Interest in sustainability, like the planet, is heating up.
More and more of us – consumers, businesses, organisations and governments – are starting to pay greater attention to the effects of our activities on the earth’s climate.
Environmental issues are becoming a bigger factor in our buying decisions. Recycling is starting to take hold at a consumer level with a growing market in refurbished smartphones and pre-used clothes.
Until now, most of the focus at a business level has been on the extraction of data from, and the disposal of, end-of-life equipment. But whatever the merits of asset disposal, it still falls a long way short of what sustainability really means.
Sustainability has been viewed as a linear process but, in reality, it is circular and asset disposal is merely a part of that cycle.
Most businesses today are beginning at the end of the process because, for many of them, asset disposal is the process. There’s no doubt asset disposal is a valuable service for organisations, particularly from a security perspective.
But while the safe and secure disposal of ageing IT equipment is a major priority for many businesses, the potential reuse of that equipment has often been an afterthought or an aside.
So, if there’s more to sustainability than asset disposition, what else does it include?
Sustainable technology lifecycle management
Ideally, sustainability should cover the entire lifecycle of the equipment – from the manufacture, acquisition and management of that asset to its disposal and reuse. Sustainability may not appear to be a major factor in the lifecycle management of that asset today, but it will increasingly become so.
For the most part, lifecycle management has been viewed as a linear process, with responsibility for each stage often assigned to a separate provider. Purchasing of the equipment, whether through the traditional transactional model or options such as financing, leasing or subscription, is the first step.
Where a service contract is in place, the management of those IT assets is frequently the responsibility of a different provider. More often than not however, this management is taken on in house, which creates additional admin and increases the risk of devices being misplaced or stockpiled in cupboards.
Where asset disposal is agreed, this is then assigned to a specialist company at the end of the process. This model mirrors the fragmented way in which the IT needs of businesses have evolved.
The proliferation of a range of devices in a company, from desktop PCs to laptops, tablets and smartphones, has led to changes in how businesses purchase equipment, especially with the differences in perceived lifetimes of those devices. This is leading to stronger interest in alternative ways of purchasing those assets, such as leasing and ‘as a service’ options.
Meanwhile, the growing popularity of cloud has helped to strengthen the adoption of mobility as a prominent component of the business activities of many companies. The proliferation of mobile and portable devices within businesses has led to a corresponding increase in their awareness of the need to be able to track, trace and manage those dispersed, mobile and remote assets.
Sustainability is not a tick box exercise
Better asset management brings a greater understanding of when an asset or device has reached the end of its effective life within the organisation. In theory, this makes it simpler for a business to know when it needs to employ an organisation to handle the safe removal of the data from an asset and its disposal.
If you view those three stages – acquire, manage and reuse – as parts of a circle of sustainability rather than a line from A to B, there is a strong case for an organisation to be involved in all parts of the process.
Starting with the purchase of equipment, the option to finance or lease IT assets makes it easier for a business to choose technology based on the sustainability of the equipment rather than its short-term value.
It also provides the flexibility that companies need to address the distinct lifecycle requirements of different devices, for example the two-year lifespan for smartphones compared to three years for a laptop.
Effective asset management can be an important element of the sustainability story because it gives a business a clearer understanding of the use of the asset, where it resides, the associated costs and when it will need to be replaced. In turn, this helps to put in place a much more efficient regime for the disposal of that asset and a greater awareness of its potential for reuse.
Sustainability every step of the way
Business customers need to look to the future and begin to implement a seamless sustainability model that connects the three elements of sustainable technology lifecycle management. Adopting a joined-up approach ensures each stage informs the next.
A circular approach, rather than linear, means that sustainable practices can be engaged at any stage of the process, and customers can work their way backwards or forwards from that point.
For example, if a business wishes to replace equipment but has no clear indication of what it owns, asset management tools will help the company to track and trace its assets.
The information it provides will give the business a better grasp of the equipment it needs to replace and help inform the decision on what it should acquire to replace those assets. Financing options also provide businesses with even more flexibility over that purchasing decision.
Integrating the three stages of sustainable technology lifecycle management ensures the information from each is not fragmented across different providers or delivered in a piecemeal fashion, but as part of, to all intents and purposes, a virtuous circle.
As a result, this provides IT and Asset Managers with a much clearer view of the lifecycle of the asset and its true cost of ownership. In the end, sustainability, like the planet we want to preserve, is a circle.
Carmen Ene, CEO, 3 Step IT