Data-driven sustainability: Dell’s commitment to industry standards

BrandPost By Pranaya Kondekar
Oct 23, 20234 mins
Green IT

Leading the way to an industry standard of sustainability data, through collaboration, analysis, and innovation.

Credit: iStock/whitebalance.oatt

Industry dynamics around sustainability are constantly evolving, which makes them tough to navigate, with few guidelines, little oversight, and conflicting opinions on the “right approach” to climate action. As a global technology company with decades of sustainability leadership, Dell Technologies has a strong point of view informed by data and science, and we’re working with others to chart the path forward.

We believe that data analysis and collaboration are key to climate action. With the largest and most diverse solutions portfolio in the industry, we know each product presents unique challenges, from materials to supply chain management. Capturing complete and accurate data and understanding how to use it requires a great deal of collaboration in and outside our industry. That’s why we collaborate with supply chain partners and customers and participate in industry working groups like the Circular Electronics Partnership (CEP) to find solutions and best practices.

One best practice critical to reducing our impact on the environment is to calculate the product carbon footprint (PCF) for each of our products, so we can identify opportunities to reduce emissions. A PCF is a way of calculating the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated during the entire lifecycle of a product, providing information about its impact on the environment. The problem – there isn’t a PCF calculation standard, making it impossible for customers to do an “apples-to-apples” comparison of competitive products. Today, Dell and others in the industry use a cradle-to-grave assessment tool called the Product Attribute to Impact Algorithm (PAIA), which calculates emissions related to four key lifecycle stages of a product: manufacturing, use (i.e., energy), transportation, and end of life over a period of four years. Even though Dell and other manufacturers and suppliers use PAIA to estimate our PCF impact, there are challenges.

Databases often contain outdated or industry average data, which may not accurately represent individual suppliers’ manufacturing locations and energy sources. The PAIA approach is also limited in that it can’t account for the myriad configuration options available, making it difficult to calculate an accurate PCF. PAIA’s scope is also currently restricted to specific electronics like laptops, desktops, and servers, leaving other products unaccounted for, such as peripherals and other equipment.

As more enterprises demand accurate environmental impact information, it’s crucial that the IT industry collaborates to agree on a standard that works. We have a long history of partnering with others to drive solutions. Our participation in innovative consortiums, such as NextWave Plastics, and explorations like Concept Luna, have already demonstrated the possibilities collaboration and knowledge-sharing inside and beyond our industry can bring. And we’re not stopping there.

To improve, we must be able to measure. We use data to inform all aspects of our business, and this extends to having a deep understanding of the impact of our products and sharing those insights. We will continue to work with PAIA and other organizations seeking to find the best possible solutions to accurately capture data. We’re also taking steps alongside our industry peers to explore pathways to establish a standard for PCF measurement that works for everyone – most importantly meeting the needs of our customers and partners who share our focus on achieving a net zero society.

Sustainability is a journey that requires innovation, perseverance, and collaboration. We’re incredibly proud of the work our teams do to embed sustainability across our product portfolio. From using recycled, renewable, and lower emissions materials, to designing for energy efficiency and even recovering devices when they are no longer in use, we’re working to reduce emissions and waste at every stage for ourselves and our customers. We’ll continue our efforts to remove complexity around sustainability data so we can make it easier for our customers to understand this data and share our progress along the way.

For more information visit our Product Carbon Footprints page.

About the Author: Pranaya Kondekar

Pranaya leads the Digital Transformation of Product Sustainability Data at Dell Technologies. Along with her IT partners, she recently launched the Sustainability Data Platform and Dashboard allowing Product Sustainability data aggregation for our customers and other reporting needs. She is passionate about the intersection of technology and climate action and using data to drive innovative and scalable solutions. Prior to this role, Pranaya held roles within Services and Product groups in Dell and served as the Director for Business Operations at Xfinity Home in Comcast, Philadelphia.