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The Eco Advocates program is tackling the biggest contributor to HP’s carbon footprint: customer product use, which contributes more than half of the company’s 49 million tonnes of C02 emissions.

From marketing the first inkjet with two-sided printing, to manufacturing the most ink cartridges with closed-loop recycled plastic, to being among the first companies globally to publish its complete carbon footprint, HP has been raising ecoconsciousness for over half a century. 

That’s why it’s no surprise that HP’s Eco Advocates program is still groundbreaking eight years post-launch. The program is part of HP Living Progress – HP’s business strategy for bringing people and technology together to solve society’s toughest challenges. True to this commitment, Eco Advocates tackle HP’s largest carbon footprint area: customer use of HP products. “With 54 percent of HP’s carbon footprint attributed to customer product use, this is key to being a responsible corporation,” says Frances Edmonds, Director of Environmental programs for HP Canada and cofounder with Lloyd Bryant, Managing Director of HP Canada, of Eco Advocates. Bryant and Edmonds' leadership coupled with the execution prowess of Randi Braunwalder, Americas Regional Manager HP Product & Service Sustainability and Compliance, expanded Eco Advocates from a Canadian to a global program in 2013. 

Recognizing employee interest in environmental sustainability, Eco Advocates repurposed HP’s environmental sustainability knowledge into employee education and mobilization. Eco Advocates allows customer-facing employees to develop their environmental sustainability skills, and then, armed with HP materials, guide customers in leveraging HP’s sustainable practices to minimize both environmental footprint and costs.  

The genius of Eco Advocates is that it combines three ingredients - HP's leadership in sustainability, employee eagerness to support the environment and customer interest in being more sustainable - into a single strategic program.

The Eco Advocates strategy 

The genius of Eco Advocates is that it combines three ingredients – HP’s leadership in sustainability, employee eagerness to support the environment and customer interest in being more sustainable – into a single strategic program that brilliantly helps to solve three challenges: 

1. Keeping employment at HP a rewarding and meaningful experience.

It’s no secret that employees, especially millennials, increasingly expect their career to provide them with a sense of purpose. Eco Advocates delivers what 21st-century employees want: HP has data showing that employee engagement and morale are significantly higher among Eco Advocates than non-participant employees. 

2. Differentiating HP from the competition and driving growth.

Thanks to Eco Advocates, customer-facing staff can now provide customers environmental as well as technology solutions. This not only helps customers with their own interest in supporting a societal cause, but as Eco Advocate Carmen Chimenti puts it, “it also reduces [the customer’s] costs, so it’s truly a win-win.” 

A savvy strategist as well as a tenacious environmentalist, Edmonds always considered Eco Advocates a competitive advantage for HP. Market research conducted by Havas media, the Reputation Institute, Harvard Business School, and the public relations firm Edelman, among others, supports Edmonds’ claim. Customers are more loyal toward companies they believe make positive environmental or societal contributions. Accordingly, HP employees in Canada, where the program originated, can receive recognition in their performance evaluation for Eco Advocates involvement.

3. Reducing carbon emissions.

Customer use of HP products accounts for over half of HP’s carbon footprint, so by targeting customers, Eco Advocates positions itself to assist the company with its footprint reduction goals. 

How Eco Advocates works 

The HP Eco Advocates program design is simple but elegant. With a wealth of sustainability experts around the world, HP tapped into their knowledge to develop carefully crafted resources and training materials. Employees can access cutting-edge podcast or webcast modules on a wide range of subjects including conflict minerals, greenwashing and the circular economy.

Employees ascend the Eco Advocate learning pyramid on their own schedule, from understanding the basics to mastering how to brief customers and wider audiences as they take on advocate roles, as the pyramid diagram shows.  

What’s next

Some might call a program that improves the environment, the workplace experience, and the company’s and its customers’ performance, a success. Edmonds, however, considers it a “good first step.”

What might a second step look like? HP has already taken it and it’s beginning to gain traction. It’s not so much a step, but a leap to exponentially higher impact by expanding Eco Advocates to:

• All employees. Those who are not customer-facing can advocate for the environment through speaking and engagements within HP and with other organizations. 

• All organizations. HP now provides its sustainability resources to any interested organization or individual through WWF’s Living Planet @ Work website (atwork.wwf.ca) – even offering HP’s Eco Advocates as technical experts.  In return for this support, the program cleverly asks users to pledge three actions that drive the program’s long-term success:

1. Implement at least one workplace footprint reduction activity (such as waste, paper, energy, travel, procurement, sustainability reporting or green IT).

2. Participate in two WWF campaigns (such as The Great Canadian Shoreline cleanup, Earth Hour or the Smart Office Challenge).

3. Fundraise for WWF-Canada’s conservation programs in the Arctic, in oceans and freshwater across the country.

The program boasts over 1,100 Living Planet @ Work external champions (registered users who have taken the pledge) and over $500,000 raised for WWF – plus recognition from Ivey and other business schools and two Clean50 Top Projects awards. 

Edmonds clearly has a third step, and likely more, up her sleeve. She admits to scheming ways for HP Eco Advocates / WWF Living Planet @ Work to support each of the 16 million people who make up the Canadian workforce to consider the environment in the over a billion workplace decisions they make every day. Consider this your warning. If she hasn’t already, Edmonds aims to change your job. 

Since 1987, HP has recovered more than 1.6 million tonnes of computer hardware and HP supplies for reuse and recycling. Learn more about HPs sustainability efforts here.

Bea is the founder and president of VeraWorks and author of a job purposing blog. 

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