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Summary of the Initiative

In 2012, Dell announced our 2020 Legacy of Good Plan. This aggressive plan articulated four areas of aspirations and identified 12 goals. With Dell's supply chain optimized for efficiency, speed, and reliability, the intense focus of all key stakeholders (internal and external) is on standardized processes, cost control measures, and risk mitigation. However, we needed innovative, breakthrough thinking to achieve the end state illustrated by the lofty 2020 Legacy of Good goals.

Our challenge, outlined in this paper, was to create a framework that would enable innovative thinking and a platform for risk taking to achieve these goals. This framework was inspired by design consultancy IDEO's "Design Thinking" process and has been implemented across Dell's supply chain. There are three major elements of this framework: Design Thinking workshops, annual Innovation Olympics, and an annual Packaging Innovation Summit. Dell has created a governing body called the Supply Chain Sustainability Steering Committee, which helps prioritize projects and funnels ideas through the innovation framework. It is this governing body that is responsible for Dell reaching the 2020 Legacy of Good goals.

Innovation Statement

By applying the design thinking practices more typically used for product design toward the end-to-end applications across Dell's supply chain, we set out to enable a culture of innovation and create the opportunity to explore disruptive solutions in an organization whose success depends on reliability, efficiency, and cost competitiveness.

Impact Statement

The innovation framework implemented to help Dell reach the 2020 Legacy of Good goals has resulted in awards ranging from the 2015 Circular Economy Award at the World Economic Forum to the 2015 Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council Award in Asia, the Green Electronic Council Catalyst Award, and the 2016 CES Innovation and Eco-Design Award. We are the first PC brand to employ in-mold rolled film and texture with complex geometry part design in an effort to reduce or, where possible, eliminate paint in our products. This project drove a cumulative $53.3 million savings in packaging costs and enabled a closed-loop recycling system that allowed Dell to use 11.7 million pounds of recycled-content plastics in new products.


Dell's innovation framework is applicable to product design processes, which is a more traditional application of innovation practices. More importantly, it can also be used to identify and qualify more sustainable materials, as well as creating the new manufacturing processes necessary to integrate those materials into the affordable, high-quality, and sustainable products that customers' desire.

Our Challenge: Products, Materials, and Manufacturing Process

Environmental responsibility is about more than creating an eco-friendly product or initiative. It's about incorporating sustainability into every aspect of what we do, using our technology and expertise to innovate on behalf of our customers, our communities, and the planet. Sustainability is in Dell's DNA—and we've made very public, measurable commitments to progress in this area as part of our 2020 Legacy of Good Plan launched in 2012.


Dell's 2020 Legacy of Good Plan: Aspirations and Goals

Dell's aspirations and goals for 2020 reflect our approach of considering the environment at every stage of technology's life cycle—from design through manufacturing and use through end of life—and then measuring the impact to inform future efforts. Our 2020 Legacy of Good Plan includes four aspirations and 12 goals related to the environment.



  • Reduce the environmental impact of our operations
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our facilities and logistics operations by 50 percent
  • Reduce our water use in water-stressed regions by 20 percent
  • Ensure 90 percent of waste generated in Dell-operated buildings is diverted from landfills
  • Develop and maintain sustainability initiatives in 100 percent of Dell-operated buildings
  • Drive social and environmental responsibility in the industry and our supply chain
  • Demonstrate 100 percent transparency of key issues within our supply chain, working with suppliers to mitigate risks in those areas
  • Ensure 100 percent of product packaging is sourced from sustainable materials
  • Enable customers to reduce the environmental impact of their IT infrastructure
  • Reduce the energy intensity of our product portfolio by 80 percent
  • Use 50 million pounds of recycled-content plastic and other sustainable materials in our products
  • Ensure 100 percent of Dell packaging is either recyclable or compostable
  • Phase out environmentally sensitive materials as viable alternatives exist
  • Recover 2 billion pounds of used electronics
  • Promote technology's role in addressing environmental challenges
  • Identify and quantify the environmental benefits of Dell-developed solutions

Our Environmental Responsibility Meets Our Culture of Innovation

Our innate sense of responsibility as a corporate citizen is reinforced by the demands of our customers. Over the past two years, 22 percent of customer requests handled by our Corporate Social Responsibility Team have centered on the environment. Among other things, customers tell us they want to:

  • Purchase IT products that are designed for the environment and for recycling and reuse.
  • Reduce the amount of non-IT waste—specifically packaging, where they request recyclability, smaller packages, fewer packages, and more sustainable materials (for example, avoiding polystyrene foam).
  • Obtain help with managing and disposing of IT assets responsibly at the end of the product life.

