Corporate Social Responsibility is Well & Should be a Vital Part of Company, Trisa Thompson, VP of Corporate Responsibility, DELL

INDIACSR News Network

MUMBAI:  This interview is part of an ongoing series of interviews with CSR executives world wide. As part of our Corporate Sustainability & Responsibility (CSR) interview series, Rusen Kumar & Harsha Mukherjee talked Trisa Thompson, vice president of corporate responsibility at DELL about corporate responsibility at Dell.  Thanks again to Trisa Thompson for taking the time to share her vision, views and thoughts on Corporate Responsibility with INDIACSR.

She advocated that “Corporate Social Responsibility is and should be a vital part of any company.”

“Corporate Social Responsibility not only ensures that companies conduct their efforts with integrity, it encourage a responsible way to do business in the marketplace. CSR is a strategic imperative that provides companies with real business value. It is something that has become increasingly important to our customers and continues to remain a business imperative for us.” She added.

Below is the edited transcript of the interview

Welcome to INDIACSR, What led to the transformation from a Lawyer to a CSR practitioner at DELL?

My avocation has always been working in my community and focusing on sustainability. As a lawyer, I wrote several articles on sustainability and the law. It’s something I personally care a great deal about; I drive a hybrid, etc., so when this role opened, I saw the perfect opportunity to combine my vocation (lots of legal issues in sustainability) and my avocation. It is a great combination.

Brief us about the CSR initiatives of DELL.

Dell is committed to putting our technology and expertise to work where it can do the most good, for people and the planet. This is our pledge to Powering the Possible. We focus our efforts on four action areas: strengthening communities, preserving the environment, engaging a diverse and inclusive workforce of people, and ensuring supply chain responsibility. We deliver innovative technology and services that give people the power to do more, and we do so with integrity and ethics.

What are the sustainability and social projects by DELL India?

Following the recent launch of our FY12 Corporate Responsibility report, Dell has announced an additional funding of $2.4 million toward CSR initiatives in India, making a total of $9 million to date. Below is a snapshot of the different CSR activities held in India over the past year:

Dell Learning in India, which is funded through the Dell Powering the Possible program, works closely with more than 13 NGOs and close to 100,000 youth and children to equip them with digital learning resources through Dell learning centers. The program covers cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Chennai, Mohali and Pune, and benefits close to 390 schools in India.

By January 2012, close to 13,000 Dell employees in India contributed more than 52,500 hours of volunteer time.Our goal was to double the participation or get at least 50 percent of the workforce to volunteer over the previous year; the goal was accomplished, with 57 percent team members engaged in community service.

With the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, which empowers the spirit of entrepreneurship in youth around the world, Indian students accounted for largest number of entries outside of the United States in 2011. The third prize winner of the 2011 Challenge was the team SIFE CBS from an Indian University, ShaheedSukhdev College of Business Studies, for its project, Sanitation Solutions. In 2012, two India-focused projects emerged as the first- and second-grand prize winners, while India emerged as one of top nations with highest number of entries for the challenge.

Earlier this year, Dell awarded a health grant of USD $40,000 to the Cancer Institute (WIA) in Chennai, to support the research on MRD (Minimal Residual Disease) for the treatment of Pediatric Leukemia patients in India. The grant is expected to directly benefit children with Acute Leukemia and increase MRD research to significantly improve the treatment of Leukemia patients in India.

Contributing toward the cause of disaster relief, we announced a funding of Rs.23 lakhs towards rebuilding homes and providing rehabilitation to those affected by Thane Cyclone in South India. Dell partnered with Habitat for Humanity, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to the elimination of poverty housing to aid in the process. In addition, Dell employees volunteered their time toward the disaster relief work in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu which benefited nearly 5000 families in the affected region.

Dell is currently on track to recycle more than 1 billion cumulative pounds of e-waste worldwide by 2014. Adding to its sustainability initiatives in India, Dell recently launched a free laptop battery recycling program across India to increase the awareness of e-waste disposal among consumers.

DELL has taken a lead in Packaging and Pre-Recycling, could you give a rundown on the activities.

Packaging: We’ve pioneered the use of bamboo to protect certain devices. To date, we are still the only technology company that uses bamboo to pack and ship products. Not only is bamboo a renewable resource that grows at a rapid rate, it is also entirely recyclable.  We are also the first in our industry to put innovative biotechnology to use with our mushroom packagingthat is made from agricultural waste such as cotton hulls and then injected with mushroom spawn. Still currently in the pilot phase, our mushroom packaging is as strong and protective as Styrofoam but it is also organic and compostable, making it truly sustainable.

Recycling: For years, Dell’s high recycling standards have called for electronics to be kept out of landfills. We have had e-waste disposal programs in place since 2004 and have always had a keen interest in promoting responsible electronic recycling,making great strides over the past few years to encourage the proper disposal of end-of-life electronics. We recycled more than 192 million pounds of end-of-life computer equipment last year, an almost 30 percent increase over the previous year, keeping us on pace to meet our goal of recycling 1 billion cumulative pounds by 2014. And as I mentioned, we recently launched a free laptop battery recycling program across India. We also design our products with recycling in mind, actually meeting with recyclers in the design phase of our products.

