At Lenovo, sustainability is at the core of its business philosophy, product development, and customer communication. Abhishek Shah, Senior Manager – Brand Strategy, WW marketing, Lenovo shares with WARC how the world's leading technology solutions company is walking the talk.

This article is part of a Spotlight series on sustainability marketing in India. Read more

Key insights

  • Consumers have a high awareness of environmental issues, with high levels of purchase intent for a more sustainable product and the willingness to pay a premium for it.
  • India is a price-sensitive and feature-driven market but there are opportunities for brands to own the sustainability space by making green marketing core to their business and communication.
  • Customer success will follow when marketers can sensitise customers to the need for sustainability, by creating awareness around it across every single touchpoint.
Lenovo takes the concept of sustainability very seriously across markets. Why does it form a vital part of your overall business strategy?

Lenovo understands that sustainability is an issue that is important to consumers everywhere and that sustainable practices also benefit consumers everywhere. We’ve focused on integrating sustainability into our marketing and products, rather than creating separate one-off products that are sustainable.

  • For example, we’re integrating recycled content into 200-plus products right now and we aim to integrate recycled content into 100% of our PCs by 2025.
  • By FY2029/30, we will achieve 50% improvement in energy efficiency of Lenovo desktops and servers.
  • By the same timeline, we will achieve 30% improvement in the energy efficiency of Lenovo notebooks and Motorola products.

These are big goals we’ve set up for ourselves and being the global No 1 PC brand, we realise this is something we need to be accountable for in the sustainability conversation.

That said, sustainability goes much broader than just the environment. At Lenovo, we see sustainability through a wider aperture, that which also envisions a sustainable, brighter future for our customers, colleagues, communities and, of course, the planet.

We launched Lenovo’s Product Diversity Office (PDO) back in 2020 to ensure our products work for everyone, regardless of physical attributes or abilities. The embedded concept of “Diversity by Design” allows us to consult with a broad range of diverse users to validate designs and provide feedback, including employees in employee resource groups and Lenovo’s accessibility and inclusion advisor, Haben Girma.

Our global philanthropy team empowers under-represented populations with access to technology and STEM education. It is driven by a global team of philanthropy leaders and engaged employees who are focused on meeting the unique needs of the communities where Lenovo does business.

Lenovo is also deeply committed to fostering an inclusive workplace. By FY2025/26, we will grow the global representation of women in executive roles to 27% (from 21% in 2020).

Tell us more about your sustainable marketing initiatives. Besides doing good, how much of a positive impact has it had on the business?

I’d like to use a mix of some India-specific as well as global initiatives here.

Most of us don’t realise that the teacher shortage is a big hurdle in India’s education sector. According to government estimates, India faces a shortage of one million teachers. Throw in the complexity and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and we start to see the enormity of the challenge. Then there’s the issue of opportunity gaps between students from under-represented communities as well. With that in mind, Lenovo and non-profit eVidyaloka teamed up to launch SmarterEd, a student-teacher matching program that has already secured registrations from over 11,000 volunteer teachers. Nearly 15,000 students from across India have opted to learn for free via the Lenovo-designed one-on-one platform.

Our We’ve Got Your Back campaign from December last year is another good case in point. Through a series of simple stories, it attempts to showcase perspectives of various people whose lives Lenovo has touched while building a sustainable tomorrow – from education and finance to agriculture and environment.

During one of our surveys in 2020, we stumbled upon the insight that technology has made people more empathetic toward different viewpoints in their communities. This was the foundation behind our New Realities campaign, a dynamic artistic project celebrating women who are using smart technology to showcase and solve global social issues and empower empathy.

When we think of cities today, we think buildings, apartments, parks, public squares, civic infrastructure and so on. But how do we envision a city of the future that is built on kindness? Continuing to build on the empathy story, Lenovo’s Kind City project aims to provide a blueprint for just that! The best part is, we are crowdsourcing ideas to help build a kinder, more inclusive and better future for our cities, with technology at their core.

