Dell Issues 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility Report

September 6, 2011

Dell is well known for being a manufacturer of computers and is less known for its achievements and commitment to operate in a socially-responsible way.  Dell is an exemplar in this space and will continue to work to raise the bar in being socially-responsible.  Michael Dell has personally expressed his commitment to being one of the preeminent, socially-responsible companies, in meetings I have attended.

I’d like to update readers on Dell’s progress towards being more sustainable and green and its commitment to being a socially-responsible company.  Readers can learn more in Dell’s 2011 Corporate Responsibility report, released today.


 Dell was named Newsweek’s 2010 Greenest Company in America and is proud of its sustainability record. From designing, building and shipping to using and recycling computer equipment, the company’s goal is to deliver the highest quality, most energy-efficient products that minimize the impact on the environment.

Over the course of the last year, Dell began a pilot program to ship servers in mushroom packaging.  This program compliments its innovations in the use of bamboo packaging. Mushroom packaging is a dense material tough enough to protect heavier products like servers and desktop computers. And, mushroom packaging is easily composted after use.

The mushroom packaging to cushion products is unique because it is grown and not manufactured in the traditional sense.  Here’s how it works:

  • Agricultural waste product like cotton hulls are placed in a mold which is inoculated with mushroom spawn.
  • Mushroom cushions take 5-10 days to spawn which take the root structure of the mushroom.
  • All the energy needed to form the cushion is supplied by the carbohydrates and sugars in the agricultural waste.  There’s no need for energy based carbon or nuclear fuels in the production of mushroom packaging which is driving interest.

David Lear, Executive Director, Dell Sustainability, offers a few ideas about how other companies might emulate Dell in building sustainability programs:

  • Establishing meaningful programs that deliver most value to customers and other stakeholders
  • Integrate sustainability into all phases of product and solution development from designing building and shipping to using and recycling
  • As companies implement programs how can they help customers save money and achieve their green and business goals through technology


Dell targets 1 percent of pre-tax profits toward programs that benefit education, health and children. Dell’s giving programs help close the technology gap, support youth education, entrepreneurship and digital inclusion for underserved communities around the world.

Trisa Thompson, VP of Corporate Responsibility, offered that making a determination about which charitable, non-profit organizations to work with internationally must be undertaken with great care.  The U.S. Patriot Act imposes certain restrictions. A company that makes donations should not only be in alignment with the non-profit’s mission but also with the leadership and values of the organization.  Trisa added, “These are long-term relationships, not short-term, and need to be entered into carefully and with sufficient due diligence.”

Additional Points

Some Americans are critical of Dell for shipping jobs overseas into call centers and manufacturing.  While some jobs have moved out of the Round Rock,Texas, headquarters, Dell has not reduced its footprint inTexasand, in fact, employs more, higher-paid knowledge workers than were in place before jobs were moved into new markets where Dell wants to grow its business.

Dell employees outside the U.S.are really part of a global expansion strategy into new markets.  Dell can’t move into countries without offering jobs in those geographies—each country wants Dell products and Dell jobs. Dell presently sells products in 160 countries.


There are many who believe that operating in an environmentally-friendly way is a pathway to increase costs and decrease margins.  Dell has found the opposite to be true.

I encourage all readers of this article to take a closer look at the report mentioned at the top of this blog post to see how Dell has been able to make an impact in a socially-responsible way.  And, then, determine what your next step will be.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting

© 2011 Dave Gardner