Dell: Upcycling Ocean Plastics Through Supply Chain Innovation

by: Ravi Anupindi, Andrew Hoffman

Publication Date: June 18, 2018
Length: 30 pages
Product ID#: 7-949-121

Core Disciplines: Operations Management/Supply Chain, Social Impact, Strategy & Management, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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This case focuses on Dell’s efforts to develop an open-source, scalable, and cost-effective supply chain capable of delivering ocean plastics waste to its production facilities, and potentially to those of partnering companies through a consortium. Piyush Bhargava, vice president of global operations at Dell and leader of Dell’s Ocean Plastics Initiative, must deliver a strategic plan for how to proceed with the initiative but has three primary challenges: (1) how to deliver “additionality”, (2) how to operationalize an ocean plastics supply chain at scale, and (3) how Dell should approach developing a consortium to ensure meaningful demand for the material.

The case presents scientific information on the causes, scale, and impact of the ocean plastics problem and provides background on Dell’s involvement in other sustainable packaging initiatives. Students will learn why Dell chose this cause and how it came to be a leading initiative within the company. The case is based on a 2017 Tauber Institute for Global Operations (University of Michigan) summer internship project.


Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Describe the nature of the ocean plastics crisis.
  • Explain Dell’s strategy to tackle the ocean plastics crisis.
  • Frame how Dell will apply circularity to this supply chain: the steps, the value proposition, and the associated risks and costs.
  • Express how Dell’s circular approaches deliver value, including additionality.
  • Describe the reason for creating a consortium, and explain the risks and benefits of doing so.