Hewlett-Packard, widely recognized as one of the leading figures within the technology industry for its printers and computers, continues to take the helm in the ongoing business trend of sustainable branding. The company has placed great focus on increasing transparency within its production process and labor practices, as well as limiting its environmental impact, leading to it win numerous awards for its sustainable impact as a corporation. In 2019, HP unveiled a new version of a printer, 30% of which was composed of recycled plastic, with recycled plastic ink cartridges and packaging to match. HP excels in that it recognizes the many facets of sustainability and addresses them all, through its policies and programs ranging from decreasing plastic waste production to hiring underrepresented minorities within its workforce. However the same cannot be said for the production of its products individually. HP would benefit from increased transparency for information related to the processes by which specific consumer goods, such as inkjet printers are made.
Hewlett-Packard (HP)’s inkjet printers consist of over 130 substances, with a majority of them comprising of less than 0.1% by weight of the product. Materials, listed by percentage, include: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) [63.8%], Galvanized Steel [14.0%], Glass [9.0%], Stainless Steel [2.7%], Polyoxymethylene (POM) [2.1%], Polycarbonate (PC) [1.6%], Polyphenylene Oxide (PPO) [1.4%], Spring Steel [1.0%], Other Materials [1.7%], Ferrite [0.5%], Copper [0.4%], Epoxy [0.3%], Rubber [0.2%], Polypropylene [0.1%], Silicate [0.1%].
The greatest material by percentage, Acrylonite Butadiene Styrene (ABS), is an oil-based plastic composed of acrylonite, butadiene, and styrene. ABS’s popularity in the industry comes from its cheap price and ability to be easily processed and recycled, however it is not at all biodegradable, therefore sustainable polymer alternatives are more ideal. Galvanized steel, the second highest material by presence, is created by apply a protective coating of zinc to steel, thereby slowing the rusting process. Zinc, though harmful to humans in large amounts, produces minimal environmental impact, due to its high recyclability and longevity. In fact, poor clean-up efforts in certain industrial areas are the main environmental issue with galvanization, specifically waste water purification. Other polymer materials, such as POM, PC, and PPO, pose little risk to the environment at their scale of presence within the product (< 0.5%)
HP provides extremely limited information regarding how their product line, Inkjet Printers, are made specifically. On the other hand, the company has created initiatives aimed towards making the production process of their goods, in general, more environmentally friendly. Closed-loop recycling is one of the many goals HP is directed towards, reducing single-use plastic packaging and relying on used plastic wherever possible. By 2025, the company targets 25,000 metric tons of plastic diverted from their original endpoint: the ocean. Eliminating deforestation is another one of their focuses; the HP Sustainable Forests Collaborative strives to restore 200,000 acres of forests in Brazil/China by 2024: enough to run all HP consumer printers for 4 years. HP branded paper, certified by the Forest-Stewardship Council (FSC), ensures that forests are well managed for biodiversity, clean water and carbon storage. Furthermore, renewable electricity, reduced potent water consumption, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and landfill waste diversion are just a handful of the goals HP set for themselves in 2015, and successfully completed.
HP deserves recognition for its labor practices, such as its actions as the first company of the IT industry which requires direct employment of foreign migrant workers in its supply chain. The HP Foreign Migrant Worker Standard, enacted roughly 6 years ago, was created to prevent exploitation and forced labor practices, such as Chinese schools entrapping students into the labor cycle. However, just last year, the company was involved in 2 lawsuits: systematic pay discrimination based on age and unlawful terminations based on gender, with the US Department of Labor; both cases were a violation of Executive Order 11246 – Equal Employment Opportunity. Following settlement of over $1 million, HP seems to have shifted its gears towards promoting equality for all, seen on its website.
According to the HP 2019 Sustainable Impact Executive Summary Report and the HP Human Rights Progress Report, emphasis has been placed on keeping the supply chain ethical and sustainable as possible. HP suppliers are required to follow code of conduct and the human rights policy, as well as subject to the regular internal and 3rd-party-led human rights impact assessments implemented across the company. Questionnaires and on-site audits are conducted frequently to measure labor, environment, health and safety, ethics and management.
HP has also taken large steps for improving diversity, equity and inclusion within the company, through its efforts to hire from underrepresented communities. In 2019, 40% of new US hires were minorities as well as women, and the company exceeded its target goal for hiring veterans by 43%. HP has also set high diversity goals for the future, with its commitment to double the number of African-American executives by 2025. Despite these actions, the company still lacks in transparency, as specific information regarding location of inkjet printer production, and salary of the workers, could not be found.
HP Supply Chain Responsibility Report: https://www8.hp.com/h20195/v2/getpdf.aspx/c04945685.pdf
HP 2019 Sustainable Impact Executive Summary Report: https://h20195.www2.hp.com/v2/getpdf.aspx/c05179523.pdf
HP Human Rights Progress Report: https://h20195.www2.hp.com/v2/getpdf.aspx/c06637329.pdf