Dell is still finding it an uphill struggle to persuade its customers to take part in its "Plant a Tree for Me" scheme. Under this plan, customers can choose to spend an extra £1 per notebook or £3 per desktop to offset its estimated carbon emissions for the next three years.
Only 300,000 customers opted to pay the levy during Dell's last financial year, which ended in February, said Tod Arbogast, the company's director of sustainable business. Though he declined to enumerate it, that amounts to between $300,000 (£169,000) and $900,000 of voluntary spending by customers - compared to Dell's revenues of $61.1bn and net profits of $2.97bn. As a percentage of customers, it remains well below the 1% mark - as calculated by the Guardian in August 2007 (How green are Dell's customers in Europe?, August 2 2007, bit.ly/ungreen).
But Arbogast insists that Dell is pushing forward with reducing its environmental impact, from investments in renewable energy sources at its Round Rock headquarters in Texas - now powered by a mixture of wind, solar and "methane capture" sources - to buying renewable energy certificates for its suppliers in Asia, to increasing the recyclability of its products. "When we have a used printer cartridge, which comprises copper, some sponge, ink and plastics, we can recover the copper, sponge and plastics," Arbogast said. "In our PCs, the plastic resin used to make them can be reused. We might not be able to use them for a new PC, but there are other uses downstream."
Dell's drive to embrace green issues - identified by Michael Dell last year as a key aim for the company - has paid off in other ways, said Arbogast. Getting energy from renewable sources and focusing on reducing energy use by better efficiency had been initially expensive, but the rising price of energy meant that it was now almost the same price, he said.
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