2012 Conference: Dell turns to innovation to revolutionize corporate citizenship
In a keynote address to the 2012 International Corporate Citizenship Conference, Trisa Thompson, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility for Dell, spoke on “Powering the Possible Through Innovation: Revolutionizing the Approach to Corporate Responsibility.” Thompson came to her current job from a legal background but said the position she has held for 18 months marries her avocation and vocation.
Asking for a show of hands, Thompson confirmed that most attendees, like her, came to their corporate citizenship roles through a combination of passion and luck. “Why is that important? Because passion and luck drive innovation and change,” Thompson said. “Everyone here is doing that.”
Thompson identified three trends behind innovation and change in corporate citizenship:
- Software that helps make everything else more sustainable
- Partnerships through which companies seek to extend the impact and make a difference.
- Social media that democratizes the work of solving social and environmental problems
This innovation and change in corporate citizenship is being manifested in a number of ways at Dell, Thompson explained. In its business operations, Dell is using more sustainable packaging, , and partnering with Goodwill on e-waste recycling to create green jobs. Responding to demands from customers and the public, Dell is making its products and data centers more energy efficient.
Dell is also demonstrating innovation in its approach to giving. By leveraging IT solutions, Dell is helping doctors tailor childhood cancer treatments to individual patients. “Through our Powering the Possible giving program, Dell was able to make a multi-year, multi-million dollar commitment of funds and employee volunteerism to support neuroblastoma and other pediatric cancers to address the void of new and innovative treatments made possible by genomics – a technology that requires major computation,” Thompson said.
Among the company’s many innovated programs is the Dell Social Innovation Challenge involving 15,000 college students in 90 countries who compete for $750,000 in cash and prizes as they develop entrepreneurial ideas that address social issues from human rights to education and health care. A revolutionary partnership with the Red Cross has created the first social-media based operation center for humanitarian relief. Launched in March, the tool center allows the Red Cross to monitor social media in real time as a tool to identify needs and coordinate deployment of resources. This kind of innovation can be the difference between life and death when someone trapped in a building can use their cell phone to tweet for help.
Dell is also bringing innovations to corporate citizenship by empowering employees. The company’s Make a Difference online tool allows nonprofits to post their needs and lets employees communicate about their volunteer work and seek support. Using the tool, Dell has doubled its employee volunteer hours in one year to 419,000 and reached 41 percent participation in volunteering.