Driving sustainability through partner programs

Friday, June 04 2021

Sustainability awareness continues to grow worldwide amid strong media advocacy, and pressure from governments and businesses. And major technology vendors are taking on a more active role in sustainability efforts as part of their global corporate citizenship and leadership efforts. Many have set ambitious sustainability targets for 2030, which often put significant pressure on suppliers and employees to make positive changes across their global supply chains, including the use sustainable raw materials or renewable energy, incorporating sustainability into product and building designs early, and participating in the circular economy to reduce electronic waste. Some vendors have gone further to help channel partners achieve their sustainability goals. As vendors step up sustainability efforts, this report looks at how three vendors – HP Inc, Salesforce and VMware – are using partner programs to raise awareness and collaborate with channel partners to drive sustainability.

Benefits of participating in sustainability

Vendors and channel partners have much to gain by practicing sustainability. As the younger generation becomes more socially conscious and seeks jobs with purpose, being sustainable makes companies more appealing. As governments, corporations and consumers prioritize sustainability and put pressure on businesses to disclose climate-related standards and statements, those that prioritize sustainability will find more commercial opportunities available to them. Accenture and Wipro, for example, have seen opportunities in sustainability and set up dedicated practices to capture the growth opportunities. UK partner Stone Group just announced a partnership with Ingram Micro to offer IT asset disposal services in France, Germany, Holland and Spain. When assessing businesses for mergers and acquisitions, investors also consider sustainability as a factor, taking account of climate risk, and operational, financial and manpower issues, among other things, when evaluating long-term prospects.

Technology is a wonderful enabler, and data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping local communities track pollution levels, reduce carbon emissions and increase recycling, for example. While technology is empowering, we need to address the increased use of electricity, plastics and metals needed for the ever-growing number of data centers, devices and networks, and reduce the use of natural resources that power our daily lives. Organizations must ensure they go beyond paying lip service and make genuine efforts to find more efficient ways to use energy and cut natural resource use, be involved in circular economies, and find other means to foster sustainable growth.

A closer look: HP Inc, Salesforce and VMware

HP Inc, Salesforce and VMware are three vendors using partner programs to raise awareness and grow sustainability efforts with channel partners for the long term. This shows that sustainability practices are applicable to organizations regardless of partner type. While HP Inc and Salesforce have taken more altruistic approaches, VMware is currently more sales opportunity-driven, recognizing sustainability-focused partners as a competitive differentiator. With its HP Amplify Impact program, HP Inc offers the most comprehensive packaged program around sustainability currently available to channel partners.

  • HP’s Amplify Impact Partner Program was rolled out in early 2021 across a small number of selected countries, but HP Inc plans to roll it to at least half of its HP Amplify partners by 2025. The program consists of many resources that partners can benefit from to improve their sustainability practices. For example, training in sustainability fundamentals and sales is available to everyone (with digital badges). Partners can also access sales and marketing resources via its HP Sustainability and Compliance Center, and HP Inc also directly links partners to its HP Life and HP Planet Partner Programs, which are a free online upskilling program for individuals, and a return and recycling program for end-of-life HP products respectively. Program participation is voluntary but more than a thousand partners have got on board. Besides the "Planet" pillar of the program, HP Amplify Impact also aims to drive accountability across its channel ecosystem in its “People” (diverse and inclusive workforces) and “Community” (bridging the digital divide in communities) pillars as well. For partners’ participation in Amplify Impact, they are also awarded annual awards and certifications. HP Amplify Impact is offered at two partner levels, and both require partners to commit to an HP Amplify Impact Pledge:
    • Catalyst is for partners more advanced in sustainability practices. HP Inc offers personalized sustainability assessments for partners to identify technical aspects and requirements around sustainability. In return, partners must report sales opportunities influenced by sustainability for HP Inc’s measurement.
    • Changemaker is for partners starting out on building sustainability plans. Besides training for its workforce and receiving benefits at the Catalyst level, HP Inc also works with partners to create a plan and implement at least two initiatives around sustainability.
  • Salesforce has purposefully added “Lead” (consisting of “Equality” and “Sustainable Development”) as the fourth pillar in both its global Consulting and AppExchange partner programs in fiscal 2022. It has taken a wider interpretation of “sustainability” by adopting the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. While all 17 goals are important and interconnected, Salesforce is currently most focused on eight of them for its strategy: Quality Education, Gender Equality, Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Reduced Inequalities, Climate Actions, Life on Land, and Partnerships for the Goals. For partners’ participation in “Sustainable Development”, they earn up to 50 points that go toward annual partner program renewal when they are involved in two of three ways – monetary donation, voluntary time and corporate policy (such as environmental action commitment and supplier code of conduct). “Equality” focuses on diversity and inclusion in partners’ workforces and has a maximum achievable score of 125 points. By introducing the “Lead” pillar, Salesforce can better understand the impact its partners are having and grow together as a community.
  • With the VMware Zero Carbon Committed Initiative, VMware is the latest vendor to announce a sustainability play involving cloud provider partners. It is part of a longer-term plan in which the vendor hopes to educate cloud providers and their customers about the importance of sustainable cloud operations, as well as develop programs to help cloud providers launch renewable energy initiatives. Currently, the Zero Carbon Committed Initiative is built around helping customers identify those cloud providers that have aligned sustainability and decarbonization goals. To participate in the initiative, cloud providers must achieve the “Cloud Verified” status with at least one Cloud Verified data center, and they must have made a public commitment on their websites to use 100% renewable energy or have a net-zero carbon goal by 2030 (or over 50% renewable energy by 2025) that covers data center operations, including VMware cloud data centers. Cloud providers must also achieve at least 15% of these goals by the end of 2021. This percentage will rise linearly each year to 100% by 2030. To date, five partners are part of this initiative – Atea, Equinix, IBM, Microsoft and OVHcloud.

Other vendors are also starting to develop sustainability messaging for channel partners as well. For example, Cisco has recently invited partners to submit sustainability ideas, while HPE recently achieved TCO certification (global certification body for sustainable IT products) for its HPE ProLiant XL 170r Gen 10 and XL225n Gen10 Plus servers. Together, the partner ecosystem is a remarkable community that can make a significant contribution to global sustainability. In this spirit, HPE, Microsoft and Facebook have pledged to make freely available to anyone patents related to technologies around low-carbon innovations, including the generation, storage and distribution of low-carbon energy (www.lowcarbonpatentpledge.org). Others, such as Fujitsu, Google Cloud and Microsoft, are collaborating with partners such as Siemens Digital and NTT to conduct research and development of sustainability technologies, with special highlights on their websites for sustainability partners and solutions.

Sustainability is a collective effort

Vendors that are looking to drive sustainability through their channel partners are encouraged to do so. Partner programs offer vendors a way to drive consistent messaging worldwide, demonstrate global commitment, integrate sustainability practices into existing channel activities, and centralize an understanding of partners’ impact while recognizing them for their contributions. Education is vital for growing sustainability awareness and capabilities, while sales and marketing materials, products and processes certified around sustainability support partners’ businesses that are specifically built for those opportunities. Recycling and refurbishing partners are becoming more important in the wake of circular economies. HP Inc, Salesforce and VMware have each approached sustainability with partners differently using partner programs, but their participation in the discourse has allowed them to show leadership within their communities. Sustainability requires a collective effort, and such efforts should be viewed as a collaboration rather than a competition. The channel ecosystem can collectively help to faster achieve global goals around carbon neutrality, 100% renewable energy and more. While vendors can offer the education and support channel partners need to enable sustainable practices, the onus is on organizations and individuals themselves to adopt green practices.

 

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