Navigating the changing landscape of environmental performance

Digital Infra Network caught up with Steve Haskew, head of sustainability and social leadership at Circular Computing to talk about how remanufactured hardware can help organisations meet their ESG targets.

How has the pandemic influenced and changed how businesses approach ESG?

The pandemic created a rift in the business landscape that forced many executives to rethink their processes and recalibrate previously set out ESG strategies. Perhaps the most affected were CIO’s and their IT teams who were tasked with the shift to “work from anywhere”.

Suddenly, the teams had to navigate extraordinarily long lead times for hardware in order to deliver the right equipment for its workforce and ensure business continuity, midst slower production rates caused by the global component shortage, disrupted supply chains, the pandemic and Brexit delays. 

Consequently, this meant that other ESG based projects often took a backseat as teams were forced to make best value decisions while a significant portion of the CIO’s budget was being consumed by the transition to flexible new style of working. The result means that CIOs in particular have had to change their approach to the procurement of technology in a bid to meet continued ESG targets, while still delivering on operational business needs. 

Have the environment and social components of ESG become critical differentiators in the eyes of customers as they decide what to buy from?

Engaging holistically with a healthy supply chain has a far deeper meaning than to simply improve reliability or cost effectiveness. Not only has the spotlight been placed on businesses while the world battles with the climate crisis, but decades of poor practice have led to the exploitation of people and natural resources. With the wider consumer focus now angled upon impactful ESG initiatives, the implications of poor supply chains on both the environment and society at large, can no longer be avoided, and in many markets is not tolerated – the Public Sector being one.

Recent research from Deloitte has shown that nearly one in three consumers have stopped purchasing certain brands or products because they had ethical or sustainability related concerns about them. And the difference can also be seen at an executive level, with almost half of companies having seen improved financial metrics thanks to sustainable initiatives.

With issues such as climate change and modern slavery being more widely exposed to the consumer than ever before, the desire to seek out businesses with a focus on the environment and social components of ESG is only natural and will continue to grow in importance. Providing social value has benefits to businesses by ensuring they have healthy supply chains, becoming the key differentiator behind purchasing decisions.

How are businesses using tech to deliver against their ESG targets?

Given that ESG pressures and flexible working will very likely continue to be a driver of IT transition and digitisation for the foreseeable future, opting for a totally new category of hardware such as remanufactured laptops, versus purchasing brand new IT, will make a fundamental difference both financially and practically for most businesses today. Utilising dormant technology that still holds huge material value is fantastic opportunity to meet ESG goals as well as being cost efficient. According to E-Waste Monitor, in 2020 only 17.4 per cent of global e-waste was collected and properly recycled but that alone amounts to $10 billion in raw material value. With an estimated total value of $57 billion for raw materials within global e-waste, the technology industry is sitting on a circular economy goldmine.

This new category, remanufactured hardware, is the first of its kind in the world being certified as “equal to or better than new” by the British Standards Institution according to BSI 8887. The process is created fully in the circular economy and ensures performance levels go far beyond that of refurbished or any other second-hand equipment. This in turn helps tackle environmental pressures as well as cost and reliability.

Allocating a significant portion of the laptop estate to remanufactured hardware immediately resolves some of the ESG compliance issues for businesses’ IT estate. On top of that, technology procured from the circular economy like remanufactured products is readily available on short lead times, through normal distribution channels and generally comes at a very significant cost reduction to brand new, often as much as 30 to 40% less. 

As we look to 2022 and beyond, the adoption of such technologies will only become more widespread, having the capability to revolutionise not only how businesses set out to meet their sustainability targets but how they perform against commercial objectives.

As we move into a post-pandemic business landscape, how does ESG factor into the new digital transformation roadmaps enterprises are re-drawing in the wake of COVID-19?

With the move towards hybrid and remote working across the workforce, existing IT architecture has changed. Employees no longer solely sit together or work remotely, meaning that businesses are having to invest heavily in adaptable, mobile working equipment. Portable hardware such as laptops and mobile devices have now become the key tool in facilitating successful hybrid working.

Alongside continual innovation and digital transformation, the necessary focus on widespread sustainability efforts will mean sustainable IT increasingly becomes a vital part of any tech stack. At the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals that most businesses will be benchmarked against, lies resource preservation, and at the heart of resource preservation is the circular economy.

So, while the hardware must be able to support the latest software and applications for effective remote collaboration, supporting the circular economy with sustainable IT solutions will be a crucial part of the future tech stack. Substantially extending the lifecycle of high-quality IT hardware through processes such as remanufacturing that ultimately prevent electronic waste and bring the device back to its original performance levels. This will be vital to meeting technological requirements, installs a defensive IT strategy as the world suffers component shortages, while ultimately driving a more sustainable future for the business and the world.

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