Change Suite

Trust, equity and sustainability: VMware's Gelsinger on a 2030 Agenda

NEW YORK (Reuters) - “Your generation has accomplished extraordinary things. But did you have to bankrupt this planet?”

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger poses in an undated photo. Courtesy VMware/Handout via REUTERS

That recent comment from Pat Gelsinger’s daughter-in-law was “a slap in the face,” said Gelsinger, the chief executive of software maker VMware Inc.

But in what he calls the “Year of the Triple” - climate change, a global pandemic and racial upheaval, it also helped influence a call to action.

On Dec. 10, the Palo Alto, California-based company unveiled its 2030 Agenda, a list of 30 environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals ranging from hiring one woman for every man, to procuring 100% of its power from renewable energy by the end of the decade.

Gelsinger, 59, spoke to Reuters about why “a company with greater purpose” is his mantra. Edited excerpts are below.

Q. What is the driver for this vast range of goals for the next decade?

A. We’re not a consumer brand. But VMware is one of the largest software brands on the planet and is deeply embedded in operations, data centers and management environments.

At our soul, we’ve always held ESG-related topics closely - what we call our EPIC2 values: Execution, Passion, Integrity, Customer, Community.

With our 2030 goals, the objectives that we have are much, much greater than ourselves. The agenda is aligned around three core concepts: trust, equity and sustainability.

Q. Talk to me about trust.

A. We view our role in technology as a force for good. Not just what it is, but how it’s used, and how society can embrace it and be better as a result of technology.

Products have to be secure. They have got to be trustworthy. The COVID era has demonstrated this more than ever. Humanity relies on us. So how do we build trust into everything that we do?

Q. And what about equity?

A. It’s who we hire, our diversity goals, proper representation of women, and making tech education available broadly. Can we bridge the digital divide and create a future that is more accessible and inclusive?

Q. Which of these 30 goals will be the hardest to achieve?

A. The goals where we need to influence others will be the most challenging. For example, changing our supply chain and driving some of the customer behaviors around energy efficiency.

Already, we say our products have helped to avoid 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions. Now we have a goal to collaborate with our public cloud partners to achieve net-zero carbon emissions for operations by 2030. That may have the greatest amplification effect of all of our goals.

Q. Is there one goal that you really are passionate about?

A. Tech companies today are pariahs on people’s personal information. Business models essentially probe deeper and deeper into our personal lives. We have a lack of good data protection capabilities and standards around the world. So this idea of trust in the cyber infrastructure is probably the one that is my deepest personal passion.

If we don’t do a better job as a tech community, then the world should stop giving us responsibility for their most cherished information - financial information; the education of the children; the social networks they live on; healthcare data.

Every aspect of humanity is coming to us. We have a duty, if not a sovereign responsibility, to do a better job.

I also wrote a personal goal, many years ago, which says I want to work on a piece of technology that touches every human on the planet.

I hold a deep and strong Christian beliefs. My job is to improve the lives of as many humans on the planet as possible. Not all days are great, but every day is a great privilege to be in a position of leadership, where I get to marshal the energies of my 33,000 passionate employees and channel them.

We’re now at a point where 60% of the world’s population has a persistent connection to the internet. By 2030, that number is going to be 90%. I think we truly can make the world a better place for every human and every modality of life.

Reporting by Lauren Young; Editing by Richard Chang