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…”
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.
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.
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.
We have talked at length about the environmental cost of resource consumption at the hands of the IT industry. However, the true price is often paid by communities that are “put to work” in developing countries to meet manufacture demand. Whilst pay is poor by western standards, it is often the best source of income for the most vulnerable communities. Therefore, throwing money at this problem is not a viable solution. There needs to be wider consideration for meeting short term needs, whilst investing in longer term solutions such as better education provision to keep children out of mines without creating a “void” in family income.