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A Green World Focus

By Micky Baca

Kathrin Winkler
Kathrin Winkler, EMC's senior director, corporate sustainability, spoke about the role of information in maximizing national energy resources during a recent symposium in Washington, D.C.

EMC globalizes its environmental strategy

In EMC's Cork, Ireland, facility, a volunteer green team inspires fellow employees to trade disposable paper cups for reusable mugs. The effort keeps 1.2 million cups out of the landfill in 2008.

EMC service technicians avoid traveling more than half a million miles in 2008 by making customer system upgrades over the web using remote change management technology.

In January 2008, EMC becomes the first company to market enterprise solid-state drive technology (flash) that reduces energy use by up to 98 percent by replacing 30 rotating drives with a single flash drive.

From individual behavioral changes to process and product innovations, EMC is working on many levels to protect the environment around the world. But one of its biggest environmental milestones in recent years is its melding of those many diverse efforts into a formal and coordinated environmental program across the company.

"We have pulled together company leaders to drive sustainability into the fabric of our thinking on a day-to-day basis," says Kathrin Winkler, senior director, corporate sustainability. "From the bottom up, the top down, and the middle across, we are evolving into a true global community that is focused on safeguarding the environment. We recognize how critical it is to long-term business sustainability."

With that new collaboration, EMC is shifting its environmental sustainability strategy into high gear, she says.

On the product front, EMC recently introduced EMC Symmetrix V-Max (with Virtual Matrix Architecture), an enterprise storage system which uses up to one-third less energy than the previous market leader, EMC Symmetrix DMX-4. Other resource-saving features in EMC products include deduplication, virtual provisioning, drive spin-down capability, and adaptive cooling.

In other areas, EMC expects to save more than 16 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year through conservation measures in its facilities. It has also reduced its paper usage by 18 percent, eliminated the use of lead solder in its new products, is composting 17 tons of organic food waste a year from its cafeterias, has stepped up its use of teleconferencing to avoid unnecessary travel, and added hybrid vehicles to its already successful shuttle program between its Massachusetts facilities.

Beyond its walls, EMC participates in numerous peer groups and government initiatives to promote environmental initiatives and set green IT standards.

Environmental DNA

EMC is not new to environmental practices, Winkler notes. The company has been taking such steps for decades as part of its DNA. "Culturally, EMC is waste-adverse," she says. "Long before being green was in vogue, EMC was taking waste out of its operations."

For instance, EMC began installing high-efficiency lighting, heating, and cooling systems at its facilities back in 1987. It has been filtering tap water to eliminate the environmental impact of bottled water since 1991 and recycling waste water for cooling and sanitary purposes since 1999.

Until recently, these and many other environmental initiatives at various EMC locations were not coordinated across the company. In 2008, however, EMC created an Office of Corporate Sustainability as an umbrella organization to oversee existing environmental initiatives and develop new strategy. Its goals include ensuring that EMC's environmental strategy is integrated into its business strategy and is understood by employees throughout the company.

Under the sustainability program, a cross-functional Green Business Leadership team, including members representing facilities, customer service, engineering, consulting, and other divisions, coordinates and drives environmental initiatives. Winkler, a leadership team member, says its goal is to have a holistic environment strategy and a single voice for EMC's green efforts.

The Green Business Leadership team meets weekly to consider ideas, confirm priorities, and produce a shared roadmap of environmental initiatives. EMC also has a network of Green Teams that oversee environmental initiatives within its business functions.

Individuals at EMC also spearhead green efforts in local EMC offices as "Green Champions." Also launched in 2008, Green Champions has recruited employees from around the world who brainstorm about ways to reduce the environmental impact in their offices.

The champions use EMC/One, EMC's internal social-networking site, to brainstorm, share best practices, and drive initiatives. There are currently more than 114 Green Champions from 14 countries.

Green from the grass roots

Winkler singles out employee engagement as one of the most effective and inspiring tools the company has for spurring environmental efforts.

"That's where the great ideas come from and that's where the passion comes from," she says.

It was an employee idea that led to a more environmental process for reusing product packaging that resulted in the reclamation and reuse of more than 1.1 million pounds of materials from customers in 2008. Employee-inspired strategies helped reduce energy use in EMC laboratories in India and Japan and prompted the recycling of 48,000 pounds of employee PCs at U.S. Earth Day celebrations.

One of Winkler's favorites among employee initiatives is a program in Hopkinton to collect and refurbish 70 employee PCs for donation to needy school children in Kenya.

Beyond the environmental benefits, Winkler says, EMC gains a powerful recruiting and retention tool in fostering employee involvement in directing its environmental efforts. Workers value the fact that the company they work for is making a difference environmentally. Further, as employees collaborate about environmental efforts, they also tend to share ideas about other subjects that can foster innovation at EMC.

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