Alyson Freeman, Sustainability Product Manager, Infrastructure Solutions Group at Dell, shares important lessons she’s learned as a sustainability leader.
By Alyson Freeman, Photo by Samuel Rowland
Of all the time I’ve spent in various engineering, research, manufacturing and management roles, I have never felt as fulfilled in my career as I do today. Leading sustainability for Dell Technologies’ data center and infrastructure solutions products. To me, sustainability is all about finding a balance. It’s about making sure we can meet our needs today without compromising the ability of future generations—or other societies—to meet their own needs. Everything is connected. Bringing that desire for balance to work with me as an environmental sustainability strategist sits in perfect harmony with my personal and professional passions. Identifying new opportunities for innovation, driving initiatives and breaking down the barriers of product sustainability to define the next generation of technology truly inspires and motivates me. Along the way, I’ve learned several things that make me optimistic about the state of environmentalism today.
Consumers have the power to influence outcomes.
Consumers have a powerful effect on businesses’ behavior by making conscious choices and putting pressure on companies to adopt sustainable practices. Choosing products and services that are environmentally friendly and buying from transparent companies that have a strong social purpose creates demand for more sustainable products and services. This can influence companies to invest in sustainable practices, reducing their carbon footprint and minimizing their environmental impact. By “voting with their dollars,” consumers have an incredible amount of influence on how organizations tackle their contributions to climate change.
What is good for the planet can also be good for businesses.
Doing the right thing and achieving business success are not mutually exclusive. In fact, ethical and sustainable business practices can help attract and retain customers and employees, reduce costs, mitigate risk (this is a big one) and raise brand reputation. Sustainable practices can help businesses lower operational costs through energy and water conservation, waste reduction and efficient supply-chain management. Adopting ethical, circular and sustainable practices can also help organizations mitigate reputation, legal compliance and environmental liabilities risks.
Government and private sector organizations must collaborate.
Businesses and governments together have a crucial role to play in promoting sustainability. Corporate sustainability involves integrating social, environmental and economic considerations into business operations and decision-making. Businesses can lead the way on climate action with velocity and scale in a way that governments sometimes cannot through regulation alone. Governments can create policies and regulations to incentivize sustainable practices and discourage unsustainable ones. Collaboration and education between these entities are essential for achieving sustainability. No one individual, organization or sector can address sustainability challenges alone. It requires collective action and cooperation across all levels of society. Education and awareness-raising builds understanding and support for sustainability initiatives
Innovation is about the people behind it.
The challenges we face are complex and require new and innovative solutions. Solving these problems will push us to fundamentally change the way we interact with the environment. Incremental improvements to existing technologies and practices won’t cut it. People from different backgrounds, cultures and experiences bring unique perspectives and ideas to the table. This diversity of perspectives can lead to more innovative and creative solutions to problems, as different people approach challenges from different angles.
When a team or organization has a diverse range of perspectives and experiences, they are more likely to make better decisions. This is because diverse teams are better at considering a range of factors and anticipating potential challenges and opportunities. That’s one reason I’m so passionate about working with girls and women to encourage them to pursue careers in STEM. More than ever, we need new people joining scientific and political fields to bring new perspectives to solve this problem and to solve it for everyone, equitably.
The future is bright.
It’s hard to know exactly what the future holds for sustainability. But I am optimistic that technological developments, government policies, consumer behavior and global events will lead on a path toward a more sustainable future. We’ve seen growing trends around increased adoption of renewable energy sources like solar and wind. There is a greater focus on circular economy models in multiple industries, where waste is minimized and resources are reused or recycled. This is one area I’m most excited about as I keep an eye on innovations driven by circular economy investments.
As they buy something, I believe our kids and future generations will instinctively think about how a product might be reused, repurposed or responsibly disposed of. Other areas are experiencing fast-paced growth. Adoption of electric vehicles and public transportation, expansion of sustainable agriculture practices that reduce environmental impact and increase efficiency, and increased use of technology to monitor and reduce energy and resource consumption in buildings and homes. Taken together, these actions will lead to increased investment and research in sustainable technologies and innovations. I’m looking forward to being a part of it.