Head of Energy and Sustainability in CREWS, to discuss how HP is working to reduce our own operational footprint, with the hope that sharing our learnings will help other companies accelerate their own operational response to climate impacts.

Here are a few takeaways from that conversation:

Nate: Direct operations only accounts for a small portion of HP’s carbon footprint, so why focus there?  

Mary: Our direct operations is where we have the greatest control to reduce our environmental impact.

In early 2017 we adopted a science-based Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target in our global operations, aiming to reduce GHG emissions by 25 percent by 2025, compared to 2015. Within the year, we had exceeded that target, reducing emissions by 35 percent. In April, we announced that we reset our goal to achieve 60 percent reduction by 2025, compared to 2015.

We exceeded our 25 percent target by aggressively reducing energy consumption through optimization and efficiency projects—and also by transitioning to more renewable power sources, both onsite and by procuring off-site renewable power through renewable energy credits (RECs) and power purchase agreements (PPAs).

This increase in renewable sourcing also enabled us to drive progress toward the commitment we made by joining The Climate Group’s RE100 initiative: to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity usage in our global operations. By the end of 2017, we surpassed our interim goal to source 40 percent renewable electricity by 2020. We have now reset our renewable electricity target, aiming to source 60 percent by 2025—and 100 percent by 2035.

The best advice we can give to businesses is to first know what your carbon footprint is, and then focus where you can have the greatest, most immediate and lasting impact.

Nate: You mentioned setting science-based targets. Why is this significant?

Mary: Science-based targets reflect the GHG reductions that climate science tells us are needed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (ideally below 1.5 degrees Celsius) compared to pre-industrial temperatures. They provide a mechanism for developing climate targets that have a real-world context based on a company’s own emissions and economic activity. They enable companies to get ahead of regulatory policies and, importantly, help businesses better prepare for the future by building resilience against the impacts of a changing climate while propelling companies toward a more sustainable, low-carbon economy.

Nate: HP has set GHG reduction targets across its entire value chain—operations, supply chain, and products—and we have been doing so since 2014. In fact, we were the first global IT company to do so. How does the work in the supply chain and our products impact the work you’re doing in HP’s direct operations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Mary: There is definite synergy across the value chain. Let me give you one example. A large percentage of HP products meet voluntary eco-label standards. These standards are important because they provide third-party validation of our product’s environmental performance and are often critical to qualifying our products for government procurement contracts. On the surface, it might appear that reducing GHG emissions in our operations or transitioning to more renewable electricity doesn’t directly impact these certifications, but increasingly this is becoming the case.

In early 2019, one of the major eco-labels for electronics, EPEAT, released new standards for PCs and displays, which in addition to product criteria included points for corporate actions such as publishing a carbon footprint, assuring GHG emissions, and using renewable electricity. In our operations, HP achieved 95 percent renewable electricity use at seven key HP Personal Systems (PS) facilities, and HP also worked with our top display panel and integrated circuit suppliers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, all of which contributed to bettering our score with EPEAT.

In February, HP became the first company to have its desktops, notebooks, all-in-one, workstations, and thin clients named to the EPEAT 2019 Gold and Silver ecolabel registry, aided in part by the actions we take as a company to reduce our climate impacts across our value chain. Being listed on the registry enables us to compete better for business where there is a preference or requirement for EPEAT certifications—so that’s a direct business benefit. From an operational standpoint, that helps us secure greater internal support to accelerate progress toward our renewable electricity goal and GHG reduction targets.

I encourage businesses to find these types of drivers and linkages to derive market advantage as well as operational cost savings and efficiencies—while aggressively striving to reduce impacts on the planet.

Nate: The 2018 Sustainable Impact Report will be released next month, so readers will be able to read all about the progress your team has made in the past year to reduce HP’s operational footprint. But today, will you share an example of impact that you are particularly proud of?

Mary: One of my favorite and perhaps most visible accomplishments is the completion of the new 378,000 square foot HP Houston campus, which opened in February. We worked with Houston architecture, design and consulting firm PDR, to design a modern work environment that meets the needs of a changing workforce, and is built with the planet, people and community in mind.

The campus features biophilic design, which incorporates natural, organic elements to reconnect employees with nature. Lichen moss plants cover walls and ceilings, while expansive floor-to-ceiling windows provide natural light and amazing views of the outdoors. Designed to meet LEED Gold v4 standards, the buildings are powered by 100 percent renewable electricity, and have already achieved a nearly 40 percent reduction in water use.

We’ve integrated several innovative features to reduce energy consumption, including using LED lighting, smart shades that adjust using daylight sensors, and power outlets programmed to shut down at night.

The campus supports about 2,300 employees and is a blueprint for purposeful innovation—designing environments that support the needs of a dynamic workforce and prioritize the health and well-being of our employees, incorporate natural design elements and reduce impact on our planet, and enable us to operate as a water-, carbon-, and energy-efficient neighbor in our community.

The new Houston campus is just one example in a long line of sites we are building with sustainability in mind. Today, 14 HP sites around the world are LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, including sites in Gurgaon, India; Beijing, China; Shenzhen, China; and Singapore.

What Are You Doing in Your Own Operations to Drive Climate Action?

I’m always proud to share sustainable impact learnings from our reinvention journey, like these offered by Mary. And I’d also like to hear from you. Please use the comments below to share how you’re innovating for sustainable impact and accelerating progress toward fulfilling the Paris Agreement.