We’re witnessing a fundamental shift in the way we work, where we work from and how we work. In that regard, Lenovo recently announced a Work for Humankind initiative, which highlighted remote and purpose-driven work for a group of people conducting conservation efforts while working remotely on Robinson Crusoe Island, 400 miles off the coast of Chile.

I can keep going. Such initiatives have helped us strengthen the brand love and affinity which Lenovo enjoys globally.

Consumers are becoming more conscious about the environment and other social causes. How are you engaging with this community? It certainly is an opportunity for you to further your brand building exercise and find favour, don’t you think?

Lenovo has continually focused on credibility and proof points when it comes to our sustainable product design and features.

  • We were doing integration of recycled content and focused on sustainable product design since before it became so important to consumers.
  • Lenovo has measured its environmental impact in an annual ESG Report since 2008.
  • We enjoy engaging with consumers through our proof points, highlighting them when our annual ESG Report is published, during key moments in time like Earth Day and World Environment Day, and integrating sustainability into our existing global events and initiatives.
  • Take a look at Lenovo’s Asset Recovery Services, which serves as a best practice for hardware recycling and secure data disposition, something which our customers really appreciate.
  • Customers in select geographies have the option to offset the emissions from their device at the point of purchase.
  • Our Neptune warm-water cooling technologies can help drive down total power consumption for data centre operations by as much as 40%. Our customers love it and it’s a big win for the planet.
That said, becoming environmentally conscious is perhaps still not a mass idea yet here. How does one make it so?

The path to and the journey towards a sustainable future is something we all need to undertake together. To overcome the challenges of climate change, we must make thousands of tiny changes and take every step possible to reduce emissions. We take a collaborative approach by aligning our own emissions reduction targets to the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

By making sure our targets are aligned to the latest climate science, our progress will also be measured and contribute to a larger body of knowledge to help others meet their goals as well.

By aligning to standards and contributing to collaborative efforts, we know we can share best practices and grow awareness about climate change.

I highlighted our sustainable recycling practice as well as CO2 offset services earlier, so efforts such as those also start playing incremental, yet important roles. It’ll take all kinds of efforts, big and small, to build a sustainable future for everyone.

There is usually a price premium attached to “sustainable products”. Do you think this is a deterrent for the consumer, both in terms of embracing a product and brand, as well as the larger idea?

You are correct. For the longest time, this was the norm. That said, we are seeing the rise of ethical consumerism across the food, agriculture, fashion and technology sectors.

The pandemic has been a big fillip to this trend. Research suggests the modern consumer has high awareness of environmental issues, backed by high levels of purchase intent for a more sustainable product. What’s more interesting is the willingness to pay a premium for such brands. Therefore, it’s so important to grow awareness about sustainability.

Do you think Indian marketers are paying enough attention to green marketing? What are some of the major challenges before them?

Like I said, there’s a growing undercurrent of consumers who are starting to appreciate sustainability as well as sustainable brands.

As a developing market, we are still heavily price-conscious and feature-driven, especially in technology. And so, price sensitivity becomes a big factor.

In due course, one expects brands to start making green marketing a centrepiece of their core business as well as communication. The winds of change are already blowing.

This is another way of saying there’s plenty of opportunity for brands to come in and own the space in their categories.

Is sustainability still seen as a “nice to have” instead of something that is non-negotiable?

Not anymore, especially when you look at how we view sustainability domestically in India, I’d say we are a conscious aspirant. Both the government as well as private sector have been actively involved in taking up issues around sustainable growth.

Talking about Lenovo, sustainability and ESG are critical priorities that are core to our business. To provide our vision of smarter technology for all, we have to embrace sustainability and work toward a smarter future as well. I would posit that not only is it non-negotiable but also a strong differentiator in the long run.

What is your message to the marketing community? How should one keep sustainability at the core of marketing strategy and ensure profitability at the same time?

As marketers, our job is to sensitise customers and create awareness around sustainability across every single touchpoint of your brand. There are opportunities everywhere.

This intent must reflect more holistically within the organisation and the way it carries out its business with its stakeholders. Marketing strategy needs to align with the corporate strategy. Only then does it become more purposeful. Customer success will follow.

Read more in this Spotlight series