What are the steps DELL is taking to reduce the usage of Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) and Polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

All removable media storage devices, memory and hard drives became BFR/CFR/PVC-free in FY12, and we offered BFR/CFR/PVC-free standard configurations of all Latitude laptop and XPS 13 Ultrabook™ products earlier this fiscal year, with more in planning. We continue working with suppliers to identify viable replacements for BFR/PVC in all applications. We’re working to drive meaningful volumes of commercially-available BFR/PVC-free components in our mainstream products to maximize overall reduction globally. We recognize that this is an industry-wide issue that needs industry-wide attention. Dell believes that green procurement standards and legislation, such as EPEAT and the EU RoHSDirective, play an important role in promoting an industry-wide transition to restrict substances of concern in personal computing products. Dell continues to support the inclusion of BFRs and PVC in future iterations of these standards and laws, provided that some critical issues can be overcome or addressed by specific exemptions.

DELL discloses 95% of its key suppliers and encourages them to implement CDP and do reporting, are there any success statistics on that?

We joined the CDP’s Supply Chain Leadership Collaboration Project in 2007, working with suppliers to report their emissions and formulate climate change strategies. Sixty-two of our tier-1 suppliers participate in the CDP. We are working on an internal assessment to determine the viability of using data such as this to estimate supply chain GHG emissions (Scope 3, Category 1). Looking forward, asour own operational footprint represents less than 10 percent of our total opportunity to drive more sustainable outcomes;we will focus in the next year on setting longer-term goals for helping our supply chain and customer base become more efficient. Data such as the CDP’s will be vital for doing this in an informed, thoughtful way.

We also will encourage our suppliers to use a new CDP tool to report water use. Although the submission of water reports is not a Dell supplier requirement at this time, the ongoing issue of water scarcity has propelled the CDP to develop an application for suppliers to report water usage and declare reduction goals, as they do for GHG emissions now. We will support the use of this new tool — set to launch in 2013 — and consider the requirement of water reports by suppliers in light of this advancement.

What are the Corporate Social Responsibility guidelines and reporting standards followed by DELL, does DELL believe in 3rd party assurance on Sustainability report?

At Dell, our commitment to corporate responsibility includes a dedication to transparency, collaboration and stakeholder engagement. As a result, we maintain a robust, multifaceted approach to reporting on our priorities, goals and impact; each year, our approach tocorporate responsibility evolves. We have self-certified our report to GRI A-levelusing the GRISustainability Reporting Guidelines.We are also proud to participate in the GRI Organizational Stakeholder and Sector Leader programs to help advance the goals of standardized corporate responsibility reporting.Since 2003, we have provided a detailed report each year on our carbon emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) — the largest database of primary corporate climate change information in the world. In 2012, our GHG data was third-party assured using the AA1000 Assurance Standard.

DELL largely supports Social innovations and Women Entrepreneurs, what is the most pressing issue you want them to solve?

Dell’s Women Powering Business initiative strives to help women entrepreneurs and technologists expand their networks while offering capabilities to help them use technology to do more. Our main goal is to create a growing network of women entrepreneurs interested in leveraging technology for their own businesses and for the workforce at large to give themselves and others the power to do more.

We held our Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network event in India this year. Prior to meeting in June, we conducted a study that showedwomen entrepreneurs in India anticipate an average of 90 percent growth over the next five years. At the same time, nearly three-quarters of them say their technology needs are getting more complex. We want to address those needs, and we’re committed to help power the success of entrepreneurs by developing technology solutions that help their businesses increase productivity and grow.

Why is CSR important according to you?

Corporate Social Responsibility is and should be a vital part of any company. It not only ensures that companies conduct their efforts with integrity, it encourage a responsible way to do business in the marketplace. CSR is a strategic imperative that provides companies with real business value. It is something that has become increasingly important to our customers and continues to remain a business imperative for us.

In your opinion, what CSR steps should Indian companies take to be on par at International level?

To stay competitive internationally on the CSR-front, companies must first report on their initiatives, and must follow the accepted reporting guidelines like GRI and CDP.  In addition, companies must become increasingly transparent in their progress AND their opportunities.  Finally, companies should engage in a discussion with a wide variety of stakeholders, from governmentsand NGOs to customers and suppliers.

 (Trisa Thompson is the Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Dell, with responsibility for Dell’s global giving and sustainability. Previously at Dell, Trisa served as Vice President, Legal, for the Global Operations, Marketing and Product Groups, and was a member of the Legal Team for 12 years. She was the founding co-chair of the Women’s Networking Group, W.I.S.E., at Dell, and also serves on the PRIDE Executive Board. She is also a member of the Global Giving and Sustainability Councils. Trisa joined Dell in June 1998 from the Washington, D.C. office of Seyfarth, Shaw. Trisa was a partner with Seyfarth in its Government Procurement Law practice. She specialized in federal, state, and local procurement law and litigation. Outside of the office, Trisa has served on many nonprofit boards, including the Austin/San Antonio Chapter of the Texas General Counsel Forum, the Zachary Scott Theatre, KLRU and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. She also serves on the board of I Live Here, I Give Here, an Austin organization promoting philanthropy in Austin. Trisa was a 2005 finalist for the Profiles In Power award from the Austin Business Journal. Trisa is the 2008 recipient of the United Way’s Volunteer of the Year Award.)

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