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Earth Day 2020: What COVID-19 Teaches Us About Responding to Global Challenges

By Nate Hurst, Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer, HP Inc.

Published 04-22-20

Submitted by HP Inc.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans united to demand action for our planet, marking the first Earth Day. Fifty years later, the risks and impacts of our warming planet, diminishing resources and degradation of natural habitats make the need for action more urgent than ever.

Earth Day 2020 marks not only a significant historical milestone, it’s also the start of what’s being called the Climate Decade—the final stretch toward realizing the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and a period the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has designated as our critical window to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which in recent weeks has changed virtually every aspect of how we live and work, Earth Day 2020 will require new ways of activating community engagement. The Earth Day Network, the organization behind Earth Day, is mobilizing through 24 hours of all-digital climate action. The Greta Thunberg-inspired youth-led climate movement, which drew over 4 million people to localized events just seven months ago, will #climatestrikeonline this Earth Day.  And at HP, our annual employee Global Shoreline Cleanup initiative, which last year netted over 21,000 pounds of ocean-bound trash, has moved to a digital engagement, inspiring employees and their families to take personal actions at home to reduce waste and protect the earth today and every day.

Urgent Crises Demand Urgent Action

While we maintain social distance and honor Earth Day from our respective homes to mitigate risk, the power of our collective action has never been more profound. A global crisis like COVID-19 lays bare the very reason we must demand immediate action for the health of the earth and all its inhabitants. This moment requires that we rise to the critical challenges facing society, and act with immediacy and purpose.

For us, this means leaning into our core values and doing what is right even at the worst of times. It means managing situations with both urgency and a deep sense of care. We prioritize the health and wellbeing of our employees and their families, and support our customers, partners and the communities we serve during this unprecedented time when they need us the most.

As the crisis emerged, our CEO Enrique Lores issued an early call to action to companies, employees and business leaders to work together and take an active role in combating the pandemic and supporting our society’s response. At HP, this included mobilizing our 3D Printing team and Digital Manufacturing Partner Network to design, validate and produce essential parts for medical responders and hospitals. This effort has already delivered more than 50,000 critical parts. (You can learn more about our 3D printing and other industrial printing efforts to combat COVID-19 here.)

When schools across the world began to close, learning moved online for millions of students. Unfortunately, many families do not have access to technology to participate fully in online learning, so we are helping equip teachers and bridge the digital divide through a combination of print and digital content. One way we approach this is through Turn to Learn, a program, done in collaboration with Command Companies. Turn to Learn provides packets of learning materials—focused primarily on STEM and environmental topics—curated from partners like TIME for Kids, Britannica and NASA, printed on demand through the HP Piazza Platform, and delivered to support Title I school districts and underserved students. (You can learn more about our global education initiatives and community response to COVID-19 here.)

Creating in the Service of Humanity—and The Earth

As we navigate this challenging period, we remain steadfast in our commitment to create positive, lasting change for the planet, its people and our communities. We believe businesses should reject the false choice between doing well and doing good, because we know that when you foster a purpose-driven culture, you create value for all stakeholders.

Last week, we expanded our portfolio of innovative products made using ocean-bound plastics with the addition of the ZBook Create and the ZBook Studio, the world’s first mobile workstation made with ocean-bound plastics. We also became the first company to achieve Environmental Claim Validation from UL for Recycled Content Standard for five of our resins, which contain between 5 to 99% recycled content from ocean-bound plastic. And we’re proud that of the 850 metric tons of ocean-bound plastics diverted by NextWave Plastics members, HP has helped lead the way by using over 450 metric tons of ocean-bound plastics in our products since 2017.

Using COVID-19 Learnings to Shape a Better Future

The pandemic is the most urgent of a series of global challenges demanding collective action in the months and years ahead. No single company, industry or government can solve the problems we face today or in the future alone. Everyone has a role to play and we are clearly stronger when we solve these challenges together.

COVID-19 demonstrates that people, communities and our planet are inextricably connected. Risks to the health and wellbeing of one impacts the health and wellbeing of all. It shows that a global challenge knows no borders. It does not discriminate by age, ethnicity, gender, geography, economic status or education. A crisis such as this exploits existing inequalities.

While it’s always easier to analyze a crisis once it has passed, I do see positive truths emerging from this current challenge that inspire me this Earth Day. I see people uniting for the good of humanity. I see a willingness, passion and responsibility to collaborate and open-source new solutions to address an urgent global challenge. I see people, businesses and communities sharing resources and learnings to minimize negative global impacts. These are powerful levers we can and must use to address other urgent challenges like climate change.

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