Collaborating for Progress: An Interview with HP’s Chris Librie Ahead of the Second ‘Living Progress Exchange’

Chris Librie is a Senior Director for Living Progress Strategy and Communications at HP. James Morris, the Director of GlobeScan’s San Francisco Office, recently interviewed Chris about the global online HP Living Progress Exchange (LPX) that GlobeScan has been working on with HP. The next online LPX is taking place on March 17 and 18 (people can join on either date depending on their preferred time zone), so it is a great time for us to reflect back on the first online LPX and look forward to the upcoming event which is shaping up to be a very interesting discussion on some important sustainability issues.
For anyone interested in joining the upcoming Living Progress Exchange—a text-based online discussion forum which you can join from anywhere—all you need is a computer and access to the Internet. You can register now for the Living Progress Exchange here.

Just to start, can you just spend a few minutes talking about HP Living Progress and also your role within it?

There’s been a great turnaround story with HP in terms of our business results over the past few years under the leadership of Meg Whitman, and Living Progress is our way of talking about the great work that HP has done over many decades in terms of global citizenship. Global citizenship has been a key part of the company’s heritage for decades. It dates back, of course, to Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, and citizenship was first made a part of the overall company strategy in 1957. But as Meg started to look at the challenges ahead in the turnaround, one of the things she really wanted to do was to do a better job of linking our work in citizenship more strongly to our business results.
And so that’s what led to the creation of Living Progress, where we really integrate the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit in common terms, but we call it Human, Economic and Environmental Progress. We integrate this with what we do, or our products and services; and how we do that, our global functions and also the way we manage our supply chain. And a third area is how we bring these three pillars of Human, Economic and Environmental Progress to life through collaborative programs, with partners like Conservation International. And so as we’ve created this three-by-three matrix almost, of how we walk in the world as a company, we’ve dedicated ourselves to creating a better future for others through our actions and innovations. This means dedicating the technology and innovative power of HP to helping to solve some of the world’s toughest problems. And that is really what Living Progress is all about.
And my role in this? I am fortunate enough to be the person who leads the strategy and communications around Living Progress. I’m a member of the HP Corporate Affairs organization, managing a team that looks across the company and communicates the great work that is done by the many teams at HP that deliver on Living Progress, and we also work very closely with our government relations folks who represent Living Progress in terms of public policy.

Thanks Chris. So you mentioned collaboration as an important part of Living Progress, and in March— actually in a couple of weeks on March 17 and 18—we’ll be holding the second online HP Living Progress Exchange (LPX) that GlobeScan is working on with HP. Why is collaboration and engagement like the LPX important for HP Living Progress?

I think as long a history as we have in citizenship, and as strong as our dedication is to Living Progress, we don’t, at all, pretend to have all the answers. So it is important for companies like HP to reach out to professionals in the field, particularly in these fields of Human, Economic and Environmental Progress, and talk with not only experts in those fields, but also other companies that are trying to have a positive impact on these issues. So really, only by having those kinds of dialogues—collaborating together, discussing the different approaches that we are taking, and sharing best practices—can we all learn from each other and improve our game.

I was very fortunate, as you were, to be part of the first online LPX, which was held in September last year where we held discussions on Human, Economic and Environmental Progress. What was the experience like of being central to that process?

[Laughs] Well—aside from the severe sleep deprivation that happened to all of us from being part of the two sessions that were timed for Europe and Asia, and also for the Americas, it was a really exciting experience. What struck me was how people took so easily to the online format and how people were able to build on each other’s comments and questions, which created a real community in such a short span of time. The power of technology was really working for us because it multiplied the ability to connect with many stakeholders. I was really impressed by the caliber of the discussion and the degree of collaboration. There were a lot of important ideas being shared, which have not only helped to shape the next online LPX discussion, but they have also been quite instrumental in helping inform our Living Progress strategy discussions and have helped shape our in-person discussions at different conferences around the world. It’s really been a structure that has built on itself.

Just picking up on the in-person LPX discussions that you have been involved in—and again I and other GlobeScan colleagues have had the pleasure of moderating some of these—it has been interesting to see how HP has been able to take the online discussions in the first LPX and place them in an in-person setting at a number of events around the world. Can you just elaborate a little on these, as they are also an integral part of this engagement process that HP is involved in?

