The Real Meaning of Being Green

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Several Dell folks were surprised and perplexed to see Apple's new "green" MacBook ad since its release last month and we've been watching the discussions in the blogosphere. After chatting with our environmental teams about the topic, we realized that instead of ignoring it, we should have a conversation about the real meaning of being green from the viewpoint of a Fortune 500 company.

Our view is that companies who choose to lead have an obligation to be open and transparent. We have a responsibility to engage in dialogue about the environment, whether we agree or disagree with an individual person or group. It all contributes to the greater good.

What is not good is to skip steps, avoid dialogue and pray that people aren't smart enough to figure it out. That doesn't help any of us and it certainly doesn't further the environmental cause for those of us who care deeply about it.

In our view, here's what we believe companies should consider:

#1 – Be Part of the Conversation – It is important to listen, learn, ask more questions and be willing to admit it when you are wrong. We don't recall Apple joining the conversation about the environment, either via key conferences or the blogosphere or via reporter meetings. In fact, we believe Apple employees are not allowed to blog, as far as we can tell. If you want to make "big claims," you should be willing to tell "big stories" in an open environment and let others critique your efforts. Don't skip this step and go right to ads that may not even be truthful.

#2 – Stretch Goals are Different than Wild Claims – We have repeatedly said we want to be the greenest technology company on the planet. This is our aspiration. It really motivates us inside Dell to chase this goal. It's very different than saying "we have the greenest laptops," which Apple has said. Apple hasn't stated any goals, just made claims, which as far as we can tell, are not accurate. Our Latitude E-series makes energy efficiency, the use of BFR/PVC-free components and the elimination of mercury a priority. They were designed and built with the environment and easy accessibility in mind, arguably more so than the Macbook. In our view, our work is far from over, but we're encouraged by the progress we are making.

 #3 – Focus on Actions, Not Ads – we are highly focused on tangible actions, not rhetoric. It was in one of our regular sustainability meetings that Michael challenged us to offer free recycling worldwide for consumers. A big goal and we did it. We hope Apple does the same someday. We challenged ourselves in 2007 to meet a carbon-neutral goal for our operations in 2008 and we did it in August, about five months ahead of schedule. We hope Apple decides to do the same. We challenged ourselves to see how much packaging we could reduce and this led to our recent announcement that we'll eliminate 20 million pounds of laptop and desktop shipping materials. Again, same point. It's why we ask our primary suppliers to disclose GHG emissions data during quarterly business reviews. It's why we have green teams at Dell inside our company continually telling us how we can improve our lighting or flooring or any other aspect of our facilities. And it's why our engineers remain highly focused on ensuring our product line becomes increasingly green across the board. It's become a point of pride for our employees to reach and exceed each goal.

We wish Apple would be more bold in making a difference rather than making ads. If they do both, then fantastic, run all the ads you want. But don't forget what this is all about. And, remember, we're just getting started.

About the Author: Bob P

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