As a global technology leader, Lenovo is determined to create a better world not only through the products and services we offer, but also in our commitment to implementing sustainable practices. We want to ensure we’re making a positive impact in the world socially and environmentally.
As our CEO Yuanqing Yang points out, we organize our approach to sustainability initiatives around four key areas: supply chain, environmental footprint, sustainable products and manufacturing, and community investments. We caught up with our Chief Sustainability Executive, John Cerretani, for insight on Lenovo’s progress in these areas as further detailed in the latest annual Sustainability Report.
What do you do as Lenovo’s Chief Sustainability Executive?
When I was approached to become Lenovo’s Chief Sustainability Executive in 2017, I wasn’t completely sure what the role involved. I’ve come to learn it is a natural complement to my role as Lenovo’s Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer. Both roles involve ensuring Lenovo has the right strategy, policies and programs in place to ensure we are acting as a good corporate citizen. This is important to our employees, our shareholders, our customers, and to me personally. In this role, I do everything from helping to direct strategy in important areas like Climate Change and Philanthropy, to presenting to the Board on our sustainability programs and progress.
What are some of Lenovo’s biggest sustainability successes in FY 2017/2018?
On the product side, our development teams have done great work to drive innovations in the use of environmentally preferable materials like closed loop post-consumer recycled content plastics, which we started using in monitors and all-in-one desktops last year. Closed loop means we’re sourcing the recycled content plastics from used IT and electronics equipment, and post-consumer means the material is being recycled from a product that was used by a consumer. Our packaging team is also doing exciting work with recycled materials and reducing the size of our packaging, which lowers the carbon footprint of the transportation of products. The packaging team is also developing a new self-locking carton that will eliminate the use of plastic tape to seal the bottom of some of our packaging. I am also very proud of the many awards Lenovo has received for our work in the area of sustainability, including being listed on the Hang Seng Corporate Sustainability Index and Corporate Knights Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World Index.
On the operations side, we’ve done some great work with energy efficiency and renewable energy. For example, our Global Supply Chain (GSC) team has partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to do an energy survey of our Wuhan Mobile Business Group site. EDF’s energy consultants reviewed the equipment and processes at the site that use significant amounts of energy as well as our energy management practices and did a benchmarking with our peers in China. They flagged a number of unique opportunities which could drive further improvements in energy efficiency. We’re hoping to continue this partnership with additional assessments.
Tell us about some of the innovative sustainability related projects that your team is working on this year.
Our sustainability program is multifaceted. It not only deals with protecting the environment, but also with corporate social responsibility and corporate philanthropy. For example, we plan to formally launch the Lenovo Foundation in October. The Foundation is focused on promoting investment in education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in underprivileged communities. In April 2018, the Lenovo Make a Difference Week was held in offices around the world to provide employees an opportunity to give back to their community. Over 2,100 Lenovo employees contributed over 10,000 volunteer hours in 27 countries, directly impacting 32,526 community members. Since April, we have hosted about 40 students from 2 different partners at our NA Headquarters to learn more about STEM, Lenovo and our industry. The work of the Lenovo Foundation is an important part of Lenovo’s overall commitment to corporate social responsibility and our sustainability strategy.
We’re also working on the installation of two solar renewable energy projects in North Carolina; one at the Development Drive site and the other at the Whitsitt site. These will have a total power generation capability of approximately 4MW. Construction of both projects will begin this fiscal year. Related to that, we’re working on establishing our next generation of climate change reduction goals for 2020 and beyond. Just recently, we’ve committed to establish science-based targets by working with the Science Based Target Initiative organization for this next generation of goals.
What sustainability trends are you seeing this year, and how is Lenovo leveraging some of those trends to make an impact in the world?
Customers continue to be interested in greener packaging – meaning packaging that can easily be recycled where they live or work. We’re seeing increased focus on plastics recycling, which is getting a lot of attention as it relates to pollution in our oceans. We’re trying to address this issue indirectly by using post-consumer recycled plastic in our products and ensuring we have sound recycling programs in place for our products at the end of life.
What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?
Through my work as both Chief Sustainability Executive and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, I strive to help Lenovo be a good corporate citizen. This is becoming increasingly important in today’s world. Whether it is through our environmental efforts, corporate social responsibility initiatives, philanthropic investments or conducting business legally and with the highest integrity, I really enjoy feeling that our efforts are making a difference: in our company; for our employees, for our customers and for the entire world.
How do you promote sustainability in your daily life beyond the office?
I strive to act with integrity in all aspects of my life. I support various charitable organizations that aid those in need both locally and on a global basis. My wife and I have also been involved in volunteer activities. For example, through a committee at our church we helped build a school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I also personally do what we encourage our employees to do at Lenovo: recycle materials, conserve resources and reduce our carbon footprint.
Why is sustainability a priority for Lenovo? How do you encourage teams across the enterprise to consider environmental impact?
It’s a priority for Lenovo because it’s the right thing to do and because it is important to our customers, investors and employees. We have commitments from the very highest levels of the company; I present to the Board twice annually on environmental, social and governance (ESG) topics. Yuanqing Yang, our CEO, is also briefed on key ESG topics via these Board meetings and has signed off on our key policies around environment, energy, and sustainability. My team and our colleagues in related functions talk on a regular basis with Lenovo management regarding key projects, priorities and issues in this area. Support at the highest levels is critical for success in this area.
Is there any one project or milestone that makes you most proud? If so, why?
I’m proud of the work we’re doing on climate change mitigation. We have a big manufacturing footprint and we ship millions of products to end users around the world. By improving the efficiency of our operations, investing in renewable energy, and driving to make our products and our supply chain more energy efficient, we’re making a real difference. I look forward to announcing Lenovo’s new Science Based Targets in late 2019 or early 2020, which should take this commitment—and impact—to the next level.