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There is nothing ‘business-as-usual’ about climate change

12th August 2021 Page Motes, Head of Corporate Sustainability, Dell Technologies 4 min read

Page Motes, Head of Corporate Sustainability at Dell Technologies, discusses Getting It Done:

It is increasingly clear that the climate crisis is not going to wait for us to take action. “Business as usual” is colliding with a system out of balance to produce daily headlines that demonstrate that the effects of a warming climate are upon us.

The good news is that it’s not too late to avoid the worst scenarios.

I am encouraged by the increasing number of businesses who, like Dell Technologies, have set goals to reach net zero emissions by 2050 or before. I hope to see many more organizations make these commitments – we must address this challenge together. These commitments send a strong message to policy makers, investors and customers about the importance of facing the crisis in front of us.

It’s also important that these goals conform to what the science says is our best course of action. I’m proud that our goals have been evaluated by the Science-Based Target initiative and deemed consistent with what the latest climate science tells us is needed to prevent the most damaging effects of climate change.

Goals, however, are not enough.

One young woman, wise beyond her years, once said “the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.” It’s time to turn the promises into action.

It begins with taking responsibility – working to mitigate our footprint, shrinking it as much as possible and neutralizing what remains. We have increased our electricity from renewable sources to 54%, on track for 75% by 2030 and 100% by 2040. We also met our previous goal to reduce operational (Scopes 1 and 2) emissions by 40% by 2020 and set a new science-based goal to cut those emissions a further 50% by 2030.

Addressing operational emissions is just part of the picture. In our case, they represent only a small portion of our overall footprint. There must be action all up and down the value chain – we cannot exclude parts of the supply chain or products just because it is harder to make a difference in those areas.

For example, we are working closely with our suppliers to meet an SBTi-approved emissions reduction target of 60% per unit revenue by 2030. We engage with our suppliers every step of the way to monitor and manage their carbon footprints and, going forward, to help them procure renewable electricity, increase energy efficiency, improve their logistics, and refine climate-related measurement and reporting. This work led to an almost 8% reduction last year alone.

The challenge also exists downstream, with our products in the hands of our customers. I’m extremely proud of the work our teams have done to drive down the energy intensity of our products by close to 77% since 2011. To continue this momentum, we are developing a second-generation goal related to our products later this year.

While setting – and working toward – goals is important, none of us will be successful if we “go it alone.” The complexity and scale of issues like climate change limits what organizations can do on their own, making engagement critical.

Sometimes that means lending your voice to help shape policy or public awareness. Dell was among the first to join the We Mean Business coalition and our founder, Michael Dell is a member of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders. We are also part of Climate Group and CDP's RE100 initiative, where we've joined the world's leading businesses in committing to 100% renewable electricity.

In other cases, it’s contributing to the global understanding and management of the crisis. We believe in transparently reporting on our progress to CDP and working with (and sometimes training) our suppliers to do the same. We also helped found The Goal 13 Impact Platform which captures company-specific insights into target setting, drivers of change, results and lessons learned. We’re also proud to provide supercomputing power to customers  like the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin, helping to develop climate models.

We believe the biggest opportunity, however, exists in how the world applies technology to accelerate change and break free from “business as usual.” While the technology sector accounts for approximately 2% of all global emissions, it is the ability of technology solutions to affect the other 98% that excites me. Dell products and services support technology solutions in a number of areas that can help, including cloud solutions, big data and data analytics, edge computing, and artificial intelligence/machine learning.

As an example, control systems in smart buildings can efficiently manage power use while machine learning can help the system adapt to optimized usage patterns and reduce energy. The same approach can help streamline manufacturing, predict maintenance needs, and improve logistics. While technology will play an important role across the economy in addressing the climate crisis, we believe the areas where it can have the biggest impact include the energy sector, transportation, manufacturing, agriculture and in buildings.

It’s important to recognize that technology is not a silver bullet for solving the climate crisis. It is a tool – one I believe we must embrace boldly and use it to take action now. As the world embraces the need to reach net zero emissions, I remain hopeful that technology and innovation matched with the willingness to act can lead us to a better tomorrow.

Dell Technologies is Gold Sponsor of Climate Week NYC, and will be part of the event Getting It Done: Critical moments in the Climate Decade and how to get there, as part of The Hub Live at Climate Week NYC on September 21.

Headshot of Page Motes, Head of Corporate Sustainability for Dell