The three main barriers to Sustainable IT adoption

Why the IT industry needs to changing perceptions on circular technology

Three minute read
June 17, 2024

Whether it’s boosting profitability, improving employer brand or helping IT contribute to a business's wider ESG goals, sustainable approaches to IT are here to stay. As with all change, a few barriers always crop up along the way. In this post, we’ll look at some of the common challenges we face when introducing sustainable and Circular approaches to IT.

Distrust in used

Used IT equipment of all types is often all considered the same, judged through a negative lens and fuelled by misconceptions. It is mistakenly considered unreliable and too great a risk due to its perceived inferior second-hand condition. This is particularly true for large-scale, mission critical networking and communications infrastructure or data storage facilities, where the cost of downtime caused by technology failure can be commercially disastrous.

As a result, any recognition of the cost-savings from remanufactured technology is overridden by the lack of trust in its reliability and quality. Moreover, organisations that have been let down in the past by unreliable used IT equipment often go on to implement blanket policies preventing the procurement of anything other than new products.

This lack of understanding of how ‘used’ equipment can vastly differ becomes an unnecessary barrier to the adoption of authorised remanufactured equipment.

Without realising it many enterprises are already using used equipment within their networks. Manufacturers typically use remanufactured equipment in their critical infrastructure support contracts, if a piece of hardware fails, the replacement provided (as part of the service contract) has to be fully relied upon to replace it. In these instances, manufacturers typically issue remanufactured IT due to the rigorous testing it has been through.

Finally,  remanufactured is also be knowingly used to deliver crucial infrastructure in industries such as Defence, Healthcare and banking. Circularity First Group customers include organisations such as the Ministry of Defence, the NHS and major banking institutions.


Lack of awareness

Organisations are largely unaware of the environmental impact of their IT systems and of the alternative sustainable solutions. A 2021 report by global technology consultants Capgemini highlighted that only 11% of organisations have deployed measures to reduce the carbon footprint of their networks and communications systems, while only 23% of IT teams and a staggeringly low 3% of procurement and sourcing teams are aware or implement sustainable IT initiatives.

Only 11% of organisations have deployed measures to reduce the carbon footprint of their networks and communications systems

Networking and communications technology is overshadowed by more obvious focus on devices and is rarely considered a priority when organisations are looking at reducing their carbon footprint. Finally, only 2% of supply chain and logistics teams implement any sustainable IT practices, highlighting the almost blanket lack of awareness of how it can significantly mitigate supply chain risk.


New is profitable

Traditional product-based business models rely on sales volume for profit. For consumer technology, financial success for brands such as Apple and Microsoft is driven by the relentless end-user addiction to new hardware.

Parallels can be found within enterprise IT. From switches to routers, products are typically released with a three to five-year lifecycle, with new hardware releases building on the past performance and promising greater efficiency. To support these releases, sales teams are often commissioned in a way that prioritises short, continuous contract upgrade cycles over technology usage.

The new is profitable mindset often extends to end users as well. New technology promises greater, capacity, speed and efficiency, but is it really required? We often find new technology is underutilised as companies fail to adapt their usage to meet its potential.

Through smart architecture we are now seeing this cycling being broken. It is often the case that customers’ existing technology stack could be rearchitected in a way that delivers the efficiencies they desire with their current hardware. Not only does this prolong the period hardware is in use for, avoiding costly refreshes, but it is also extending the life of hardware. This also avoids the environmental impact of producing this hardware.

Enterprise buying habits are also starting to break this cycle. Customers who do need the latest and greatest are often turning to OpEx based, consumption models to procure hardware. Hardware as a Service models allow businesses to access the hardware they need, as they need it. When it is no longer required it then goes back to the manufacturer for remanufacturing before it then re-enters the supply chain.

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