The role of Sustainable IT in the circular economy

The events of the past few years have left us facing a world at tipping point and have caused seismic shifts in the way we live and work. We stand on the precipice of a climate change crisis, aware that our current consumption patterns are no longer compatible with the survival needs of future generations but not yet fully committed to long-term sustainable change.

Technology has long been seen as the catch-all solution and the hero in the climate change battle. We are seeing demand spike for newer, faster digital infrastructure, now considered essential to support flexible working practices and enable organisations to thrive in times of uncertainty.

Digital resilience is the way forward. And yet in this time of increased demand for technology, the pandemic and other geo-political events have exposed alarming vulnerabilities in the global supply chains responsible for transporting such infrastructure around the world. The current global semi-conductor shortage, caused when factories shut down as Covid-19 hit, has highlighted the risk of relying solely on countries such as China for manufacturing. The container ship blockage of the Suez Canal held up 3.3million tonnes of cargo each hour, the equivalent to $9.6bn of trade each day, and its effects resonated beyond just the shipping industry or the Egyptian economy.

Product shortages, massive lead times and price rises for technology show no signs of abating. In a world with a constant clamour for new and now, our current supply chain models are no longer dependable.

The cost of the way we choose to live goes far beyond the financial. The environmental impact of new technology is vast, stretching from the extraction of natural resources and energy required in manufacturing to the huge carbon footprint of transportation left by these global supply chains and the toxic eWaste – 50 million tonnes annually - left when it is thrown by the wayside.

The product shortages we are now seeing are likely just a preview of worse to come as we exhaust the raw materials needed to manufacture products.

We are reaching the limits of our current supply and demand model for brand new.

Sustainability is firmly on the political, public, shareholder and media agenda. Organisations are being put under pressure to demonstrate and act on environmental credentials, while a sharp focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) corporate standards is pushing organisational change.

But one area with a devastating ecological impact remains largely untouched despite its potential for sustainable change – IT. For IT, these trends of environmental consciousness and digital resilience are converging to present an exciting opportunity for our industry to become role models in the transition to a low carbon circular economy through the mainstream adoption of sustainable IT. We can take the lead in moving away from our linear economy dominated by single use and vulnerable supply chains to a more resilient circular approach which prioritises the re-use of the IT resources that we already have. Put simply, we need to use what we have for longer.

Action is needed now to replace ingrained behaviours with new sustainable IT practices which fully align social responsibility with strategy, performance and profit. What is exciting though, is that the solutions already exist- we need to use what we have for longer.

If you’re interested in how you bring a sustainable IT mindset into your organisation or would like to talk about how we can work together to amplify a more sustainable approach to IT then reach out, I’m always happy to talk.



Anthony Levy, Founder and Chairman, Circularity First

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Why brand new IT can't always be the answer
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