As we enter 2023, in the post pandemic era, sustainability and IT have become inextricably linked. It is through the intelligence and automation provided by connected IT solutions that we can look to drive intelligent Circular Supply Chains, supporting product lifecycles and maximising reuse. The opportunity to connect the dots with some of the world’s greatest challenges, such as climate change, economic inflation and supply chain constraints, is compelling.
The beautiful thing about sustainable IT solutions is that they address all of these challenges in a perfect, symbiotic way. It is estimated that IT consumption will be 14% of all carbon emissions globally by 2040. No wonder this is fast becoming one of the top 5 business priorities of CXO’s for Fortune 500 companies as they detail their strategic plans to 2030.
“Move it to the cloud”, is a common trend to address both supply chain and sustainability challenges. This makes a lot of sense in some ways, however like the electric car analogy, powered by fossil fuel derived electricity, does the cloud provider have a high level of sustainability and circular credentials with proven metrics? This might just be a case of moving the problem somewhere else, rather than solving the problem. An additional consideration is what happens to the equipment that becomes redundant after a shift to the cloud. This equipment can be redeployed in other organisations that would rather manage their own infrastructure, in a secure and sustainable way, leveraging certified remanufactured equipment.
So why isn’t everyone doing this? Why is the use of remanufactured IT equipment still a niche solution? It’s a common thought, if a company were to purchase refurbished equipment instead of new, what is the downside? The answer is not straight-forward, as in many case the answer is “it depends”.
There are many different flavours of refurbished IT equipment, and they are presented in many different guises. HP Renew, Cisco Refresh, Certified Pre-owned Equipment, the list goes on. The key consideration is understanding the difference between OEM sourced and remanufactured equipment vs used equipment that is sourced from the secondary market.
The reason the source is important is because of a number of factors, but primarily it is all about “Risk”. If an item is supplied from an authorised channel from an OEM certified remanufactured partner, there is genuinely no risk. Whereas items that have not been OEM certified, may be down revision, non-supportable or worst case non-genuine. These are the products to avoid.
How can it be “No risk” you might ask. Surely a “used” product is higher risk than a new product. Actually, the answer is the complete opposite. IT equipment that has been certified by the OEM for example like Cisco Refresh, have all been tested to ensure they function as their equivalent new product. This is a manual process, and it is the best way to ensure a quality product that is as good as new and yet supports sustainable IT. It has been proven that if there are limited or no moving parts, the failure rate of remanufactured IT equipment, is in most cases significantly less than the equivalent new product.
Hence, the question. Why would customers prefer to purchase new equipment and thus support the creation of inordinate amounts of CO2 created when manufacturing an item from scratch, if they could buy a certified remanufactured product instead? Especially considering this is the exact same part - yet, with a much lower carbon footprint.
The answer usually is FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. I wouldn’t want to “contaminate” my first class network with used equipment you might say. Really? When did you last RMA a faulty item and receive a replacement from the manufacturer? How do you know this was a new product? The answer is you don’t and it probably wasn’t, but why does it matter? If it looks new, feels new and performs like new and is supported by the vendor – what is the difference. The answer “there is none.”
Once we overcome the stigma of used vs new it opens up a whole new world of circularity and sustainability benefits. At the end of the day this is a cost vs risk equation. Once the risk element is removed, then the cost and sustainability benefits can be measured and demonstrated to be overwhelming.
So lastly, let’s address the “elephant in the room”. Circular IT means reusing products that already exist and then reselling at a lower price point. From a vendor perspective this means less revenue and is contradictory to traditional “wall street growth” which is what shareholders and investors want. However, this is a traditional vendor-centric view rather than a sustainable, customer-centric view.
Alternatively, if you enable customers to consume circular technology solutions and develop a circular supply chain, you increase customer ROI, value and satisfaction through a product lifecycle approach. This drives increased customer loyalty and less competitive churn. A good thing for any company, their shareholders and the planet. Many companies are starting to take this approach, which is a good thing for their customers and sustainable IT. A circular IT approach aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 12 Responsible Consumption and Production. The good news is taking a circular approach to IT can be implemented quickly and as experts in Circularity we can help.
In summary, when it comes to technology, the 80’s and 90’s were all about “speeds and feeds and best in breed”, the noughties and teenies were about “platform and As A Service. Now, the twenties and beyond is all about Cloud, Circular Supply Chain and Circularity First.