Celebrating Earth Day by peeling the onion of corporate environmental responsibility
2019-04-22 | 9 min read
I pause on Earth Day to celebrate the natural resources the world provides -- the water we drink, the air we breathe and the soil that provides growth for our food sources. A single day of recognition for all that the earth provides just isn’t enough though. There are myriad ways to support environmental sustainability every day at the individual and at a collective level.
As I was preparing materials for my local Earth Day celebration at the Keysight offices in Colorado Springs, it occurred to me that supporting the environment from a global corporate perspective is much like peeling back the layers of an onion – albeit without the harsh eye irritant. It starts at the corporate level, then site, and finally the individual employee. Beyond that, there is the opportunity to influence community engagement, and ultimately start another onion peeling! While different efforts can be employed at each level, the general approach can be applied at companies from large to small.
Start with the top layer of the onion – consider environmentally sustainable products, services, and business operations
For some companies the products or services they bring to market -- such as solar panels, electronic vehicles (EVs), and dynamic energy level sensors -- are directly related to environmental sustainability. For others, it may be that their products or services are used in the design, development or value chain that helps bring such sustainable products to market. For example, at Keysight our test products help companies worldwide solve challenges and drive innovation in the design and development of sustainable products and services. From testing more efficient designs for EV powertrains and voltage converters that enable a more environmentally friendly mobility system, to testing the next-generation 5G infrastructure that will help build smart agriculture systems for better food crops and sensor-based systems that react to environmental conditions to dim lights and energy use when not needed. In addition, some companies intentionally design their products and lifecycles to limit environmental impact, such as manufacturing them from recycled materials, using refurbishment approaches for extended use, building with smaller footprint and raw materials, or even just supporting long product life to minimize landfill impact.
If a company cannot specifically deliver or support development of environmentally friendly products or services, there is always the opportunity to consider corporate operations and programs that minimize the impact of business operations on the environment. Whether it is standard process to use recycled materials in production or part of a product lifecyle to minimize landfill impacts of products, there are multiple opportunities to consider. While each business process may not seem impactful, when rolled up across a company, the results can be significant. For example, at Keysight, through multiple programs and procedures across the company, we have a goal to conserve 10% energy and 15% water (per our fiscal year 2015 baseline) by the end of our fiscal year 2020. We are making progress toward this goal each year! To date, we have conserved 6.03% energy and 15.18% water (already beating our goal).
Peel back the onion to think locally – site or function
Making an impact in support of environmental sustainability doesn’t even have to be that focused and invested at the company-wide level. Corporations can consider site-specific environmentally-sound policies and actions. With operations in over 100 countries worldwide, there are lots of things that Keysight implements at various site levels to minimize impact on the planet. Some are relatively easy to implement, such as providing recycling bins and compost buckets in food areas. Other efforts are more intensive, such as replacing high-water use landscaping to drought resistant plans in arid areas or upgrading all site lighting to dim during peak sun hours. One of our sites, our Penang, Malaysia campus, went completely straw-less to save on landfill of single-use plastics.
For smaller companies, “locally” could represent a functional effort. Maybe an organization makes a pledge to eliminate print materials in favor of going fully digital, for example. The key here is that it doesn’t mean that your company’s workplace services or environmental, health and safety teams are responsible for all the local actions. Each organization could implement their own environmentally sustainable practices.
Peel back the onion again -- every employee has a part to play
As any company knows, success can only happen through employee commitment, whether it is business or environmental sustainability success. Whether an employee is an engineer designing sustainable products, an environmental management employee planning site conservation efforts, or any individual following corporate environmental policies in their workday, every employee has a part to play.
The role of corporations in this case is to help and support individual employee efforts to be environmentally friendly. At Keysight there is a robust training and communications effort to ensure employees know and support their responsibilities to environmental sustainability – whether it is a corporate policy or just an opportunity to do something differently at the individual level. Even the smallest communication, such as an article in a corporate newsletter that reminds employees to power down their equipment at the end of the day, or note the locations of on-site battery and paper recycling bins helps make progress in supporting individual employee efforts.
Start a new onion peeling -- take action beyond the company walls
Beyond what we do within our respective companies, there is the opportunity to take sustainability into local communities. Whether it is supporting local or global communities, business philanthropy and volunteerism in environmental sustainability can help make a difference. It could be as simple as supporting a volunteer day at a local park cleanup, or as complex as enabling matching employee paycheck donations to environmental non-profits.
One exciting way Keysight takes action is by inviting undergraduate and graduate students worldwide to participate in its IoT Innovation Challenge. To enter, students must design a low-power sensor network strategy in one of two Innovation Tracks -- Smart Land or Smart Water. The effort not only supports development opportunities for future engineers, but also supports developing environmentally sustainable solutions in global communities. I call that starting a new onion!
So, as we celebrate the Earth today, let’s not forget the efforts we, as corporate citizens, can make throughout the year to support a sustainable planet. While there is always more than can be done, consider adding one commitment to your company approach in 2019. The planet will thank you with its natural resources!