As one of the world’s most influential information technology and hardware companies, HP occupies a unique place at the intersection of business, society, and sustainability. Terry Stringer, Head of Ethics, Integrity Policy, and Operations, and Ellen Jackowski, Chief Impact Officer and Head of Sustainable Impact, speak about HP combining integrity with sustainability to drive an ambitious agenda across its organization, its value chain, and the planet. Interview by Bill Coffin.

Terry, why was it important for you to have Ellen participate in today’s interview?

Terry Stringer: I have been at HP for about four years. When I started, one of my first projects was to determine if it was feasible for HP to apply for the World’s Most Ethical Companies award. That first year I performed due diligence, completed the application, and I also did a lot of research on the company based on all the things that Ethisphere asks about. What I was most impressed with was HP’s devotion to social responsibility. It really defines who HP is and how HP demonstrates its values in action.

Every time I have been in Ellen’s company or attended something that she has promoted … some of the things we do as a company brings tears to my eyes. The work that Ellen does really weaves into what we do in the ethics and compliance space, and we consider her group to be a really viable partner for us within the company.

Terry Stringer, Head of Ethics, Integrity Policy, and Operations, HP

Ellen Jackowski: I would echo that partnership between Terry’s team and our team. It is amazing to have such strong, supportive partners who help advocate for everything we can accomplish together. They are incredible partners to us.

Ellen, could you discuss HP’s history of sustainability and why it is so important to the organization?

Ellen Jackowski: When Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded our company, they created a list of eight corporate objectives. And one of the objectives that they put on that list, next to revenue and profit, was global citizenship. Today, we call that sustainable impact. But they had a clear sense of the responsibility of a corporation to society.

And that only continues to get stronger as the company has grown, so we can thank Bill and Dave for embedding those values and our focus on sustainability at an early age.

When HP separated from Hewlett Packard Company, that was another moment in time where our CEO and board at the time really doubled down on our focus in this space. This past year, HP announced some of its most comprehensive and ambitious goals across each of our sustainable impact pillars—climate action, human rights, and digital equity—so we now have an ambitious agenda in front of us. We are always raising the bar, not just on ourselves but on our industry as well, to provide value in this space to all the communities that we serve around the world.

What is digital equity?

Ellen Jackowski: It’s the aspect of solving the digital divide, which during, of course, the pandemic we’ve seen increase more than ever before, so making sure that we’re focusing on identifying the marginalized communities—women and girls, people with disabilities, people of color—and ensuring that they have the right technology tools and access to education, health care and economic opportunity.

Can you talk about specific initiatives of HP’s sustainability program that are helping to move the needle within the organization?

Ellen Jackowski: Even though sustainability is in our DNA, there is more pressure on this from our customers than ever before, and that is important. In fact, this past year, we saw $3.5 billion in new sales due in part to our actions on sustainable impact. That is up from about a billion dollars the year before. That tells you how important sustainability is to our customers, investors, and all the different markets we serve.

We know that our consumers are making choices based on the sustainability benefits of our products and services. We calculate that at the enterprise level through our RFP process. We establish metrics where, if an enterprise RFP customer is asking about our carbon footprint, or the energy efficiency features of our products, or our human rights record, or whatever it may be, we can tick the boxes in our system that say this customer is interested in our sustainable impact actions. If we win that deal, then that goes into that calculation. We are working on automating how to understand our customer sentiments changing in this space, and our metrics and measurements there are certainly getting better.

Ellen Jackowski, Chief Impact Officer and Head of Sustainable Impact, HP

We set ambitious climate goals this past year, and now we are deep into how we are going to actually achieve all those goals. When HP comes out with a big, bold statement, like to be net-zero across our value chain by 2040 or to eliminate 50% of our absolute carbon footprint by 2030, we know these are big, ambitious, difficult tasks. For us, it requires a lot of innovation and to do that we have partnered across the entire company to establish sustainability objectives. All of our direct reports to our CEO have sustainable impact goals and objectives on which they are measured. The entire company is shifting toward achieving those goals; we changed our performance management system this past year that empowers all 55,000 HP employees to set a sustainable impact goal in their job role. Our aim is to change the culture in the structure of HP so that every single employee is part of our sustainability solution. That is a big evolution for us; the sustainable impact team is at the center of our corporate strategy, and every single employee is part of that solution.