We did the in-person Living Progress Exchanges at various conferences. We did the first one at Sustainable Brands in San Diego in 2014, then one at SXSW Eco in Austin, and at Sustainable Brands London, and we took it to the HP Discover event in Barcelona in December. Then just recently we had a session at the Sundance Film Festival. HP is a presenting sponsor of Sundance and so we took advantage of the fact that the HP presence in the gathering space there is strong. We convened a group of filmmakers and talked about the collaboration between documentary filmmakers and companies, and how companies can harness the power of documentary filmmaking to tell their story more effectively and more compellingly, and likewise how documentary filmmakers don’t necessarily need to feel concerned about losing their creative independence when they work with a corporate sponsor. One of the panelists there was Lauren Greenfield, the filmmaker who made the #LikeAGirl film for Always, so what a great way to talk about how you can bring values and corporate sponsorship together. So it was a great discussion and one that I don’t think HP would have necessarily had without the LPX, or the means of convening people that the LPX has become. And it really generated a lot of interest at Sundance to hold LPX-type discussions at other conferences in the future. So I think it is something that will continue to build on itself.

Going back to the first online LPX, we released the report from that earlier this year. It contains a lot of detail and ideas, which we obviously don’t have the time to highlight all of that here, but what were the key ideas that stood out for you from the first Living Progress Exchange?

I think the whole aspect of collaboration is key. It is vital across sectors, within sectors, sometimes even amongst competitors, and certainly between unlikely partners. HP has a lot of experience in utilizing ICT as an enabler of collaboration and a way of bringing an accelerated benefit to sustainability issues. A great example of that is our HP Earth Insights program, where we have worked with Conservation International to develop a warning system for at-risk animals in rainforests around the world using big data. So that kind of collaboration really magnifies the impact that a company can have.
I think another idea from the first LPX was that an integrated and long-term strategy is absolutely critical, and not to say that every company needs to adopt a framework like Living Progress, but having a framework that looks at the triple bottom line and integrates that with the products and services—what you offer and how you do it—I think it is absolutely important for all companies to take that interconnected approach.
And I think the third idea was about ICT enabling progress. It’s a great industry for accelerating the impact of sustainability, because we are not only trying to connect people, but that connection also then leads to greater collaboration and accelerates economic and human development.

In the next LPX that is happening on March 17 and 18, we are focusing on four main discussion topics: Driving Progress on Sustainable Technology, Driving Progress on Sustainable Supply Chains, Sustainably Connecting the Next Billion, and Enabling Improvements in Environmental Stewardship. These topics, as you know, are very much drawn from the perspectives and ideas emerging from the first online LPX. But there is also other thinking behind this from an HP perspective. Can you just elaborate on that?

Broadly speaking, we are obviously very conscious of the upcoming separation of HP into two companies; HP Inc. which is going to be focused on our PCs, printers, tablets—basically our personal systems products. And then the other company, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, which will focus on our B2B side—servers, storage, networking, consulting services, software—the stuff that we really deal with large global clients on.
So we really wanted to make sure that we applied the learning from the first online LPX and the discussions we’ve had since to the agenda for the upcoming online LPX, to get more specific and drill into some meaty issues; but also be mindful of the issues that are going to be relevant to both the separated companies.
I am really excited about all the topics. I am particularly excited about this idea of connecting the next billion, because we look at a world where two-thirds of the world is still not online, they don’t have Internet access, and yet we know with the data explosion that is coming and is only going to accelerate, that we need to find new and more sustainable ways for delivering that benefit to people in order to encourage economic and human progress.
So we have four great topics, but really the big challenge is how does a company like HP—or the two new companies—how do we continue to have a positive impact and deliver ICT as an enabler of future progress, future Living Progress, in both organizations?

So apart from the sleep deprivation again, what are you personally most looking forward to in the second LPX in March?

I am looking forward to the Living Progress Exchange continuing to build, and continuing to improve our understanding of the issues around Living Progress and how we can work better, not only internally, but with others. We’ve set ourselves the goal of having even more participants, and we are privileged to have a fabulous line-up of special guests who are going to be involved, so I am looking forward to a really lively and engaging discussion.
I’ll tell you, the first online LPX went very fast. Even though we were running a number of sessions for different time zones around the world, at some crazy times of the night for us here in California, each one of the sessions went quickly because it was so engaging. And so I’m expecting the next ones to be as stimulating, or even more stimulating, and really result in further refinement of the work we all need to do both collectively and for us specifically in HP, and especially for the two new companies.

Please join us for the next HP Living Progress Exchange, which you can join on March 17 or 18, depending on your preferred time zone. You can register now for the Living Progress Exchange here.

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About GlobeScan
For twenty-five years, GlobeScan has helped clients measure, understand and build valuable relationships with their stakeholders, and to work collaboratively in delivering a sustainable and equitable future. Uniquely placed at the nexus of reputation, brand and sustainability, GlobeScan partners with clients to build trust, drive engagement and inspire innovation within, around and beyond their organizations.