As global governments and societies gear up for economic recovery efforts in a post-pandemic world, we have the chance to reset and build back better through a long-term sustainable and environmentally focused approach.
Addressing the climate crisis and realising the aim of achieving a climate-neutral Europe requires businesses to break down goals into small actions – and for Dell Technologies, actions that add up to a big impact.
Since we first shared greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data in 2002, we have worked to reduce our carbon footprint – across our facilities, our supply chain, and in the energy intensity of our products. Most recently, Dell Technologies committed to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 across Scopes 1, 2 and 3. This means taking responsibility for all emissions in the design, building, shipping and use of products, reducing them as close to zero as possible and neutralising what remains.
We are making a lot of progress today and over the next decade.
Our focus on addressing environmental challenges spans decades and is a core part of our business. We embed environmental commitments and ethical practices into everything we do, being accountable for our actions while driving improvements wherever and whenever possible.
Driving sustainability in our products
The linear design model of creating products with new materials, using them, and then throwing them away has been the conventional paradigm for centuries. Despite efforts to encourage recycling, our world is still coping with the environmental impact of this model – in landfills, oceans, and waterways.
To put this into perspective for electronics, in 2019, only 17.4% of the 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste generated globally was recycled properly. We believe there is a better way – it’s called circularity. Dell Technologies has been working on circular design for more than a decade, starting with our first OptiPlex desktop made with recycled plastics in 2007. But as an industry, we need to move faster. We need to move together. Which is why Dell Technologies set this moonshot goal for the future:
By 2030, for every product a customer buys, we will reuse or recycle an equivalent product, and 100% of our packaging and more than half of our product content will be made from recycled or renewable material.
To get there, we are trying and testing new materials, reinventing processes, and pushing product design to the limits of what is possible. This is the challenge we gave our team of industrial and user experience professionals. What they delivered was the start of a new future circular design vision across all our product lines covering:
- Reincarnation and longer lives: We will strive to design products that can be ‘reincarnated’ having multiple lives by enabling repeated lifecycles of reuse or upcycling. This will push the boundaries of easy assembly and fast disassembly. Imagine a design that allows a product to break down to the component level with the removal of a single pin – that’s our goal. Further out in our planning stages, we are focusing on how as-a-Service models allow us to design equipment that improves over time. Using 5G and strong cloud connectivity for regular, automatic updates, we can make products that don’t degrade, they get better.
- A focus on the sustainable core: The biggest impact on PCs will come by making the components to be more sustainable. Internal components and motherboards are some of the most carbon-intensive items to manufacture. We are looking to reduce how much we use, use recycled and renewable materials when possible, and shift to reuse of whole components, building a ‘new’ product around existing resources and giving them a second life.
- The power of artificial intelligence and data: We are exploring how to use artificial intelligence to design for behaviour change, predict failures, and energy efficiency. An example is a ‘self-healing’ device that repairs itself through AI and machine learning. We’re building dashboards for IT admins to analyse the performance of their technology ‘fleet’ and its impact on the company’s carbon footprint. For consumers, we are planning apps to guide them on sustainable use and aid in recycling when a product is approaching the end of its usefulness.
This new circular design vision works towards creating solutions that will reduce waste, extend the life of technology, and bring everlasting positive environmental impact. But it’s not enough to just create change for ourselves and reach our own 2030 and 2050 goals. It will take industry-wide action to rethink existing approaches and move to designing an entire product for circularity. This is why we recently joined the Circular Electronics Partnership, the first private sector alliance for circular electronics.
Realising a circular recovery together
We now stand at a critical moment in time, with a chance to reset, recover and reshape a new era of circularity. With governments leading the way on global economic recovery, the opportunity to collaborate and place sustainability at the heart of business processes has never been greater.
As part of Europe’s green and digital transition, governments and public leaders can use their procurement power to incentivise and boost demand for sustainable and circular IT while modernising technology infrastructures. By implementing a truly collaborative approach and eliminating roadblocks, together we can take circularity to a higher level.