Could you give an example of how HP’s sustainability efforts made a local impact somewhere?

Ellen Jackowski: There are a lot of really strong examples across the company, but there is a program that we started back in 2016.

HP has been doing a closed-loop recycling process with our ink cartridges for 20 years, and as part of that process, we take back our ink cartridges, disassemble them, shred the plastic, mix it with other recycled materials like recycled bottle plastic to strengthen it back up, make a new cartridge, fill it with ink, and put it back out on the market.

In 2016, we had an opportunity to think critically about what else we could do to increase the environmental and social impact of that process. An opportunity came about where we could change where we were purchasing those recycled plastic bottles, so we decided to source them out of Haiti. At the time, we had been sourcing them off of the North America plastic market.

That decision to move a portion of our purchasing power to Haiti seemed like a risky decision. But we did it for a couple of reasons. In Haiti, there is no municipal garbage collection. I live in California; a garbage truck comes around once a week and picks up my recyclables and my waste. That does not happen in Haiti. When someone consumes a beverage, the plastic bottle goes on the ground or into a canal that washes out to the ocean, helping to create part of the significant ocean plastic pollution problem that we are all facing. By sourcing from there, we are stopping those bottles from flowing into the ocean.

But we are also creating livable wage jobs that are sustainable for the long term. We make a lot of ink cartridges. We use over a million plastic bottles a day. These are sustainable, long-term jobs. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and to date, we have created over 1,100 income opportunities by upcycling over 100 million bottles into our products.

We have scale at HP. When we decide to buy from somebody, it is a meaningful purchase. Now we have more than 300 HP products that are using this material, so by challenging ourselves in our procurement decisions, what we see in Haiti is that we are absolutely changing lives. And not just of the collectors but also their children. We have been able to put over 150 children of our plastic collectors in school since we launched that project. We are helping to support those schools with HP PCs and printers. We see the children in one of those classrooms, using an HP printer, and what is inside that printer is the ink cartridge that their parents helped build. That brings dignity to the work of plastic collection, which is increasingly important for a company like HP as we move to a circular, regenerative economy.

That is a terrific story of global scope and local impact. Terry, how do you create a centralized ethics and compliance program that is global in scope, but local in execution?

Terry Stringer: I have folks in Mexico, India, and here in the U.S. I am in Houston, and I also have team members that are in California. Try putting a good meeting time on the calendar that works for everybody, and you get a flavor of what we have to go through whenever we are trying to introduce anything to the company. My team actually provides a good opportunity both to test things from a cultural perspective as well as to address the logistical challenges that we are likely to face because of the global nature of the company.

What particular ethical challenges to your industry does your program seek to address?

Terry Stringer: Privacy and data stewardship are focus areas for the tech industry. At HP, we view privacy as a fundamental human right. We are also constantly monitoring our data usage, artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to ensure compliance with regulations and that the data generated by these innovations continues to produce intended results. This diligence is important for us to enable trust with our customers, partners, society, our employees and all stakeholders in the way that we protect and use data. To ensure our understanding of what data is and how it should be used and protected, we are all required to take a data privacy course. The course culminates in a pledge in which we affirm the principles and procedures to which we will adhere to enable trust and good stewardship of all the data under our control.

Ellen, you mentioned how the founders established global citizenship as an organizational value. How does the work that you and Terry do reflect HP’s mission, vision, and values today?

Ellen Jackowski: It is really tightly aligned. What fundamentally underlies Hewlett and Packard’s intentions around sustainable impact, as well as ethics and compliance, is how we, as a company, take our responsibility as an actor in society and make sure that we hold ourselves to the highest standard.

The ethics and compliance office and the sustainable impact team share that ethos. But that all stems from the serious responsibility our founders felt that the company has to society.

Terry Stringer: You often hear from regulators and others to strive to produce a culture of compliance within an organization. I prefer to reframe or approach a culture of compliance from a different perspective. I like the way we do it at HP: we strive to create a culture of purpose and integrity.