Press Blogs

Driving Sustainable Impact through a Circular Economy

June 25, 2018

Our global population is on pace to hit 9.4 billion by 2050 – up from 7.6 billion today.  In 2016 alone, the middle class worldwide reached an astounding 3.2 billion and is expected to continue growing at a rapid pace.  The effect our growing population will have on our planet is alarming and frightening.  In the next 20 years, energy use is expected to rise by 48 percent.  Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to rise by 34 percent.  And the demand for water will be 40 percent higher than supply.  At this rate, by 2050, we’ll need 2.3 earths to accommodate these growing needs.  Think about it - that’s only 32 years from now. 

Corporations have a responsibility to address the environmental, societal and ethical challenges we face this century. At a business level, sustainable impact is critical to fueling innovation and driving growth. It’s also an important part of talent acquisition. According to a recent HP survey of more than 3,000 office employees in Mexico, U.S. and Brazil, sustainability is tied with new technology as the #1 most important employer offering.  At a humanitarian level, sustainable impact is critical to preserving a healthy planet for our future as well as future generations. 

Fundamental Shift from “Take, Make, Dispose” to a Circular Economy

By 2030, there will be three billion new technology users globally. Delivering the benefits of connectivity to billions more people has tremendously positive implications for societies and economies.  However, this can’t be done at the expense of the environment. With the global consumption of electronics on the rise, United Nations (U.N.) officials estimate that there will be a global e-waste output of 50 million metric tons in 2018 alone. Most of this waste ends up in landfills where toxins are released into the soil and environment. In other cases, the equipment is sent for recycling, sorted incorrectly and/or shipped illegally around the world to be disposed of in rudimentary conditions, effecting both the environment and the people unknowingly working in highly toxic environments.   

Our society must make a fundamental shift from “take, make, dispose” to one that recovers and reuses materials.  The entire product lifecycle needs to be considered – from design and production to use and disposal. Designing products for longevity, providing customers with guidance on how to maintain them, and providing comprehensive repair, refurbishment, reuse, and recycling programs is necessary.  Corporations need to be leaders and champions in driving this change toward a more circular, low carbon economy.  A circular economy is regenerative by design. It decouples business growth from a reliance on increasingly scarce raw materials, benefiting the environment while advancing business success.

Disruptive Business Models Enabling a Circular Economy

Innovative new business models and subscription services increase the value derived from products, help customers better manage energy usage and enable easy and responsible disposal of products.  These models also enable customers to have the latest technology while helping to keep products, components, and materials operating at high levels for as long as possible.  

HP Device as a Service (DaaS), for example, provides business customers with access to a full portfolio of the latest personal systems products as well as IT and life cycle management services. With DaaS, business customers are able to upgrade their products every two to three years while avoiding the up-front costs of purchasing. When customers are finished with their products, HP manages all hardware and software migration and decommissioning, which includes refurbishing or responsibly disposing of old products. Historically, approximately 90% of returned products have retained value and are reused.  

XaaS subscriptions are another efficient method for service delivery and product consumption. HP Managed Print Services, for example, allows businesses to cut down on the number of office printers by deploying fewer printers more efficiently.  HP’s Managed Print Service offering has helped customers reduce their printing-related energy use by up to 40%.

HP’s Instant Ink subscription service ensures home users and small businesses never run out of ink while making it easy to recycle their ink cartridges.  The service anticipates when ink is low and sends more straight to the customers’ door. With prepaid envelopes that make cartridge return and recycling easy, Instant Ink customers return cartridges at a significantly higher rate than those who purchase ink in conventional ways.

Additionally, Instant Ink cartridges have a higher capacity and use less packaging materials per page printed than conventional models, which helps reduce materials consumption by 57% on average per printed page. These efforts help reduce the carbon footprint of ink purchase and disposal by 84%, decrease energy use by 86%, and lower water usage by 89%.

3D Printing:  Breakthrough Technology Revolutionizing Sustainable Impact

3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) is poised to revolutionize industry and commerce. This disruptive technology, which has the potential to enable local, faster, and more efficient manufacturing and prototyping than traditional processes, is a critical enabler of thei circular economy.

By matching supply with demand, streamlining the prototyping process and reducing the amount of material needed, 3D printing has the potential to reduce environmental impact in four key areas:

  • Reducing Waste:  3D printing has the potential to reduce waste in manufacturing and distribution processes by enabling perfect matching of supply and demand and improving the cost-effectiveness of shorter production runs. Streamlined prototyping processes also support less wasteful and more rapid iteration in product design and development.
  • Reducing Materials: 3D printing will significantly reduce the amount of material needed to make some finished parts by realizing complex shapes or redesigning complex assemblies into a single part, in some cases using a single material. These features can save money, decrease energy and resource consumption, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and simplify materials capture at end of life.
  • Reinventing Traditional Supply Chains: 3D printing has the ability to transform entire industry value chains—from design and manufacturing to distribution and service. With digital inventories and on-demand production, companies can print what they need, when and where they need it, reducing the need for inventories and transportation and packaging.
  • Extending Useful Life of Products:  3D printing produces replacement parts locally and on-demand, which can extend the useful life of products for customers through just-in-time, localized delivery models. For example, in a traditional supply chain, a replacement part for an automobile might need to be shipped cross-country, or even overseas, to fulfill an order or repair, taking several days. With 3D printing, a customer will be able to pick up a replacement part locally, avoiding storage, excess transportation, and waiting.


Corporate leaders have long recognized that shifting business models and operations toward a circular and low-carbon economy is not only the right thing to do, it’s good business. Consumers, employees and investors expect companies to contribute to society and mitigate business risks associated with climate change.  Furthermore, companies have a responsibility to help their customers stay ahead of what’s next and enable them to seize new opportunities while advancing their own sustainability priorities. By reinventing how products are designed, made, used and recovered, companies can play a critical role in creating a sustainable future for people, businesses and communities.   


Christoph Schell
President of the Americas Region for HP Inc.