Governments, too, are responding to the clamor for more responsible stewardship of the environment. The number of climate change laws has increased dramatically over the past decade. Globally, 40 nations and more than 20 states, cities, and/or regions have adopted carbon taxes. In Europe, at least a score of countries levy landfill taxes, and the European Commission is planning to stiffen its already stringent waste reduction targets. Additionally, China is pursuing a circular economy strategy as part of the Chinese Communist Party's commitment to protect the environment.


The challenge Dell faced was not in convincing the supply chain about the importance of sustainability, but rather in determining how we could modify the existing culture to one that fosters innovation as a viable methodology to help us reach our goals.

Our Approach: Collaborate to Innovate

We've joined the efforts of internal teams, suppliers, and outside experts to drive a spirit of innovation and collaboration that keeps Dell—and, as we will see below, the entire IT industry—moving toward a more sustainable, future-focused supply chain.

Suppliers are indispensable partners in our battle to bring environmental responsibility into our products, our materials, and our manufacturing processes. Dell and our competitors operate in highly outsourced environments, where much of the innovation is sourced from suppliers and many activities are managed and executed by those suppliers. Moreover, we all use many of the same supplier partners. As a result, achieving better performance than our competitors becomes a battle to see who can manage the best ecosystems. The ecosystem with the most effective collaboration clearly wins. The leading ecosystem is the one that best aligns on top-down objectives, develops mutual goals, trusts the other ecosystem members' intentions, and has confidence in each partner's ability to execute.

Creating an Innovation Framework to Achieve a Legacy of Good

Dell's innovation approach is highly structured for effective, tangible results in the areas of product design, materials, and manufacturing processes. When we set the 2020 Legacy of Good goals in 2012, we reoriented our organization internally toward a future-focused supply chain. This was no simple feat in an industry such as ours, where competition is high and margins are often razor-thin. These competitive realities create pressure on the supply chain to drive out excess cost wherever possible. Critical to our ability to reach the 2020 goals was the creation of an innovation framework that would enable innovative thinking and a platform for risk taking to achieve these goals.

Dell's innovation framework was inspired by the design consultancy IDEO's (the inventor of disruptive innovations such as Apple's mouse and Steelcase's Leap chair) process called "Design Thinking." Design thinking offers a defined and efficient framework for individuals and teams to use valuable time and resources in pursuit of real-world solutions and has been implemented across Dell's supply chain. Nearly every Dell employee in the supply chain organization, as well as a number of our key suppliers, has attended this training. The framework consists of three major elements: Design Thinking workshops, Innovation Olympics (annual), and an annual Packaging Innovation Summit. There is an overall governance body, called the Supply Chain Sustainability Steering Committee, that helps prioritize projects and funnels ideas through the innovation framework. It is this governing body that is responsible for Dell reaching the goals in the 2020 Legacy of Good.

When tackling innovation, a critical first step consists of defining the challenge and framing the problem to be solved. Dell's 2020 Legacy of Good Plan became the primary framework to provide goals that are specific, relevant to daily work, and aligned with business priorities. Much of Dell's approach to sustainability-oriented supply chain innovation is inspired by design thinking.

Ideas are generated, prioritized, scoped, and approved for formal entry into the governed process in order to drive execution. Milestones are identified, steps are taken to develop relevant technology, the supply chain is enabled, support (and often funding) is provided to partners and innovators, goals are integrated into supplier metrics, and progress is rigorously tracked. The rigor defined here is another crucial aspect to this model. It provides the support and validation that the supply chain requires to mitigate risk and gain buy-in as processes, products, and/or materials are changed.

Our efforts to drive a more sustainable supply chain are governed by our Supply Chain Sustainability Steering Committee, co-led by our Supply Chain and our Environmental/

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