• Carolina MIlanesi

Today, in Tech, Who You Are as a Brand Matters as Much as What You Do

This week, Dell Technologies (Dell) hosted its Tech Summit, where they announced the new Dell Technologies on Demand and Dell EMC Power One. But these new solutions shared the stage with Dell Technologies' vision for 2030 and their "Progress Made Real" initiative. Built on their core technology competencies, as well as their reach and scale, Dell shared a set of clear goals aimed at positively impacting the world in four key areas: sustainability, inclusion, transforming lives with technology, and upholding ethics and privacy.


Many companies across tech talk about social responsibility, but I have yet to find one brand that sets clear and measurable goals, across four key areas that are impacting society and the environment in the way Dell has done with this initiative. Of course, efforts such as "Progress Made Real" are great marketing drivers, but to tell the difference between a marketing exercise and a real business imperative, you simply look at how quantifiable the goals are. They will determine how accountable the company will be.


Sustainability


When I discuss stainability in tech, some people argue that part of the problem could be solved by holding on to products longer. But the reality is that, even if durability is improving and software keeps the product fresh for longer, technology drives frequent upgrade cycles. Designing products with sustainability in mind means making choices on materials to be used for the hardware and the packaging, the methods of delivery, and addressing the point of the waste generated by these upgrade cycles.


Some of these decisions impact your bottom line, which might make the investment harder to justify if you only think of the good of the planet, but so much easier to justify if you actually believe sustainability drives business. There is plenty of data available, proving sustainability choices influence purchasing decisions. The Global Shapers annual survey in 2017 by the World Economic Forum found that 48.8% of 18 to 35-year-old respondents worldwide argued that climate change, and the destruction of nature, was the most pressing global issue. We are far more likely to be vegetarian and vegan, and generally more likely to check product packaging for sustainability claims before making a purchase. According to the Nielson Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility, 51% of millennials do this. The Ethical Consumers Report also found that women claim to make more sustainable choices.


The impact of sustainable choices does not end with consumers. Your partners and enterprise customers are also considering what your values are because that matters to their employees and their customers, and of course, your employees are also interested in what you stand for as a brand, and not just in the area of sustainability.


Diversity and Inclusion


By 2030 Dell wants to acquire, develop, and retain women, so they account for 50% of the company's global force and 40% of global people managers. In addition, Dell aims to acquire, develop, and retain Black and Hispanic team members, so they account for 25% of the company's US workforce and 15% of the people managers in the US. These are hefty goals, considering that the current Dell workforce demographic shows 30.4% of team members are women, and women with leadership roles represent 23.4%, up from 22.5% in 2018. Yet, the steps Dell will take in getting to its goals are as important as hitting the target itself, in my view, and this is true for the genuine effort any company makes in driving diversity and inclusion.


Acquiring talent is one thing, but educating your workforce so that you create a culture of inclusion is something that is often forgotten as many seem to miss the point that there is no diversity without inclusion. Just last week, when Facebook's employees shared in a Medium post their experience over the past six months, we were reminded of the importance of educating employees about the value of diversity. Black employees of different genders, as well as Latinx and female Asian employees shared in a medium post how they have endured discrimination and racism at Facebook. The post highlights a culture of ignorance and hostility, as well as a lack of checks and balances that should not be seen in any organization.


This is why Dell's goal of educating 95% of all team members on an annual basis about unconscious bias, harassment, microaggressions, and privilege is so essential. Despite Facebook's apology, which stated how what was shared in the post did not reflect the company culture, it is clear that there is a real lack of understanding of the positive impact that diversity has on a company. And there is no inclusion without understanding. Let me also make it clear that while education is critical, it is also paramount that managers are made accountable for the culture and the environment their team is fostering which is why having the CEO rather than the Head of HR talk about diversity and inclusion makes it clear this is a business issue not a people issue.


Transforming Lives with Technology


At a time when tech companies are often criticized for what is going wrong in the world, it is good to be reminded that technology can also be responsible for making the world better. It is even more uplifting to know that companies are being deliberate in their decisions to use technology to improve lives. Advancing health, education, and economic opportunity might not be as exciting as self-driving cars and quantum computing, but it should be what technology is all about. While one could somewhat understand, although never justify, a digital divide, technology should equalize the playing field rather than contribute to a socio-economic divide.


Ethics and Privacy


These days you cannot talk about tech without talking about privacy. But as I said many times already, privacy is complicated, especially if you are not in total control of your products and services. So, it is not surprising to find the goal Dell has set in this category is a little vaguer than with previous ones. It does, however, start with the right approach that privacy is about putting the customer first.


Finally, you could not talk about any of the previous goals without setting high ethical standards for your company from the CEO down to each employee. This is how you do right by your colleagues, your customers, and your partners. But you also need to recognize that as technology companies move into new areas such as AI, setting ethical goals needs to be a fluid process to be always a step ahead of what technology is empowering. This does not mean that you only should look at the good that technology brings, but rather that it is your responsibility, as a tech company, to consider how technology could be used in the wrong way. Your ethics will then guide you to distinguish the good from the bad.



©2019 by The Heart of Tech