Interview: Dell’s sustainability goal is to help customers be green!

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In this next interview under the ‘Corporate Sustainability Series’, Mahesh Bhalla, Executive Director of Consumer and SMB at Dell India talks about the e-waste problem in India and the various e-waste management initiatives of the company.

Mahesh Bhalla is the Executive Director & General Manager, Consumer & SMB, Dell India. He has been with Dell for six years, in various leadership roles with Dell India and the business has seen significant initiatives under his leadership. A management professional with over 14 years of sales & marketing experience, he has worked across diverse industries like Consumer goods, IT hardware and ITES. He is a certified Quality Black Belt and is highly experienced in Business Process Improvement. He is also actively involved in Dell’s Green initiatives.

How grave do you think is the e-waste problem in India?
The responsible reuse and recycling of unwanted and end of life computers is a global challenge. It is important that we come up with systems that work to protect the environment as well as human health while remaining sensitive to various needs in different markets.

Does DELL have a target of reducing its e-waste generation? How much is it and by when?
Dell is recognized as a leader in sustainability including recycling and makes it easy for customers around the world to be green. We are actively involved with industry associations such as MAIT to address these challenges.
Through our recycling programs, as of January 31, 2010, Dell has recycled 220 million kilograms of equipment since 2006. In fiscal year 2011, Dell responsibly recycled more than 68 million kilograms of end of life computer equipment around the world…that is a 16 percent increase over the previous year. The company’s goal is to recycle 454 million kilograms of end of life equipment by 2014.

What are some of the programs/initiatives of DELL for e-waste management?
 Dell’s sustainability goal is to enable “being green” easy for customers. Dell was the first PC company to offer free consumer recycling globally and began offering this to Indian consumers in 2006 with an aim to facilitate responsible product retirement. The company offers consumers free recycling for any Dell branded product at anytime, and free recycling for other branded products with purchase of new Dell equipment. We also offer value-added services to businesses and institutions for recycling of excess IT equipment.

We partner with vendors to manage the recycling process and ensure they meet Dell’s global standards for environmental and workplace practices. Key among these policies is a prohibition on export of non-working electronic waste to developing nations.

Dell in 2009 was the first major computer manufacturer to ban the export of non-working electronics to developing nations. This includes all electronic waste that we generate in our global operations and collect through our take back programs.

Dell’s electronics disposition policy now exceeds the requirements of the Basel Convention, which bans the export of certain electronic waste based on its material or chemical composition. Dell aims to help prevent the unauthorized dumping of electronic waste in developing countries by requiring that equipment be tested and certified as “working” prior to export. As a leading technology provider, we must help define the standard by adopting stringent global practices to prevent e-waste dumping. We hope that our actions influence others in the industry to do the same.

What happens to the e-waste that is collected by DELL?
The systems are first assessed to see if they can be re-used, and if not, they are responsibly recycled by external recycling partners.

What about data privacy issues of the electronics being returned by the customers? Are there any specific measures to mitigate this concern?
Dell can help businesses recover, resell, recycle or return to lease excess computer equipment in a secure and environmentally conscious manner that complies with local regulatory guidelines. Dell helps customers protect sensitive data by removing tags and labels from equipment, overwriting readable hard drives and shredding inoperable disks.

Are there any specific gaps that DELL faces in context of the e-waste recycling program in India (like maybe lack of consumer awareness etc.)?
In order to promote consumer awareness about safe recycling, Dell has undertaken the following initiatives:

a. Free laptop battery recycling program
Dell has launched a free laptop battery recycling program in India for consumers. The program was launched as a pilot for a period of 2 months from February 11, 2011 to April 11, 2011 in Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. The program will become available in other parts of India during the next several months.  In an effort to increase awareness and participation from consumers in India, Dell has designed this program to encourage consumers to responsibly dispose their non working laptop batteries, thereby preventing e-waste from entering landfills. When consumers return their non-working lithium ion batteries from the Dell Inspiron, XPS and Vostro laptop ranges for recycling, Dell will offer a discount of Rs. 500 towards the purchase of a replacement Li-ion Dell laptop battery in return.

b. Dell Go Green Challenge 
Last year, Dell announced the “Dell Go Green Challenge” that invited consumers/individuals to share ideas and innovations on green technology through photographs or videos online. The program received a positive response with contestants submitting more than 600 ideas. The top three entries were awarded with Dell Inspiron products.
In an effort to encourage recycling of personal computers in India, Dell also launched a special discount coupon program where consumers could send their old computers to Dell for free recycling and redeem a coupon of Rs. 1000 on the purchase of their next Dell computer.
There is a gradual increase in consumer preference towards eco-friendly processes and products but we believe we need to work towards a larger awareness. For Dell, this means not a superficial promoting of just one or two products as green products but making it a part of our entire product design process to deliver more and more energy efficient desktops, laptops and servers.

Can you summarise for a consumer some easy steps in which they can get their e-waste recycled?
As a part of Dell’s free recycling policy, Dell actually picks up the unit to be recycled from the consumer location at a designated, pre-fixed mutually convenient time. Consumers can visit, enter relevant information about their computer and pick up details and subsequently a pick-up is scheduled. Requests for our recycling programs are handled individually and the equipments for recycling are collected by Dell from our consumers at no cost to them.

This interview has been conducted by Roselin Dey from the India Carbon Outlook team.

Image(s) Courtesy:
Greenpeace India
Greenpeace India

Author: Roselin Dey