By Chika Acholonu | Jun 13, 2016

HP’s printers, ink cartridges, and desktops can be found in administrative offices and computer labs throughout campus. HP is one of the UW’s main technology suppliers, and the company has many sustainability initiatives. Sustainability is firmly integrated into the company’s product design process, which aims to decrease the environmental impact of products across their life cycles. Due to its industry leadership in sustainability, HP has received much external recognition in recent years. Last fall, HP was named to the Dow Jones Sustainability World and North America Indices for the fourth straight year. This year, HP was included on CDP’s Climate Supplier A List for its exemplary efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.

To learn more about HP’s sustainability efforts, I spoke to Ryan Kanzler, the company’s Americas sustainability insights and engagement manager. Kanzler works with HP’s sales teams and external stakeholders to help communicate the company’s sustainability achievements.

At any multinational corporation, achieving substantial gains in sustainability performance requires buy-in from executives. A big reason for HP’s recent success is that its CEO sees sustainability as an asset, rather than a cost.

“At HP we are very fortunate to have top-level management who see the importance of sustainability,” said Kanzler. “When high initial costs are involved, one of the key factors to get management buy-in is to see the value of the idea from all angles. This includes helping to see the [environmental and social benefits], the long-term financial benefits, and the benefits from external recognition.”

While support from the top is crucial to integrating sustainability into a company’s operations, so is support from its other employees. Becoming more sustainable entails ambition and innovation, so it requires employees who are both knowledgeable and passionate about environmental and social issues. One way HP engages its employees on sustainability is through its Eco-Advocate program, a monthly webcast that educates employees on the green aspects of HP products, operations, and other assets. Additionally, HP allows employees to take time off to do community service.

“These kinds of initiatives also have support from the top-down,” Kanzler stated. “HP wants employees to feel like they can make a positive difference in the community.”

Despite HP’s sustainability achievements, Kanzler emphasized that working on sustainability at a large technology firm poses numerous challenges. Interestingly, Kanzler suggested that while many consumers are more likely to buy a greener product, few are actually willing to pay a premium price for it. Since HP does business around the world, it faces the challenge of understanding sometimes-conflicting laws and regulations as well.

Although corporate sustainability work is not easy, Kanzler does not discourage anyone from pursuing opportunities in this field. As an aspiring CSR professional myself, I asked Kanzler for his general advice to young people wishing to follow in his footsteps. Kanzler stressed that at a large company like HP, there are many avenues to work on sustainability. Because of this, people with a variety of skillsets and educational backgrounds can thrive in the CSR field.

To find out more about HP’s sustainability efforts, visit http://www8.hp.com/us/en/hp-information/global-citizenship/index.html.