e-commerce Magazin:When did Dell start with initiatives concerning CSR and what was the reason for it?
Trisa Thompson: Our company is built on listening to customers, taking their feedback and incorporating their needs into our business. So in some sense, CSR has been ingrained in our business model since our founding. We do this because it makes good business sense. We have been reporting on our environmental initiatives since the late ‘90s, long before it was standard for companies to do so. And we have traditionally focused on education and youth learning, first around our headquarters in Round Rock, TX and now globally. “Superior corporate citizenship” was a key component of our mission statement from early on.
e-commerce Magazin: What were the first steps?
Trisa Thompson: Our recycling program is probably our most visible long-running program. We knew that we needed to help our customers reuse or recycle their electronics responsibly and safely. Every product carries our founder Michael Dell’s name on it, so he felt a special interest in ensuring the Dell brand was managed well and wasn’t negatively affecting our environment. Today, our industry-leading global recycling programs have collected more than 800 million pounds of material.
Today we use a materiality analysis to help us determine our CSR areas of focus. We use a variety of stakeholder engagement practices — everything from formal workshops to informal email — to solicit feedback. With that in mind, we can shape our sustainability strategy and reporting to ensure we’re addressing the areas that customers, NGOs, employees, shareholders and others most care about.
e-commerce Magazin: What do you expect from focusing on CSR?
Trisa Thompson: We want to put our technology and expertise to work where it can do the most good, for people and the planet. This is our pledge to Powering the Possible. We focus our efforts on four action areas: strengthening communities, preserving the environment, engaging a diverse and inclusive workforce of people, and ensuring supply chain responsibility. We deliver innovative technology and services that give people the power to do more, and we do so with integrity and ethics. We expect to help all of our stakeholders and our business thrive through our focus on CSR.
e-commerce Magazin: Do you think a more connected and therefore more transparent world will promote more ethical behaviour in companies?
Trisa Thompson: Social media and the democratization of information are causing change in almost every aspect of our lives — and this is especially true for corporations. At Dell, our commitment to corporate responsibility includes a dedication to transparency, collaboration and stakeholder engagement. Integrity and ethics in everything we do as a company have always been key tenets at Dell, since its founding.
Customers are coming to expect more transparency from their governments, their employers and the companies from which they buy. Companies are using accepted reporting guidelines such as GRI and CDP more frequently to report on their progress and challenges. And we see more and more companies engaging in discussion with a wide variety of stakeholders, from governments and NGOs to customers and suppliers.
e-commerce Magazin: Critics may say that CSR is mainly a marketing aspect for companies. Do you think so?
Trisa Thompson: Absolutely not, and I say that as someone who sits in the marketing department! To be truly successful, CSR is a vital part of any company, embedded into all its operations (including marketing, but also supply chain, product design, sales, etc.). CSR promotes integrity and responsibility while doing business, but it’s also a strategic imperative that provides companies with real business value. It has become increasingly important to our customers — they want to work with companies who are responsible. And we want to give people the power to do more, in an environmentally and socially responsible way.
e-commerce Magazin: What is your personal motivation for engaging in CSR?
Trisa Thompson: I like to say that my role at Dell combines my vocation and my avocation. Personally, I care a great deal about environmental sustainability and working in the community. As a lawyer, I wrote several articles about sustainability and the law. So working in CSR is really a way of combining both.
Trisa Thompson is the Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Dell, with responsibility for Dell’s global giving and sustainability. Previously at Dell, Trisa served as Vice President, Legal, for the Global Operations, Marketing and Product Groups, and was a member of the Legal Team for 12 years. She was the founding co-chair of the Women’s Networking Group, W.I.S.E., at Dell, and also serves on the PRIDE Executive Board. She is also a member of the Global Giving and Sustainability Councils. Trisa joined Dell in June 1998 from the Washington, D.C. office of Seyfarth, Shaw. Trisa was a partner with Seyfarth in its Government Procurement Law practice. She specialized in federal, state, and local procurement law and litigation. Outside of the office, Trisa has served on many nonprofit boards, including the Austin/San Antonio Chapter of the Texas General Counsel Forum, the Zachary Scott Theatre, KLRU and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. She also serves on the board of I Live Here, I Give Here, an Austin organization promoting philanthropy in Austin. Trisa was a 2005 finalist for the Profiles In Power award from the Austin Business Journal. Trisa is the 2008 recipient of the United Way’s Volunteer of the Year Award.