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How Dell Turned Bamboo and Mushrooms Into Environmental-Friendly Packaging

John Pfleuger (Dell), interviewed by Nina Kruschwitz

Sustainability as a domain is moving in the direction of “materiality”–information that is relevant or “material” from the point of view of stakeholders and investors–and Dell is well-positioned to make the link between its initiatives and outcomes.

“We report in to the global marketing organization,” says John Pfleuger, principal environmental strategist for Dell. “That may sound weird to some people, but I actually think it’s a fantastic place for a sustainability organization to sit.”

Like most marketing functions, Dell’s has both the global reach and the capabilities needed to support sustainability initiatives. “I don’t have any data to back this up,” says Pfleuger, “but I think it’s harder if you’re part of a compliance organization, or a legal organization, or a diversity organization.”

Prior to his current role, Pfleuger was Dell’s subject-matter expert on data center energy efficiency and power consumption. In his current role he has umbrella oversight over a wide range of environmental issues, including energy efficiency, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, material selection use, issues around waste and recycling and product take-back, and water and water use and management. Currently, two other members of the sustainability team handle social strategy–which includes labor issues–and Dell’s reporting strategy.

In a conversation with Nina Kruschwitz, editor and special projects manager for MIT Sloan Management Review, Pfleuger talks about how Dell is organized for sustainability, how sustainability initiatives have encouraged collaboration and innovation, and the new directions the company is heading.

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