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Life-Cycle Approach at EMC Changes People’s World View

gordon and winklerIf your job required you to “Change people’s world view” (and maybe it does), then how would you approach it? EMC Corporation’s Chief Sustainability Officer Kathrin Winkler told me, “You learn quickly that telling them what to do is not the route to go; instead, let people see the world through your own eyes.” And what is her vision? –That by addressing each stage in the life cycle of IT, EMC can positively change the industry, economy, and society. Here’s step one.

Winkler takes the time to write the blog, Interconnected World: Transforming corporate mindsets, and my discoveries along the way, to have authentic dialog. “Today’s communications tend toward black and white, but sustainability is context-dependent. What I try to do with the blog is to walk the nuances, to do the job of influencing — which I have to do every day.”

Bit by bit, she’s influencing people at EMC to embed the view of sustainability into the company’s very identity: shifting executives’ and other employees’ thinking from, “Sustainability is something good to do,” to “Sustainability is something we do.”

Life-Cycle Approach Enables Four Concentric Circles of Sustainability It is through “changing views” that Winkler addresses four concentric circles of profitable sustainability. The circles are drawn around all life cycles of IT, and expand from the inner-most circle (most control, least global impact) to the outer-most (least control, greatest global impact):

1) Operations within EMC’s 4 walls: “These are decisions we can make and just do,” says Winkler. Many of these projects save money in obvious ways, such as the fresh-air cooling system in Cork, Ireland, which in 2012 avoided 2,000 MT CO2e emissions and >US$400,000 in energy costs. Other in-house projects are less obvious but also strongly profitable — such as the ESS Hybrid Project, which in 2012 saved (globally) US$4.3 million, 26.19M pounds of CO2e, and 182K cubic meters of water from reducing use of LN2 in EMC’s environmental test chambers.

2) Supply chain through end of life: “Through the Value Chain we save money for us and our suppliers, and through more resilient supply chains we reduce our risk,” says Winkler. Managing electronic-products’ end of life responsibly exemplifies consideration of environmental, economic, and social benefits. “We need to think of all three dimensions of each project, and — because we have influence and leverage but not complete control — collaborate with suppliers, partners, and peers.” One example of capturing economic value is protecting EMC’s revenue as more customers concerned with E-waste demand proof of responsible take back.

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