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Has the Covid-19 pandemic enabled the channel to implement a more environmentally-friendly way of working?

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(Image credit: Image Credit: Moon Light PhotoStudio / Shutterstock)

The fight against coronavirus can be seen across all levels of society, with governments having to continuously adapt to a changing landscape, businesses needing to alter the way they operate and many people having to drastically change their daily routines and habits - fundamentally altering the way they live and work.

We all hope that the current positive trends continue and the virus is brought under control - but we also know that coronavirus is not the only global issue we are facing. Global warming is on track to have a catastrophic impact around the world, and if left unchecked has the potential to make all other global issues irrelevant and pale in comparison.

The global community needs to regard the issue as urgent, and for everyone - from top to bottom - to make changes that reduce our economic impact and improve sustainability. That’s why proactive, sustainable, environmentally-friendly decisions are at the top of many business agendas. For those in the channel industry, the coronavirus pandemic has given us a glimpse into how a more sustainable approach to the provision of technology might be achieved to deliver a truly circular economy.

Home versus the office

There’s no doubt that the biggest effect Covid-19 has had on most businesses is that it has fast-tracked the transition to home working. However, there is debate over whether that is better or worse for the environment and if the huge reduction in commuting is countered by so many inefficient houses being occupied all day, instead of energy efficient office spaces.

It is not for us to speculate about which of those is true, but for those in the channel industry supplying business solutions, helping organizations to stay environmentally-friendly and operate efficiently is going to be a key contributor to long term success.

Technology vendors are also going to be under increasing pressure from governments to extend the lifespan of their products. This will require them to overhaul their existing supply chains and provide more access to technology spares, which in turn will aim to reduce the millions of tons of technology waste each year. 

Building resilience

The number one thing channel companies need right now is to be adaptable and flexible to the changing situation and market demands. As we have seen, the way organizations operate can change dramatically almost overnight. As more evidence and conclusions are drawn about what is the most environmentally-friendly way of working - organizations will want to be able to adapt accordingly.

Channel companies need to be equally as flexible

Channel companies need to adapt to get the right inventory and support to the right places at the right time. We could see a hybrid model develop that combines remote working with smaller, collaborative offices that accommodate a lower percentage of the workforce, but allow teams to occasionally meet in person. Day-to-day working arrangements will be far less static and will continue to evolve and the channel response will need to be just as fluid.

A sustainable future

The biggest impact on the environment the channel can affect is in the provision of hardware and associated services. In the mass exodus to home working, laptops and mobile devices have naturally become paramount business tools. There is a school of thought that because those devices consume less power than traditional desktop setups, that is one positive eco-friendly change that organizations can push for to meet their sustainability goals.

However, the working life of a laptop is generally not as long as a desktop, so to capitalize on the benefits of a switch to laptops and mobiles, those devices need to be carefully managed, and utilized to ensure equipment is reused as much as possible without compromising efficiency and productivity.  In essence, extending the lifespan through comprehensive service schedules. 

Make good culture

In order to reduce carbon emissions and meet strict environmental policies, more responsibility will be placed on technology vendors and their associated partner networks to make technology spares more readily available. A make-good culture where we use, reuse and recycle products will drive a surge in businesses focused on supporting a circular economy.  

As climate frameworks aim to reduce carbon emissions to a point where we are net zero by 2050, more energy efficient technology products using less raw materials in their production are going to be a key contributing factor.  Local supply chains will also evolve where markets can support their own infrastructure, reducing their carbon footprint.

Enhancing experiences and productivity

If home working, as most people believe, does become part of the new normal, then perhaps the biggest challenge for the channel is to maintain high standards of customer support both remotely and in-person. To help organizations create a more sustainable home working approach - the channel must improve their supply chains and adapt the way it delivers customer support to optimize hardware utilization.

The technology needed to support home working and be as productive as in-person meetings could also change, with high-quality cameras, microphones and tablets now essential to creating a better home working environment that can help replicate the collaborative office environment.

We cannot confirm that home working is the best option right now - especially as the practice is still embryonic and circumstances are evolving. Yet in five or maybe even 10 years time, electric cars, energy efficient workplaces and sustainable travel is likely to be commonplace, and working in offices might benefit from economies of scale to become a more environmentally-friendly option than it is today.

The reality is, what’s best for each organization and the environment will likely be a constantly moving target, nuanced and complex. The task for channel companies is to remain as adaptable and flexible as possible and stay ahead of market demand by having the right tools and change-culture for organizations to flourish. Hopefully, as we have seen with the coronavirus response, organizations of all sizes, governments, and individuals will rise to the challenge, make the right decisions, and work together in response to the global climate challenge that is inevitably heading our way.

Richard Eglon, Marketing Director, Agilitas