Paving an intentional road to a sustainable IT future
For businesses that want to stay competitive, e-waste is an infelicitous fact of life – so what to do about it?
Sponsored Feature Meeting organizational sustainability requirements depends on so much more than optimizing electricity consumption and reducing an enterprise's carbon footprint. It involves taking a long hard look at the way that operations impact not just the environment, but also the economy and even society itself.
From an IT perspective, that makes it essential to be sure that old systems and components are either recycled, refurbished or disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. But that's an end-to-end process that can be long, complex and difficult to manage.
Each year a total of 53.6 million metric tons of metal in e-waste is discarded across the globe, according to the Global E-waste Monitor report. That's a staggering number to grasp, roughly equivalent to forty-five Eiffel Towers. Yes, the 984-foot high, 7,300-ton landmark in the middle of Paris. Imagine 4,500 of them, every 12 months.
Help on disposal is at hand
That's a considerable mass of metal, plastic and other material that cannot be easily dissolved and has to exist elsewhere after its business use ends. This colossal amount of e-waste grows larger every year by 5 to 8 percent, and it joins a myriad of other global recycling problems as the world's population scrambles to clean up the mess it has made for itself over generations.
Enterprises can obtain plenty of help and guidance from organizations such as The Recycling Partnership, Global Recycling Network, Clean Production Action and Zero Waste International Alliance, which have urged companies to establish their own personal recycling strategies with rules set by top management. Every use case is different; the importance of this, scaled worldwide, cannot be minimized.
What would happen if we could give e-waste a second life, instead of dumping it into landfills or allowing it to take up valuable space in storage units? The answer: Only good things.
Recycling or refurbishing older IT hardware so it continues to do the job is a good PR look for a company. In its 2021 ESG Consumer Intelligence Series report, PwC estimated that eighty-three percent of consumers think businesses should actively follow federal environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment best practices. CFOs know that investments in reconstituting legacy equipment and/or purchasing rebuilt items can save companies a substantial amount of money over time.
Ideally, this circular economy leverages existing resources and puts them back into the supply chain instead of using them once (or for a short time) and discarding them. Supporting an intentional reuse blueprint like this can help enterprises make a significantly positive impact on the environment, not to mention on customers and corporate partners. On the public safety side, various government regulators – armed with increasingly stringent regulations – stand ready to penalize those who choose to shrug off these national and regional laws.
Institute sustainable business strategies
Companies should start by instituting high-level strategies for creating sustainable business models that result in hardware reuse and/or recycling, believes Lenovo. These could include:
- Start with your values. What is important to you and your company? What do you want to achieve? Once you have a clear understanding of your values, you can start to develop a business model that aligns with them.
- Be customer-centric. Sustainable business models are often built around the needs of the customer. By understanding what your customers want and need, you can create a business model that is both sustainable and profitable.
- Be innovative. There are many new and innovative ways to create sustainable business models. Don't be afraid to think outside the box and come up with new ideas.
- Be collaborative. Building a sustainable business is not something that can be done alone. You need to collaborate with your employees, suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders. By working together, you can create a more sustainable future for your business and the world.
- Be environmentally aware. Each company must examine itself closely and go deep into sustainability detail. For example, the list should include the recycling of all materials used in the day-to-day operation of the business. This includes everything from paper goods to cleaning solutions to electronic equipment. This is where e-waste becomes a key factor in a company's sustainability planning.
IT hardware life cycles are getting shorter
For businesses that want to stay competitive, e-waste is an unfortunate fact of life when adopting the latest technology to keep up with the world's fast-changing markets. IT hardware cycles are getting shorter (cell phones last an average of 2.58 years, a server about three to five years), and as the technology becomes faster and more capable of handling larger data loads, enterprises upgrade and/or replace older hardware more frequently in order to keep up with competitors. The result: a continuous stream of e-waste, for which many organizations need outside help.
Lenovo has been a leader in recycling IT hardware. Since 2005, the company has processed about 324,811 metric tons of computer equipment. In 2021, Lenovo managed the processing of 34,163 metric tons of company-owned and customer-returned computer equipment. Of this total, 5.5 percent was reused as products or parts and 88.2 percent recycled as materials.
"The conversation about sustainability begins in the sales cycle.As we're having conversations about new hardware sales, we are not only discussing carbon offset credits that Lenovo can offer, but we are also talking to customers about what they will do with their old hardware, when their new hardware arrives", says Ann Amini, Lenovo's Executive Director for Asset Recovery Services. "Through our ARS offering we can help customers sustainably and securely disposition their old, decommissioned hardware."
IT decision makers are also increasingly concerned about the energy usage of older, less efficient data center hardware. Lenovo can help with the transition to newer, more efficient hardware platforms, such as Lenovo Neptune™ liquid cooling technology. This upgrade can be the catalyst to returning any potential value from the old hardware to the customer via Asset Recovery Service, resulting in saving money on both the new hardware purchase and the reduced energy cost and carbon emissions, says the company.
For IT equipment that cannot be repaired and resold in secondary markets, Lenovo ARS facilitates the evaluation of parts and components for potential recycling. Any components that can be recycled go back into circulation to be used in the manufacture of new products for a more sustainable industry, Amini says.
The team specializes in offering customers choices, such as determining a strategy for re-use and recycling, selecting partners with whom to collaborate, and choosing how to undertake environmental or data security risks.
"From a Lenovo ARS perspective, we are vendor agnostic. Our intent is to simplify the complex process of dispositioning obsolete hardware. We do this by providing customers with a Lenovo focal point to help them manage the entire ARS process from end to end, and this is included in the base ARS offering" Amini says.
"We form partnerships with our customers and want to instill a sense of 'peace of mind'. When working with Lenovo as an ARS provider, customers can be assured, that not only will their hardware be sustainability dispositioned, but we will also ensure that data baring devices are handled appropriately either through data sanitization or drive destruction processes. In either scenario, proof of data sanitization or destructions are always provided."
Customization options not on the menu
Lenovo ARS provides other customization options in its tailor-made service packages, depending upon the specific requirements of the customer.
"We've had customers who want to upgrade a server but aren't ready to dispose of their old hardware," adds Amini. "Instead they may want some help to refurbish and redeploy the hardware to other areas of their organization, or may want some help refurbishing and donating the hardware to their favorite charitable organization. Either way, these are customization options that we can size for our customers, if they have requirements beyond the base ARS offering."
It's all dependent on what the customer is looking for: "They will come to us, they'll tell us what they need, and we'll size it for them. And then we'll see if we can help them out with whatever challenges they have as it relates to recovery services."
Lenovo ARS also monitors updates in local, national and international rules and regulations regarding disposal of legacy IT hardware so its customers don't have to do it.
For enterprises that want to "set it and forget it" when it comes to sustainability via recycling and refurbishing legacy IT equipment, engaging a partner such as Lenovo ARS can be a sustainable solution for taking a huge load off an IT exec's mind.
Sponsored by Lenovo.