I have just returned from Cisco Live in Amsterdam, where Cisco showcased its vast array of next generation technology capabilities. The theme was “All In” and since It’s been 3 years since the last Cisco Live in Barcelona it’s clear that Cisco’s customers and partners are definitely “all in” on understanding how they can get the most benefit and ROI on their technology investments.
One theme which was overwhelmingly consistent throughout the entire expo was sustainability, specifically sustainable IT. I counted at least 27 sessions with a sustainability theme, and I am sure there were many more. There was even a Sustainability Zone where Cisco showcased its reverse logistics capability and global take back programmes, Cisco Refresh remanufactured equipment and Cisco Capital Green Pay finance solutions.
What a difference 3 years makes. Not only has the pandemic transformed the way we work and live, but it has also given everyone time to stop and think about the world we live in and the implications of our buying decisions and the subsequent “cause and effect” implications towards climate change. Not least of which is the consumption of IT Technology.
In the sustainability zone Cisco demonstrated a new sustainability simulator which is designed to show the potential CO2e savings by migration from older generation technology to newer more power efficient Cisco technologies. Clearly this is going to be a very useful tool to help any CSO and CIO align their mutually beneficial Sustainability and IT objectives as organisations embed sustainable behaviours throughout their business departments.
Just like any ROI though, in order to make the best decision for your organisation you need to look at the full product lifecycle and evaluate the true ROC “Return On Carbon”* investment for a truly end to end, sustainable and economically beneficial IT solution.
The reason the ROC needs to be considered for a sustainable IT solution, is that just like any financial opex vs capex consideration there are also two forms of carbon costs to consider. These being the in-use power consumption (think of this as a carbon opex) and the embodied carbon resulting from the raw materials, manufacturing and transport of the product (the carbon capex).
Here at Circularity First, we have ‘torn down’ some of our bestselling network technology to understand the Greenhouse Gas impacts and material use across the full product lifecycle.
Let’s take a typical switch that weighs in at just under 5kg**. Using our data***, the carbon capex for this switch is 0.45tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) which is equivalent to driving 1600 miles in a petrol fuelled car. To sequester the equivalent amount of greenhouse gas emissions it would require 27 oak trees over a 10-year period.
Hence whilst it is true that a newer version of a switch, router or blade server may have a lower carbon opex through power consumption, in order to make the best choice you need to consider the carbon capex also. Taking this into consideration, it may be better to deploy certified remanufactured equipment and thus significantly reduce the carbon capex cost of the solution, whilst still gaining the technology benefits of the solution. (In this example the remanufactured switch has a carbon capex that is 62% lower). Hence with a sustainable RCO, like any financial ROI, it is about understanding the starting point with real world metrics in order to come up with the best decision.
So, in summary, it’s great to see manufacturers like Cisco taking a proactive approach to driving transparency on CO2e usage through the operation and power consumption of their products. At Circularity First, we are taking this to the next level by considering the full product life cycle emissions. It is through our data driven approach and our partnership with Cisco that we can support clients to make the most cost effective and sustainable IT choices that are better for our planet and, often, better for our budgets.
* ROC Return on Carbon Investment, a term used by Circularity First to measure the embodied and in-use carbon cost of IT
** Assumes a 52 port SG300 switch popular with small to medium sized businesses.
**Tear Down study completed by Circularity First to understand The Greenhouse Gas Impacts and Material Use of our Top Selling Network Equipment. Our study shows cradle to gate and cradle to grave GHG emissions. Data available on request.