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2019: Balancing Profitability With Sustainability

Sustainability is no longer optional; it is paving the way to the future

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There’s good news: We don’t have to choose between sustainability and profitability. Studies show that making eco-friendly changes in the supply chain can improve the bottom line. Businesses adopting a sustainable approach to their supply chains are significantly more cost-efficient, thereby augmenting the company’s financial performance. It’s not just about profitability, but also about enhancing the organization’s reputation in the long term.

A number of factors have inspired this current transition - from governments implementing bans on the import of plastic waste to legislations encouraging innovation in recycling processes. In 2019, the supply chains will get greener, stronger and smarter. As a tech firm, we are committed to driving human progress by putting our technology and expertise together to work for the people and planet.

Thinking outside the box

Sustainability is a complex issue, and the key to address it is to think holistically. For instance, how we can bring sustainable packaging innovation and supply chain expertise together? Can we do it in a way that is cost-effective as well as commercially scalable?

Ocean plastics is one of our planet’s biggest sustainability issues, with more than five trillion pieces of plastics estimated to be in the oceans today.

In 2017, Dell piloted the IT industry’s first ocean plastics packaging by using waste from beaches to make protective trays for laptops.

At Dell, we are likely to create the first commercial-scale global ocean-bound plastics supply chain by sharing the blueprint for turning ocean-bound plastics into recycled packaging with other businesses through a unique open-source initiative. By 2025, in accordance with the United Nations commitment, we aim to increase the business tenfold.
Being at the forefront of innovation, especially in terms of packaging materials - bamboo, moulded paper pulp, mushroom roots, wheat straw, air - Dell’s strategy is to leverage strengths in innovation and supply chain to create an open, scalable, economically viable solution.

We constantly use recovered materials, instead of raw materials, when we design our products, packaging and operational processes. It is fascinating to look for opportunities to “close the loop” by recycling materials from end-of-life electronics into new Dell products. Last year, Dell became the first PC manufacturer to use recycled gold from e-waste in its products.

Recently, we collaborated with tech start-up Chakr Innovation, which converts diesel soot into ink (POINK) through their retrofit emission control device for diesel generators. Currently, Dell uses POINK for packaging and printing products. However, the immense potential of reducing air pollution by converting diesel soot from generators into inks and paints, which can be safely reused, is yet to be fully realised.
 Tech advantage

At present, the fast-growing zettabytes of data are powering connected, automated supply chains of the future. With the rise of the analytics-driven supply chain, the opportunities to drive efficiencies are increasing. Organizations are seeing advances in supply chain traceability and real-time business insights even as overall operations are getting streamlined.

According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), blockchain can enhance supply chain transparency for all enterprises. In the coming years, the technology will play a pivotal role in ensuring trust and safety in sourcing, as well as securing information and data about goods and services along the way, thereby making the supply chains smarter and stronger.

Disruptive technologies will drive greater efficiencies across business processes and help reduce the enterprise’s carbon footprint. At Dell, we strive to drive down the cost of our packaging through sustainability innovations. Our goal is to ensure that by 2020, 100 per cent of our packaging is recyclable or compostable.

The road ahead

Sustainability is no longer optional; it is paving the way to the future. And enterprises that embrace a proactive, technology savvy, and holistic approach will get ahead of the curve and reap the many benefits of going the green mile.  Being a part of the sustainability solution gives businesses the opportunity to drive product innovation and safeguard supply chains for long-term success. When sustainability is done right, it is perfect not just for the planet, but also for the people, and the business.

In time, we will be witnessing standard sets of practices for creating a sustainable business culture. Right from sourcing materials and recycling/composting them, to implementing sustainable packaging and adopting closed-loop systems, stronger, smarter and greener supply chains will help us meet the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.

To meet the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, all organisations across the supply chains and stakeholders from diverse sectors need to join forces.

It’s a long journey, but we’ll get there – together.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Alok Ohrie

The author is President and Managing Director, Dell Technologies, India

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