By Carmen Ene
With many parts of the globe taking their first steps towards recovering from COVID-19 lockdowns, the discussion has shifted to what kind of world we will be returning to, what limitations will govern our behaviors and interactions going forward, and what effects that will have on all aspects of our lives.
The business world has already experienced major upheaval and disruption as a result of the virus. Many businesses and organizations were forced to close shop altogether, but others were able to continue trading, albeit in a more limited fashion, by shifting employees from office-based working to remote working.
While some organizations had already embarked on a migration to remote working before COVID-19 emerged, many others had to make the change much more drastically when the lockdown came into effect. It’s highly likely that this shift will, for the most part, become permanent for many businesses.
This change in working practice has significant implications for businesses and organizations in terms of the computer hardware they deploy. For many years, the desktop was the standard PC for many workers, but there has now been a shift towards mobile devices, such as laptops, along with the addition of tablets and smartphones.
The effects of COVID-19 have accelerated the trend towards remote working, but that doesn’t mean the PC is dead, rather that its role is diminishing.
Desktop PCs and the remote working conundrum
The rise in remote working and the associated increase in mobile devices – laptops, tablets and smartphones – has significant implications for how organizations acquire, manage and dispose of IT assets.
At its most basic, businesses are moving from a model where a majority of workers were based in the same space, primarily using static IT devices, to an environment where employees are dispersed across different locations and using mobile devices.
This dispersed model is intrinsically more complex than the traditional office-based working environment. It requires a change in mindset by business leaders and IT directors in terms of how they view IT assets which are now increasingly remote. The logistics involved for organizations to support large remote-based workforces are more complicated than for an office-based workforce.
With such profound changes taking effect against a backdrop of unprecedented disruption, business leaders and IT directors might think they can be forgiven for not focusing attention on sustainable IT management. But I believe now is the time to act – businesses should be leading the way to change.
By changing the way business procure, use and dispose of technology they can start to make a significant impact on reducing the amount of corporate electronic waste (e-waste) that is mounting in landfills across Europe and the world.
Critics will say that surviving the social and economic effects of the COVID-19 lockdown and navigating a plausible path into the future should take priority, and sustainability is a marginal issue that should be addressed after recovery is complete. But this is precisely the time where changing their focus to a sustainable future could be most beneficial.
Growing concerns over corporate e-waste
By 2040, carbon emissions from the production and use of electronics, including devices like PCs, laptops, monitors, smartphones and tablets will reach 14% of total emissions. E-waste is equivalent to 44.7 million metric tons per year, and it’s still increasing.
To try and illustrate the scale of the problem, the UN Global E-waste Monitor estimates e-waste will grow by 14 Eiffel Towers every day by 2021. It is one of the fastest growing, and least considered, issues for our environment.
While most businesses will need to refresh and dispose of IT assets, many are unsure of how best to do that and what the beneficial effects of reusing that equipment could be. Yet, the opportunity is huge and it is crucial that we foster a growing awareness about a better, greener way to consume technology. It has been many years since the European Union introduced the WEEE directives to improve how we handle electronic waste, but still electronic recycling rates in Europe are under 40% and reuse rates are less than 5%.
Clearly, there is lots of work still to be done and it must start with businesses, who are responsible for a huge proportion of society’s IT consumption.
Consider how much of that 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste per annum could be reused by a different organization or individual and the positive environmental effects reuse can generate.
For example, reusing equipment can reduce the CO2 emissions of a device by 36%. Disposing of IT equipment is an expense, but reusing it gives that equipment a residual value, a value which can be used against the cost of purchasing new IT devices. For those organizations faced with accelerating the shift from desktops to mobile devices, this could free up much needed cash flow during this challenging economic time.
While there are many businesses that can help companies and organizations with the acquisition, management or disposal of equipment, there are very few that can cover all stages of the process. A truly sustainable asset management approach takes into account various solutions.
It helps customers acquire the right equipment for their needs, by providing financing with predictable payments. It manages their assets and monitors the health and location of each device, offering proactive support and automating the end of lease device refresh. And it arranges for the regular renewal of IT equipment, erasure of sensitive data and the refurbishment of old devices to be resold.
The knock-on effects for sustainability
The aim for a post-COVID world has to be to bring order to the chaos and take away the headache from businesses that are faced with the challenge of a rapid and unplanned shift to remote working.
More emphasis must be put on the refurbishment and reuse of IT equipment to reduce the e-waste problem, by adopting sustainable technology lifecycle management.
The onus is now on businesses to strengthen their commitment to sustainability. Why? Not only will it benefit the environment and help mitigate the e-waste problem, it will also give businesses the opportunity to stand out against competitors in a post-COVID landscape.
With so much to be gained by organizations from adopting a more sustainable approach to IT management, the global business community needs to be made aware that there is a better, greener way to consume technology. It is the responsibility of businesses to lead from the front in the fight to eliminate e-waste and reduce the carbon impact of the technology that is the backbone of modern working.
*About the author: Carmen Ene is CEO of 3stepIT, an IT management company. She is focused on helping businesses manage their IT operations more effectively and sustainably.
Source: This article was published by Sustainability Times