Placing IT into the Circular Economy

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The need to look beyond the linear industrial model often referred to as ‘Take, Make & Dispose’, is now well accepted even as we become all-too aware of its damaging effects upon our increasingly fragile environment.

Thankfully, there is a much more sustainable approach in use, especially in terms of IT:

‘The Circular Economy’

This is an alternative, more progressive approach that builds economic, natural, and social capital through restoration and regeneration.

A circular economy focuses on maintaining the value of products, materials and resources through a combination of re-use, recycling and remanufacturing. Whereas new technology can be very enticing for consumers, this concurrent desire for the newest product creates enormous amounts of waste.

IT has a huge opportunity in terms of reducing its consumption and complexity, and utilising IT assets more effectively to drive down the carbon footprint.

IT and its impact within the Circular Economy

Every year more than 160 million new laptops are manufactured. And every day 160 thousand “old” laptops are disposed of in the EU alone. That is 3 million tons of IT equipment waste every year.

The results contribute to excessive resource consumption, climate change, conflict mining, human rights issues, pollution and e-waste. 70% of those laptops could be reused, refurbished or remanufactured, reducing raw materials and, energy consumption as well as cutting waste production.

One of the major contributors to this reduction in carbon consumption will come from the concept of resource efficiency. This concept embodies the creation of new industrial systems that actively enable the power of reuse, remanufacturing and recycling. The result is a distancing from our current dependency on the endless consumption of raw materials and production of unsustainable levels of e-waste. The circular economy puts these elements squarely at its core.

The IT industry must work much harder to ensure that a higher proportion of e-waste is dealt with by legitimate recycling centres for re-use, repurposing and re-entry into the circular economy.

How can your company become part of the Circular solution?

It’s essential that you involve your IT team early on in sustainability discussions. With the impact of IT so widely accepted today, it’s essential to keep it on the agenda. Leaving IT out of the debate can fragment sustainability and undermine sustainability efforts.

Keeping the sustainability conversation open with all departments across the business can help drive new idea creation and help keep IT on the sustainability agenda. When there is a robust strategy, at the heart of the company you’ll be able to fulfil many objectives by avoiding duplication or conflicting initiatives.

Sustainability can be as much about company culture as it is appealing to those consumers looking to buy from sustainability-focused businesses. Increasingly, employees too want to work for organisations actively practising sustainability. In addition to creating reporting systems to track your progress, make sure that you actively communicate it across the business. Doing so will create a sense of transparency, affinity and buy-in from consumers, employees, and executives alike.

When business executives set a positive example by taking a forward-thinking approach to sustainability the rest of the workforce are more likely to follow suit. Only then, will sustainability become a core part of the organisation’s culture. Leading from the top is a key factor in continuing the adoption of the circular economy into the core of a business.

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Remanufacturing: at the heart of the circular economy

Remanufacturing is the key element of IT impact within the circular economy. With remanufacturing, the sustainability issue is at the heart of the matter.

The British Standard ISO 8887-211 defines remanufacturing as: “returning a product to at least its original performance with a warranty that is equivalent or better than that of the newly manufactured product”. Circular Computing™ is the pioneer and innovation industry leader in this field.

The remanufacturing process directly avoids the depletion of many of the Earth’s limited resources that are part of the original manufacture of every new laptop, such as water, precious metals and minerals and the emissions of CO2 greenhouse gases. The process also means e-waste is not increased from the unnecessary disposal of a working laptop. The other boon of the process is that sustainability efforts are carried through to the end user, who can also declare the carbon-saving efforts in the Scope 3 Emissions report – meaning sustainable IT is a huge step forward for business, people and planet. Remanufactured laptops also cost 40% less than brand new.

Many businesses are becoming carbon neutral and, in so doing, make a valuable contribution to protecting our planet and its fragile ecosystems.

Conclusion

Early adopters of circular economy initiatives, such as the remanufacturing of IT are seeing the commercial and PR benefits of these efforts. Achieving and maintaining carbon neutral status is something that businesses can be rightfully proud of.

The associated ‘halo effect’ from buying remanufactured laptops demonstrates that sustainability is a part of your core business values and is a real, practical deliverable as part of your corporate social responsibility programs and Environmental Social Governance reports.

The wins of positioning IT into the circular economy are palpable, credible and make good business sense. It has become an essential element of today’s business.


Written by Sean Urquhart – Lead Copywriter at Circular Computing™