The COVID-19 pandemic shined an unflattering light on the need for further advancements in equality and equity, as well as growing concerns for sustainability post-pandemic. As our team began to study the cause and effect of these dire circumstances, we noticed three key trends and opportunities that will impact all of our futures.

1. From digital divide to digital parity

Nearly half of the world’s population remains unconnected to the Internet and locked out of opportunity. Inequality in access to the Internet and communication services, known as the digital divide, affects 52% of women and 42% of men worldwide. That gap becomes even more pronounced in rural regions of the world or here in the U.S. in urban locations that lack affordable and reliable access to broadband Internet. In Africa, only 39.3% of its inhabitants have Internet access, compared to 87.2% of Europeans and 94.6% of Americans.

COVID-19 further highlighted this issue when it pushed us all to work and study from home. Take education, for example. Pre-COVID, roughly 260M children were not in school, which soared to 460M. However, according to the United Nations, almost half of the earth’s inhabitants — some 3.6 billion people — did not even have access to the Internet at the end of 2019. It is nearly impossible to work or study from home without access to the Internet.

There’s also a cost to digital equity. The U.S. alone loses more than $130 million a day in economic activity when people aren’t online.

Closing the digital divide will take trillions of dollars, and no one company can solve it alone. Yet digital equity is indispensable for exercising fundamental human rights, including access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity.

The HP Refresh Program aims to empower communities by providing schools with the resources to equip every student with the tech they need. HP software helps organizers restore previously used PCs, providing a workaround that avoids dipping into already-strained school district budgets. Plus, this helps to reduce tech waste by keeping devices in good condition and in use.

Microsoft also recently expanded their Airband Initiative, connecting rural areas to eight cities: Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York City, El Paso, and Memphis. The Airband program provides affordable internet access and computers. Microsoft also intends to make devices more affordable by providing free and low-cost refurbished computers and tablets to communities of color. Microsoft is partnering with companies like PCs for PeopleHuman-I-T, and PlanITROI, whose Digital Dreams Project provides refurbished devices to K-12 students in need.

HP has also set very aggressive goals to help bridge the divide by 2025:

  • Enabling better learning outcomes for 100 million people by 2025, since the beginning of 2015
  • Contributing 1.5 million employee volunteering hours by 2025
  • Contributing $100 million in HP Foundation and employee community giving by 2025

2. From business capital to human capital

According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, the world’s richest 1 percent, those with more than $1 million, own 43.4% of the world’s wealth. That disparity only grows greater when you look at it by class and race.

According to a McKinsey study, Black workers make approximately 30% less than their white co-workers. At the same time, Latinx Americans make just 73 cents for every dollar earned by white Americans.

At HP, we believe leveling the playing field is critical. We believe in creating a culture of inclusion, equality, and empowerment for our employees. We also believe in creating a platform for human rights that extends beyond HP, where we will strive to drive policy changes that fight racism, advocate for human rights, and advance social justice across the globe.

Diversity and inclusion are fundamental drivers of innovation and creativity. HP was built on the values of diversity and inclusion, fairness, and equality. We embed diversity, equity, and inclusion into everything we do. HP’s Board of Directors is one of the most diverse of any U.S. technology company. We encourage our suppliers and business partners to commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and invest in programs and partnerships that build the pipeline for diverse talent. We are committed to creating inclusive technology that affirms human dignity, promotes independence, and unleashes creativity.

Our 2025 goals include:

  • Double the number of Black and African American HP executives (VP level and above) in the U.S. by 2025
  • Developing skills and improving the well-being of 500,000 factory workers by 2025
  • Doubling factory participation in our supply chain sustainability programs by 2025, compared to 2015

One of those programs helping us achieve these goals is HP LIFE, a free, skill-training program for entrepreneurs, business owners & lifelong learners. HP LIFE is intentionally accessible offline — given the current digital divide. Since 2012, more than 1 million people have taken courses.

3. From resource consumer to environmental steward

Corporations across the globe are stepping up and making more meaningful goals to battle climate change. Climate impact on business and supply chain and growing demand from customers to buy from and work with companies that better align with their values drive these efforts.

Nielsen studies show that 66% of consumers would spend more for a product if it came from a sustainable brand, and 81% of global consumers feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.

At HP, we have long been proponents of climate action. Our mission is to drive toward a net-zero carbon, fully regenerative economy while engineering the industry’s most sustainable portfolio of products and solutions. In April 2021, we set new goals that outline our comprehensive plans to combat climate change, focused on carbon emissions, circularity, and forests. We are also working to address the fiber of non-HP paper used in HP printing products and services through initiatives like the HP Sustainable Forests Collaborative and are restoring, protecting, and improving the management of over 200,000 acres of forest in Brazil and China. Being an environmental steward is not only good business but also smart and impactful business.

Our broad goals include:

  • Using 30% post-consumer recycled content plastic across HP’s personal systems and print product portfolio by 2025.
  • Eliminating 75% of single-use plastic packaging by 2025, compared to 2018
  • Recycling 1.2 million tonnes of hardware and supplies by 2025
  • Achieving zero deforestation associated with HP brand paper and paper-based product packaging
  • Using 100% renewable electricity in our operations by 2025

We have an opportunity as technologists, entrepreneurs, and global leaders to drive the change needed to create a more balanced, equitable, and sustainable future. What steps will you take this year?

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