Today’s CNNMoney column is about the greening of Dell–Michael Dell and the company that bears his name. I spent an enjoyable day at Dell’s Round Rock, TX, headquarters while reporting my Fortune story on zero waste (which is in our newest issue, dated March 19) and had a chance to get up to speed on all of Dell’s sustainability initiatives. I also met Michael Dell for the first time.
My impressions: He’s unassuming, soft-spoken, without the bluster or charisma exhibited by many CEOs, not to mention multibillionaires. It’s clear that he’s thought a lot about the environment, and that he pushes his people to do better around a range of issues, from computer take-back to energy efficiency to climate change. (In many companies, the sustainability people struggle to get the attention of the CEO.) Interestingly, he asked me what I thought of Dell’s work and what I’d learned from other companies. That’s unusual–most CEOs never ask reporters questions.
But Dell is known as a listener. He has met with environmental groups, shareholder activists and bloggers to see what they think of Dell Inc. That’s smart, and it’s surprising more companies don’t do it. You get free advice, early warnings of about emerging issues and at least a shot at building bridges with potential critics.
Here’s how the column begins:
There was a time when Michael Dell thought consumers didn’t care about recycling. That, at least, is what he told shareholder and environmental activists when first they asked him why Dell (the company) would not take back computers that its customers didn’t want anymore.
It didn’t take long for him to change his mind. In 2003, under pressure from the greens, the PC maker held a five-city recycling tour, asking people to bring in their old computers. That they did – on a spring Saturday in Denver, so many people (about 2,000) brought so many old computers (about 200 tons in all) to the parking lot of Mile High Stadium that Dell employees worked overtime to load them onto trucks. “We had people there all night,” says one. The company immediately added 10 more dates to its recycling tour.
“Maybe the issue should have been on our radar screen well before then but, for whatever reason, it wasn’t,” Dell told Fortune in a recent interview.
You can read the rest here.