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In this interview (How Dell Turned Bamboo and Mushrooms Into Environmental-Friendly Packaging) by MIT Sloan Management Review, John Pflueger, Principal Environmental Strategist for Dell, talks about innovations in packaging, Dell’s sustainability structure, and goal setting.  It is always refreshing to learn about how Big Business successfully integrates sustainability into their business model.  The article gives examples of two key concepts:  sustainability fosters supply chain innovation and corporate sustainability needs centralized leadership.

Fostering Supply Chain Innovation

Dell wanted a new kind of packaging for their high-tech products.  They wanted something that was sourced near the point of use to limit resources used in transportation of the packaging materials, something that was easy to replace, and something that could be recycled and composted.  So they found a Chinese company that was interested in using bamboo, native to China and rapidly renewable, the same way that paper is used to make cardboard packaging.  This story is a great example of how a corporation can foster supply chain innovation through sustainability planning.  Dell was involved in the development of the product, making sure that it was sourced sustainably according to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) guidelines, and they even walked the supply chain.  The result is an FSC-certified bamboo cardboard packaging material that achieves Dell’s goal of a new type of packaging and gives the supplier an innovative material that now packages many other Chinese made products.


The Need for Centralized Leadership

Pfleuger describes Dell’s sustainability structure at “hub and spoke”.  They have a core group who all report to the executive director for sustainability, and a larger group of people who are experts in their particular areas of interest.  This structure allows the team to set goals that are of shared interest in multiple organizations within Dell.  For example, a particular goal related specifically to water use and management will require input and knowledge from both supply chain and facilities organizations, among others.  This type of centralized leadership allows the company to more efficiently and effectively accomplish their sustainability goals by funneling all things sustainability down through one leader.  Without a centralized leader, each department or organization creates initiatives in silos and there is potential for overlap, which leads to doubling efforts, wasting time and money.  Additionally, this centralized leadership should be connected to all areas of interest within the company.  If sustainability is operating in a silo, the goals and initiatives may not align at all with what the departments need.


Check out this video by Dell on FSC-certified bamboo packaging: