In our office, the phrase “did you know...” was a frequent conversation starter, followed by a barrage of facts discovered on the journey to building Circular Computing™...
What we discovered was mass destruction, on an industrial scale, all in the pursuit of selling new computers. Over several decades this has done irreparable harm to people & our planet.
Why? Because, for decades the ICT industry has relied on a business model where planned obsolescence is designed into products as standard. Users are fed constant upgrade cycles every 3-4 years, based on the false assumption that “newer is better”.
Our Reversal initiative was born to prove that we can create a successful business and meet the IT needs of other successful businesses whilst reversing some of the damage caused by previous manufacture and disposal of computer and ICT products.
“…children as young as 4 are working in the mines of the Congo to extract minerals for new computers...”
“...students in China are made to work for low pay (or no pay in some IT factories) to meet production demand and if they don’t, they are failed in their exams…”
“...hazardous chemicals used in the extraction, processing and production of computers have killed workers…”
The make-up of the world’s workforce, and therefore people with money to spend, is changing. In the US, for example, there are currently around 92 million Millennials. In just a few years, by 2025, this group of young people – born between 1981 and 2001 – will account for 75% of working people. And this generation has plenty of purchasing clout too, representing some $2.75 trillion in spending power globally.
But, as we are so often told, this generation is different. Special, even.
Buoyed by globalization and a more progressive view of a politically and economically disrupted world, Millennials tend to be more curious and suspicious than the generation that came before. They are willing and able to ask more questions, particularly of brands and the activities of companies. As such, this generation is not in the market to buy just anything.
Trust has become a form of currency in today’s retail market. Alongside this has been an explosion of interest in environment, social and sustainability issues. There appears to be an increased desire for collective action, to rid the planet of harmful practices and bring to account those that continue to pollute or cause unnecessary waste.
Today, brands big and small recognize the market potential for sustainability – not just as a way of ensuring business survival, but as a market requirement fostered by increasingly savvy Millennial consumers. Whether you’re a manufacturer, retailer or supplier, it is all about transparency.
The latest Nielsen study has it that 81% of global consumers say it is ‘extremely’ or ‘very important’ for a brand to implement programmes that will protect and improve the environment. Consumers in developing markets, such as India and Colombia, feel even more strongly, with 97% and 96% of respondents respectively saying the same.
In another report, surveys suggest 87% of millennials would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues.
Individual consumer action is also important.73% of Nielsen respondents said they would either ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact. Additionally, 38% claim they would pay higher-than-average prices for products made with sustainable materials.
While there is some way to go before the majority of consumers vote with their wallets at the point of purchase – clearly sustainability is important to them.
And companies will need to keep pace in such a rapidly changing world.
They can do this by acknowledging the wider impacts of what they do as a business – and start to address what it will take to be more sustainable. IT procurement, for example, used to be a straightforward process; stick to what you know when upgrading systems and keep it simple by focusing on quality, performance and cost.
Now, sustainability needs to be a central component of any purchasing decision. Considering the environmental impacts of IT manufacture, for instance, as well as what happens when assets reach the end of their life, are now important factors in determining what IT equipment is best suited to the task in hand. In a world dominated by more environmentally-conscious employees, such considerations are becoming increasingly important to procurement strategies.
By establishing a reputation for environmental stewardship and social responsibility among customers, you will have an opportunity to build brand loyalty with a power-spending Millennial generation– a generation that continues to demonstrate increasingly less brand loyalty than the Baby Boomers that went before.
There is a legacy of CO2 debt carried by all of us who are engaged with IT operations. Reversal will be committed to causes like WeForest that tackle this legacy of debt by compensating for the production, use and disposal of IT. In the first instance, this is achieved by our commitment to plant five trees for every Circular Computing™ laptop sold. Beyond this, our reforestation projects create businesses in themselves, generating sustainable employment, infrastructure and income security within the local community. We aim to continue doing good.
Many millions of tons of ICT WEEE is sent to Ghana and Hong Kong illegally and disposed of without any duty of care to that society or the environment. Vulnerable societies are desperate for income and are insufficiently educated around issues of safe disposal. This creates a very dangerous environment. Carcinogens are created by the burning of materials to salvage valuable scrap, inflicting life-long damage to the residents. Reversal wants to see more product making its way to legitimate recycling centres for re-use and repurposing/re-entry into the circular economy instead.
The technology sector has typically done very little to offer transparency around the working conditions that go hand-in-hand with the relentless demand for newer, better, faster technology. We are 100% aligned to the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and are committed to giving a “choice” back to workers who make up a crucial component of our supply chain. This includes a firm stance against bonded labour. We will lead by example, giving our partners the opportunity to support us in ensuring ethical and fair labour.
We will work with regions of digital disadvantage by donating technology resources as required. We don’t want this to stop at laptops. We want to ensure global communities are digitally equipped to meet the needs of local people whether that be technology required for a new water or energy project, or to create the digital infrastructure required for education.