This is a guest post for Computer Weekly’s ‘circular tech economy’ series written by Simon Young in his capacity as director and VP of sales for UK & Ireland at technology services company CHG-Meridian – with a special interest in carbon-zero initiatives, the company has acute skills in technology lifecycles for IT, healthcare and industrial equipment.
The original full title for this piece is – IT Consumption can’t be stopped, but it can be more sustainable.
Young writes as follows…
Let’s be clear: the environmental and economic challenges all our organisations face are only going to keep getting bigger.
Constant change will be very much the new normal.
The past two years highlighted the importance of digital transformation. Organisations that grabbed innovation were able to thrive even during the pandemic. Company boards saw how technology keeps businesses productive in the most challenging circumstances – and now that they want even more.
This demand for change creates new pressures for decision makers.
The pace of digital transformation will continue to quicken and the requirements to refresh kit will increase. Business leaders aiming to maintain productivity in a sustainable manner must do two things: they must focus on managing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of technology used in the business and pass on old kit sustainably as part of the circular economy, which involves recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible.
For key decision makers in IT, sustainability and procurement, the premise is clear – give the business the hardware it needs to succeed, but do so in a way that’s cost effective and environmentally sustainable. That mix sounds tough to achieve but by building strong partnerships, you can manage technology asset rollouts effectively and balance responsibility for sustainability, cost control and competitiveness.
The key to success is helping your organisation embrace this dual responsibility head-on. No executive can meet this target by working in isolation. They must find effective techniques to manage the TCO of IT assets and to deal with these resources in an environmentally sensitive manner.
Entering the circular economy
The shift in thinking comes from looking at the entire lifecycle of IT refreshes from procurement and use, to data deletion, refurbishing and remarketing. The circular economy approach is a proven financially and environmentally sensible way to do business.
By only procuring and financing the equipment that it needs, a business can ensure efficiency and conserve resources. And through using financing models, rather than tying up an organisation’s capital, these lifecycle models provide cash flow for investment in further innovation.
At the end of the lifecycle, the equipment is handed back to the provider, who wipes it and reuses it. The total cost of ownership (TCO) is lower for organisations and the equipment you buy can be put to sustainable use afterwards.
In other words, sustainable business practices and financing models pay off, both for business and for society.
The circular economy is acting as a catalyst here, establishing itself as one of the most popular contemporary business principles across all industry sectors. While this was originally driven by the huge cost of IT equipment, it is now consistent with contemporary thinking where use is valued above ownership.
Data deletion dilemmas
Reliable data deletion is paramount to the success of the circular economy.
Smartphones and laptops, but also PCs, servers and printers, store large amounts of data, which is why professional data erasure in accordance with statutory requirements is essential for remarketing.
Organisations should look to suppliers that can provide ISO-certified data deletion solutions that are adapted to the type of device, to the data scenario and to the companies’ individual security requirements. This guarantees that data does not fall into the hands of unauthorised parties.
As a result, the useful life of laptops, tablets and smartphones is increasing and currently 96 percent of all IT assets returned to us are refurbished and given a second or even third life.
In 2020 alone, we (by which we mean CHG-Meridian – stylised for internal marketing purposes as CHG-MERIDIAN – not the planet as a whole… that figure would be closer to almost a million) refurbished almost a million IT devices that were remarketed to companies and customers on the secondary market. Each device that is remarketed contributes to greater sustainability by saving the energy, raw materials and greenhouse gas emissions otherwise used or generated in the manufacture of a new device.