Changing the tech-industry one step at a time

As someone working in sustainable development, I am always fascinated by events that concentrate on making our planet better and healthier. So following event caught my eye: “Innovation, Big Tech and the Climate Crisis” by Royal Bank of Scotland Entrepreneurship, which was held on Wednesday 17th of March 2021. The event concentrated on challenges on climate and technology and how we need to innovate towards sustainability. I’m not a tech-oriented person and know very little about the industry, so it was a learning experience.

Marc O’Regan, CTO EMEA at Dell Technologies, presented what and how Dell is trying to reach a 2030 moonshot goal to accelerate the circular economy.

We know that sustainability is about the ecological perspective and the well-being of people and economic balance. These three elements need to be in balance for sustainability to take place effectively. A great quote from SEOS- Ideation cards for positive impact says: “Designers do not need to become experts in environmental and social issues to make a difference. Basic awareness and understanding of these areas, however, increases their ability to do the right thing from the beginning.”

This is where Marc hit the spot. They understand that all of these perspectives need to be considered since it’s not only about production and manufacturing. What they do and how they do it also has an environmental and societal impact. It requires taking all partners and suppliers together with customers towards a sustainability journey.

He listed some key examples of how people get involved:

  • Enriching communities and strive for sustainability
  • Inclusion in workspace
  • Closing diversity gap
  • Drive inclusion
  • Environment of empowerment

So what Dell is designing? Marc said that tech and programs are created to solve problems. They work with NASA, healthcare and other industries which require new technological approaches, but that is not the only thing Dell is doing. They are also working towards transforming lives and the future.

At the centre of everything is sustainability. They have three strategic approaches: accelerating the circular economy, protecting the planet and championing the people who build their products. They are constantly improving their sustainable actions to change the systems. Such as:

  • finding ways to do a circular economy,
  • being part of a culture that shifts towards a greener planet, and
  • working together with people who help Dell implement sustainable actions through programs, products, software, and other ways.
  • There are also constantly auditing that standards are met.

A new insight for me was that E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world and that only 20% of electronics are responsibly recycled. By law, you can bring your old electrical appliances into stores that sell electrical equipment in Finland. Also, we have waste collection points where you can bring your old electronics free of charge. We have a good situation in Finland since almost 90% of e-waste is recycled. We are doing a good job, but it’s not perfect. Part of the collected e-waste is exported to developing counties where they end up in landfill or are burnt.

As Marc said, there’s massive pressure regarding this situation on a global scale. Therefore it is also a team sport and requires a collective effort. They are working closely with and engaging their own design teams, suppliers, manufacturers, and users to find a solution and change the system not only as a business itself but as a whole industry.

So what Dell is currently working on?

They are adding more resale and recycling services around the worlds, adding circular design standards in their operation concept, creating circular material innovations, and using scraps such as reclaimed carbon fibre. The result is that “no tech should end up in waste”. In addition to this, they also co-operate with non-profits. They are collecting plastic waste from the oceans and using that plastic in their products. The aim is to keep the plastics out of the sea.

They are also trying to reduce their carbon footprint by changing designs and using AI to solve many problems. For instance, making data-centres more efficient, lowering costs, risks and environmental impacts. The idea is to generate more than what it is using.

“It’s doing the right things in the right ways.”

When hearing this, I couldn’t help think that this is what the design process all about.

Post by: Tereza Dickson
Current Topics in Service Design.

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