HP exec puts his energies into conservation

A group of publications, including ComputerWorld Canada, sat down for a roundtable discussion with John Frey, Chair of HP’s Environmental Strategy Council, concerning the company’s environmental programs and goals.

Here are some excerpts from the meeting:

Q: How realistic is HP’s promise to reduce energy consumption by 20 per cent in 2011?

John Frey: I think it’s very realistic. It also includes as part of that 20 per cent, a pretty strong stretch by us pushing back to the power suppliers, for more efficient power supplies and driving customer demand for that. Because it’s not enough to just develop a product and put it on the market. If nobody will buy it, that’s a whole different problem.

And that’s one of the challenges we face in the consumer space quite frankly. Consumers are very price conscious and they don’t know how to fare it through environmental claims well, to actually see where their going to get a return on investment.

We’ve found that over 15 years of doing product energy efficiency is that we’re confident we can make it. I

In fact, one of the things that you find from HP, and what differentiates us from our competitors is, when we set a goal, we set it with every intention to meet it or exceed it. And we don’t stop publishing the results good or bad. In fact, in this 20 per cent case we’re actually having the WWF (World Wildlife Foundation) use an independent consultant to measure our progress around the goal. So it’s not even how HP says we’re doing on the goal, it’s that independent party measuring us along the goal.

Q: While you hear many customers saying that environmental concerns are important, a lot of them don’t back it up with action. So, what is HP doing to change that?

JF: Well, it’s really interesting. I’ll characterize customers that come to us in about three camps. You have those who are really interested in this and they come to HP saying, “we want to do business with you and we want to benchmark and learn with you.” And so we do that, I spent a lot of time working with our customers.

There’s another group that says, “we want to do well at this,” but it’s very clear to see that part of their motivation is shifting attention from some other place that’s getting a lot of external fire and they think that if they are strong in environment or strong in sustainability, it will help shift focus and attention. We work with them as well.

The third group is “we want to go say we’re doing the right things and, by the way HP, we want to take credit for what you’re doing.” And if they’re an HP customer, that’s OK too.

I’m less concerned about what their motivation is and part of the conversations I have with CEO are “hey look, if all you care about is total cost of ownership, these things we’ve been doing around energy efficiency and recycling are absolutely the right thing. And by the way, you get the environmental benefit for free.”

Q: Since September 11th, there has been a big push within HP on business continuity and contingency planning that led a few organizations to duplicate your data centres. How do you reconcile that trend, with the trend to take your data centres down, so are you still seeing a push on the disaster recovery?

JF: I think the answer is that, companies are still looking for redundancy. Their’s still an increased call for hot sites and those sorts of things, and in fact one of the side values from an environmental perspective, that we’ve noticed, is back to asset recovery services.

I come from the Compaq linage, and Compaq acquired Digital Equipment (DEC) many years ago. Lots of governments are still running old DEC gear. So when they want to build a hot site, DEC gear hasn’t been made in over 10 years. So, where does their redundant equipment come from? It comes from HP asset recovery after we take back DEC gear from another customer. We don’t shred it up or try to sell the assets. We recondition it and put it on the shelf. So when a customer says, “I need an old Vax 1000, anyway you guys can help me find one,” we are able to help them. We even keep competitors gear for the same reason, because we try and give customers what they want.

Q: What about the impact of the energy settings on HP shipped products?

JF: We have a competitor that’s touting they have this goal to enable the energy saving features on all PCs they shipped to their customers. And I kind of scratched my head [when I heard that] because we’ve been doing this for over five years now.

So, for every 12 PCs that have energy saving features enabled when they ship, it is equivalent to taking a car off the road for a year in terms of CO2 reduction. We started looking at this years ago and said – “you know, back in the early days, some of the operating systems weren’t real stable, if the computer went to sleep mode, it crashed half the time coming back out” – and as we worked with Microsoft to fix that, what we started doing was just shipping our PCs and notebooks to our customers with the energy saving features turned on.

To these the impact, we did it internally first to HP and we had a 158,000 guinea pigs, which make up our employee base. The next day, we only had like 12 calls saying – “what did you do to my PC while I wasn’t here” – so we figured that was basically zero impact.

For the average consumer price customer or the average enterprise customer, they don’t change those settings, and so, for every 12 that leave them on we get the environmental benefit of taking a car off the road.

Q: What impact has HP’s video collaboration tool, Halo, had on the greening movement?

JF: In one HP department alone – our imaging and printing group – Halo reduced our trips by execs and employees by 25 per cent. We’re now populating Halo studios all over HP. We have large customers around the globe, Dreamworks, Pepsi-Cola, etc. These companies now do their business in some cases exclusively [with Halo].

When we talk about energy efficiency, we start with energy efficiency of our products. We move to figuring out how we help our customers make their whole process more energy efficient. And then, the third element is, how do we change the way society thinks about collaboration, and Halo is our first proof point here.

We now have people coming to us saying, “would you consider putting Halo studios in all the major cities around the world and charging on the per hour basis?” So, HP is working with a variety of customers to see if that can be a feasible business model to do.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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