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Racing with a purpose: How social equity drives sustainability

In this Earth Month Fireside Chat, ROKiT Venturi Racing's Susie Wolff joins HPE's Brian Tippens to discuss the relationship between environmental and social issues and the imperative for companies to make positive changes on both fronts.

This year's Earth Month theme is "Restore Our Earth," a fitting choice given the challenges the planet and our communities have faced over the past year. To mark the occasion―and to highlight the intersection of sustainability and social issues―Brian Tippens, chief sustainability officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, sat down for a Fireside Chat with Susie Wolff, team principal of ROKiT Venturi Racing, an HPE partner. They explore the companies' parallel goals, how social and environmental imperatives are related, and what companies and individuals can do to drive positive change.

Please listen: Sustainable tech: Good for the planet, good for business

While climate change and issues such as diversity and inclusion and social justice are now front and center around the globe, it's important to talk about them in terms of how they relate to each other, Tippens says. "Change doesn't happen in isolation," he says.

A force for good

As Tippens notes, HPE aims to be a force for good, so it looks to partner with like-minded organizations, like ROKiT Venturi Racing, a team in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, the world's first all-electric racing series. The team showcases and promotes the use of sustainable technology in its electric cars.

When Wolff, a former Formula 1 race car driver, first got involved in Formula E, she says she was "blown away" by the technology innovations that would someday become mainstream, helping to reduce carbon emissions and create a more sustainable world.

In racing, "it's all about performance, it's all about marginal gains, and that means leaving no stone unturned in our quest for performance," Wolff says. "We are proud to be at the cusp of development of this technology because that is the future."

Another common goal of ROKiT Venturi Racing and HPE is to connect with local communities―not only to highlight how technology is being used to fight climate change, but to champion inclusivity efforts such as enabling school-age girls to get exposure to jobs in traditionally male-dominated fields like technology and motorsports.

Please read: Building diversity in tech with Black Girls Code

"It's a topic I'm very passionate about," Wolff says. As a pioneering woman in motorsports―and head of a team that is one-third women―she says she wants to "inspire the next generation."

"We're incredibly lucky at ROKiT because we're such a diverse team and everybody can flourish," Wolff says. "It's very much about empowering … and breaking down barriers."

The key to sustainability

In discussions on climate change, it's important to note that women―especially in the developing world, where farming is critical―are often disproportionately affected by environmental impacts, as are people in underrepresented and underserved communities, Tippens says.

"We need to take a holistic approach to sustainability, whether it's creating affordable solutions that everyone can buy into or diversifying the climate movement, making sure there is a seat for all," he says.

Please read: Diversity in risk-taking: Why every voice matters

To do that, HPE looks at inclusion across four dimensions: hiring, equity, advocacy, and community. And while there's no one answer to how companies should approach issues around sustainability and social equity, "every organization has the ability to make change," Tippens says.

"We're at an inflection point," he adds, noting that all companies should be looking at their pipeline of future workers, how they procure throughout their supply chains, how they produce goods and services, and how they impact communities.

Please listen: AI and sustainability: The most important tech challenges of 2021

"We're not just racing because we're passionate about motorsport," says Wolff. "We really feel like we are racing with a purpose. We're racing also because we're passionate about climate change and being part of the solution. ... It really feels like now it's time to act."

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.