In HP's last report as one company, employees are important but not material, surprising for a company with 50,000 workers and whose innovation depends on their creativity

This is the last Sustainability Report from HP as we have known it. At the end of 2015, HP split into two fairly equal-sized companies – HP Inc, focusing on the printing business and HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprises), focusing on servers, storage devices and services. This report therefore covers the last fiscal year ending in October 2015, before the split. But it is written in the spirit of HP after the split, with new CEO, Dion Weisler welcoming us to the new HP. The new HP has three 2020 goals: 40% renewable electricity, zero deforestation and a 25% reduction in GHG emissions intensity versus 2010.  

What’s material

The new HP kicks off its new reporting era with a new-not-new materiality matrix. The company confirms having undertaken a process of engagement with consultants and stakeholders to come up with a materiality analysis which has the same look and feel as the old HP and most of the same issues in the same place. Employees, for example, remain at the important-not-material end of the matrix – surprising for a corporation that employs around 50,000 people and whose innovation is dependent upon their resourcefulness and creativity. Just 10 pages of the 154 in this report are dedicated to the way HP provides a positive workplace and develops its employees, and this comes after 60 pages about environmental issues and 20 pages related to supply chain impacts. In all, 26 impacts are defined as material and a further 17 as important.

Circular economy

The circular economy, however, in HP’s new materiality assessment moved from important to material and earns more space in this report. With print-as-a-service options (automatic ordering when cartridges are running low and an option to return old cartridges free-of-charge) and new 3D printing solutions (described as a circular economy enablers as they can streamline manufacturing processes to drive down resource consumption and waste) are the new language of sustainable business for HP, providing both revenue sources and environmental benefit. These programmes are in addition to the better-known recycling, reuse and refurbishment options which have been on the agenda for some time. However, the scale of recycling is impressive: HP cites the example of Philips, where HP was able to remarket 91% of 82,000 retired IT products recovered from Philips over the past five years from 22 countries around the world through its end-of-service management facility.

Social application of IT

This is not a new material issue for HP and it remains a top-quadrant impact while also being, arguably, one of the hardest to measure. A precise formula for understanding the impact that HP products and activities have had on people’s lives remains elusive. Given this, HP provides an overview of activities to drive technology and business education for entrepreneurs, supporting access to education and providing disaster relief, coloured by case studies of a personal nature. We meet Ada from California who used HP’s online business education to develop a small business and Darcie from North Carolina who uses HP courses in educational programmes for her students. We also meet Pao from Cambodia who benefited from micro-funding via an initiative HP established with Kiva. While these short stories are not necessarily indicative of the breadth and scale of HP’s “making IT accessible”, they do provide a respite from the rather unexciting narrative of this long HP report.

Supply chain

Labour practices in the supply chain appear as HP’s number one material issue in the materiality matrix, and the second major section of this report covers supply chain practices in three parts: human rights, conflict minerals and supplier diversity. HP covers well the scope of issues involved in each area. In human rights, for example, there are focused sections relating to women, young workers (legal employment of 16 and 17 years old’s) and foreign migrant workers. HP shares some interesting insights, for example, one supplier saw an increase in non-conformances relating to non-discrimination, partly because in 2015 the requirement was expanded to include religious accommodation, which was new to many suppliers and they lacked relevant policies. HP conducted 142 supplier audits in 2015, and reports that 84% of suppliers scored excellent in 2015 versus 56% in 2014. This report reflects the challenges of supply chain management and, although HP is investing efforts, this report leaves the sense that there is still much ground that needs to be covered.


HP demonstrates the spirit of the moment with an index of its sustainability programmes according to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, leaving Goal 14 (conserve oceans and marine resources) as the only one that HP does not actively advance. Otherwise, HP shows a breadth of activity that supports sustainable development in one way or another in what is a respectable but unremarkable report.


Follows GRI?

G4 Core



Materiality analysis?



3 environment goals to 2020


3 environmental targets to 2020

Stakeholder input?


Seeks feedback?


Key strengths?

Executive summary covers main highlights

Chief weakness?

Too many words, not enough outcomes

Pleasant surprise?

A few short case studies showing HP making a difference with technology

Elaine Cohen is a Sustainability Consultant and Reporter at Beyond Business and CSR blogger. /

cr reporting. csr reporting  HP  innovation  sustainability  circular economy  Human rights  supply chain 

comments powered by Disqus