Today HP announces both the appointment of Lèo Apotheker as its new CEO and a simultaneous donation of $5 million to the Newseum for defense of first amendment rights. Could sustainability and corporate responsibility in the vein of the values of its founders be again on the march at HP?
First the Newseum donation which supports a special exhibit on the role of social media in the democratization of news and content. From the HP press release:
At HP, our technology is harnessing the power of information to change the equation for people, businesses and society,” said Michael Mendenhall, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, HP. “This interactive, innovative venture will examine what the changing equation means for the news media and news consumers around the world.”
I actually think HP are on to something important here. Just today at The Atlantic/Aspen Institute Washington Ideas Forum Craig Newmark was expounding on the importance of mainstream and social media as immune system for democracy. He predicts that NPR and the philanthropy model will emerge as the most successful because it better speaks to the needs of millennials:
I have a feeling that membership models and philanthrophy models will be stronger than advertising-supported models, people will be willing to pay for news they can trust.
I digress. Back to HP's future in sustainability. In an extraordinary interview recently in the New York Times Stanford academic and former HP engineer Charles House was scathing in his assessment of Mark Hurd's record on corporate sustainability:
Mr. House was also offended by Mr. Hurd’s dictum that H.P. executives had to resign from all civic boards, as well as his decision to cut off many of H.P.’s philanthropic activities. “H.P. has always been a model corporate citizen,” ....... “He was wrecking our image, personally demeaning us, and chopping our future.
So what does Lèo's arrival signal? Is the Newseum donation and CEO appointment on the same day just a coincidence? It could be but its also likely a subtle signal of a change of course. One clue is Lèo's bio in the official HP press release. In contrast to Hurd's dictum that no executive should serve on a civic board, Apotheker arrives as a current board member of PlaNet Finance, a global leading non profit in the field of microcredit. It's also instructive to look at his prior record at SAP (disclosure: see my bio) summed up by industry analyst James Governor of Redmonk:
Leo’s legacy is that he took Sustainability seriously and made it part of SAP’s spine, rather than being a fingers and toes activity.
On the sustainability front interesting times ahead at HP.