Interview with Gabi Zedlmayer, HP
In this Enterprise 2020 interview, Gabi Zedlmayer, Vice President of HP's Office of Global Social Innovation, shares her views on social innovation and collaboration across the borders of business and society.
The interview with Gabi Zedlmayer is the seventh in a series of interviews on the future of responsible enterprise with business leaders from CSR Europe's member companies.
What do you see as the key societal trends that will impact HP's success in the future? How will you address these challenges through your products and services?
Innovative thinking and collaboration to build new solutions are proving essential to tackle some of the bigger issues in society, like the increasing educational gaps in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and in critical environmental and health issues. These are ‘wicked problems' - those difficult complex issues which have no one cause and no easy solution - where a new kind of thinking and new cross-border collaboration are vital. This applies in the developed, as well as the developing world.
HP´s Office of Global Social Innovation is working with fellow organisations and expert partners in education and health, to bring the best minds from the commercial and civic sectors together, with NGOs and governments, in both our business operations and in our social innovation work.
Technology is an amazing enabler - a recent WWF report stated 98 percent of environmental issues could be solved with the help of technological solutions. But of course technology requires the human desire and skill to apply it effectively to help others and to better our world. That's the biggest role that a company like HP can play - to engage and apply the skills of 300,000 HP employees around the world, working in new collaborations, to show others new possibilities and new opportunities.
We are applying commercial solutions to social challenges, in health and in education, and we are learning from that work to bring crossover benefits back into the business. This is a sustainable cycle that will continue to generate the long term commitment and partnerships that are needed for success.
Everyone can be a social innovator and contribute to shape and build more sustainable societies with a higher quality of life for as many people as possible around the globe. The social innovation spirit should be part of all our behaviours, as individuals, political decision makers, entrepreneurs, employees and leaders in enterprises.
How will your company need to change within the next 10 years in order to make your vision of the future a reality? What kind of skills will be needed from your staff? How will you work with external stakeholders?
Success as we move forward through the next ten years is going to require more openness and collaboration than ever before. It simply isn't enough to talk about making a difference, to pay lip service to corporate social responsibility. It's about fostering and empowering entrepreneurship - inside the organization, to harness the amazing minds and capabilities of HP employees, and in all of the interrelated communities and roles where we each belong. The business and the societal benefits and requirements are merging: the collective responsibility is becoming more important to people, not just individual success. That can only be good for the company, and for our world.
HP's commitment to social innovation and contribution in the business and communities where our people live and work has been there from the very start of the company in 1939, through the integrated approach of our founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard.
Today we have made the shift from social investment into social innovation. HP professionals are working at ‘root cause' level on critical social issues in education and health, in collaboration with expert partners, governments and aid organizations to improve people's lives in underserved communities - in both the developed and the developing world.
As the generational shifts increasingly move to requiring more from their work commitments, to portfolio careers (by choice or by necessity), to people wanting to ‘give back' and get more emotional value from what they choose to do, HP is aware and anticipating the best ways to build loyalty and motivation through shifts in working practices and ‘good business'. More and more young people - and the older generations - want and need to feel that they are engaged in work that makes a difference to the issues and people that matter to them.
In HP, we're clear that business is not at odds with contribution to communities. Both require the ‘virtuous circle' in the way we work - combining customer focus, technical excellence and innovation with efficiency, to drive profitability for our shareholders and our people, so that we can generate the added-value and contributions back into the business to benefit customers and our communities.
Imagine you are in 2020. Speaking to a class of schoolchildren, you look back at the past 10 years. What was the most important thing you learned? What do you see as the most important challenge for this next generation in terms of issues, values or skills?
I can only speak for myself - thinking about my two sons, and what I'd like them to know and share with their own kids in the future. The most important thing in business and in life is family - believe me, people are the only things that really count at the end of the day, and at the end of our lives. And family is an inclusive concept... Our colleagues in the business team, the friends we make throughout our days, our neighbours who care about the community and environment we share, and the people in other countries and situations where we can see and feel a ‘human' thread that connects us.
I think about the miners in Chile - trapped for months underground. Their human stories and the work that everyone put into getting them back to the surface and their families touched people right around the world. All of us could empathise with the shock, the fear and the hope - and the desire to help them. The support that HP people have given to disaster relief for communities in Haiti, in China, and recently in Pakistan is inspirational.
But the human connection means something important to us in the office every day too. Thinking about the people impact of what we do, in our decisions and our approach, keeps us real and grounded. Individuals have incredible depths and amazing abilities. If you ask for help, you will get it. If you combine ideas and approaches, you'll spark creativity and together you'll generate new and better solutions to really difficult issues. If you reach out to help others, you'll gain benefits you never expected - and most of all, they'll come from within yourself.
That's why I'm so passionate about social innovation and collaboration across the borders of business and society, and why they are so key to our future - in my own family, in HP, and across the wider world. We cannot operate in a silo, we cannot keep taking, we cannot assume that someone else will sort out the difficult issues. We each have to join a bigger family out there and work together to generate and sustain new ‘health and wealth' for our world.
- HP Global Social Innovation: www.hp.com/hpinfo/socialinnovation
- HP Global Citizenship website: www.hp.com/hpinfo/globalcitizenship
Edited by Elodie Windels