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Refurbished has to be part of the sustainability approach

Industry challenged at Canalys Channel Forum to do more to allow channel to sell second-hand products

If the IT industry wants to increase its suitability credentials, it needs to develop a model that can support increased sales of refurbished products.

Talking about cutting carbon and meeting net-zero targets is popular, but Alastair Edwards, chief analyst at Canalys, has challenged the vendor community to do more.

“Vendors are claiming their commitments to circular economies and to reducing waste in the supply chain, but all of you in the vendor community are still paid on selling new products, and this creates a fundamental contradiction,” he said.

“As a result, we see vendors holding back the ability of channel partners to sell refurbished and second-hand IT products by not recognising those products in compensation schemes and targets. This is creating immense frustration for the channel.”

Edwards told an audience at the Canalys Channels Forum that pressure was mounting for that position to be revised – and it was not just channel partners that wanted to see the situation change. “We see many of you channel partners that want to do this, and your customers are asking for it,” he said.

“Channel partners are effectively penalised for selling these refurbished products and for meeting these demands.”

Edwards urged the channel to keep pushing sustainability efforts because they mattered and had to be maintained.

“To be credible to your customers, you need to be a more sustainable business yourselves as partners,” he said. “The good news is that European partners are ahead of much of the world, but our research shows that you have more to go, further to go. Most of you have big ambitions, but the worry is that as economic pressure grows, some of those ambitions are going to be scaled down.

“It is important that you maintain those ambitions. Be ambitious, set bold targets both internally and externally.”

Edwards acknowledged that the vendor community was not entirely to blame and he also criticised the lack of agreement across the world on sustainability measures.

“The other problem is around a lack of standards on asset disposal and a failure to agree on data standards on carbon emissions,” he said. “We see storage devices being shredded rather than re-used because of a lack of agreement on data protection standards.

“This is solvable, but it needs vendors particularly to commit more people and resources, and it needs cross-industry agreement.”

Other sessions at the Canalys Forum delved deeper into sustainability and Virginie Le Barbu, global channel sustainability director at Lenovo, revealed that the vendor was working with partners and industry experts to establish a business model that would support refurbished sales.

“We are looking at building the right solution,” she said. “So, hopefully, we should have some news pretty soon, so stay tuned for that.”

Other executives on the circular computing panel, including HP, said there appeared to be a willingness from vendors to deal with the issue, but a workable model that supported, recognised and rewarded refurbished sales had not yet emerged.

Discussions currently being held included looking at compensation models because it was not clear how refurbished products would be measured. There were also questions around competencies, with different levels of expertise existing around this area across the channel.

There was also a sense that distribution is ready to help vendors once they have settled on a strategy, with Manuel Aguirre, global sustainability manager at TD SYNNEX, pointing out that the firm had the ability to extent its support to cover more refurbished sales.

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