In December 2008 Dell announced plans to revolutionize its packaging strategy based on the three Cs, hoping to eliminate 20 million pounds of packaging material and (let's not forget) save $8 million by 2012.
Apparently it has worked, as Dell recently announced that it had already reduced its use of packaging material by 18.2 million pounds since the announcement. That's 91 percent of the goal while still less than half way to the deadline.
On the Cube side, steps have included optimizing the packaging of the Inspiron 15 laptop so that 63 fit into a shipping pallet, rather than 54.
For the Curbside, 57 percent of Dell's packaging materials can now be recycled by through local curbside pick-up programs. Dell's goal is to raise that to 75 percent by the end of 2012.
But the big change appears to have been in Content with a switch to the use of bamboo for packaging. That does not mean that they line the boxes with bamboo shoots. Instead, bamboo is shredded to make the pulp that's formed into corrugated shipping containers, replacing wood for that purpose.
A member of the grass family, bamboo grows much faster than wood, making it a more sustainable resource, Dell decided. Also, it has excellent tensile strength. Dell gets its bamboo from forests in China that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and are far from any panda habitats. (Besides being photogenic and rare, panda eat bamboo almost exclusively.)
In May, Dell got its bamboo packaging certified by the American Society for Testing and Materials, stating that it will biodegrade and compost at a rate comparable to most known compostable materials, and that the resulting detritus can sustain plant growth.
With its reliance on direct sales, Dell's emphasis on the three Cs has real meaning for the SMB market. A retail store is equipped to dispose of the packaging material of the hardware that it sells, and the end-user customers don't see it. But Dell's customers end up with the packaging material in their possession, and SMBs are not equipped to deal with it.