By David Nelson, Sales Director Trade-In-Services – EMEA at Tech Data

Spring’s Earth Day and Autumn’s EarthShot Prize are both annual high-profile events that put sustainability front and centre in our environmental consciousness but are businesses doing enough year-round to celebrate the ways to “diversify, educate, and activate the environmental movement”? This year, Earth Day focused on “investing in our planet”, by encouraging businesses, governments, and citizens to act on climate change and ensure a sustainable future.

As someone who works with the channel on circular economy programmes, I am particularly interested in how technology partners can make a difference and embody the ideals of Earth Day. So where to start?

Environmental sustainability should not be a once or twice-a-year consideration. Many businesses have already made leaps toward a sustainable future with their increased use of global green technology. Alongside this, the sustainability market is forecasted to reach $74.64 billion by 2030. This is combined with a CAGR growth rate of 21.9% from 2021 to 2030.

Despite this, within the channel, there is still an opportunity and need for businesses to contribute and create positive environmental change and ensure sustainability for the long term.

What is electronic waste and why is this important?

Electronic waste or e-waste, as it is commonly referred to, means electronic devices which are discarded rather than being reused or recycled. Common sources of e-waste include endpoint devices such as laptops, mobile phones, and monitors. Many of these devices can be refurbished and re-sold.

Globally, e-waste has been a major challenge and continues to be an issue which the channel can mitigate. Recent predictions of e-waste cite there will be approximately 67 million tonnes by 2030. The problem of e-waste continues to grow. Since 2014 the amount of e-waste has increased by 21% to 48.6 million tonnes in 2019.

Additionally, under one-fifth of e-waste is properly collected and recycled globally. Even within regions that are more developed and have efficient processes in place to recycle e-waste, it is still taken to other countries to be dumped. The issue of e-waste is not being dealt with, instead, it is being moved to less developed countries which do not have proper practices in place to overcome the issue.

Obstacles for channel partners

The technology channel is the first-place customers should turn to when looking to improve their sustainability initiatives. The channel has a vital role to help its customers navigate what can be an unfamiliar landscape for some. In turn, partners can include additional services of value for their customers focused on sustainability and green initiatives.

To begin the process of tackling e-waste, recycling tablets, laptops, mobile handsets, and other endpoint devices is a good starting point. Among channel partners, I know there is a powerful desire for them and their customers to get involved in this process. This is due to the cost-saving benefits for customers and the potential to reduce their carbon footprint.

Some have been thwarted by complications that can arise, for example complying with the necessary regulatory steps to avoid the undocumented and illegal dumping of e-waste. However, these same rules are critical to building up a viable market for refurbished devices as they ensure all devices are wiped clean of information to make sure they are suitable for re-sale and re-use.

How can the channel ensure long-term sustainability?

In the face of these challenges, it may seem as if becoming an environmental conscience channel partner is a daunting process without much reward. However, it is possible to overcome the obstacles. In the short to medium term, businesses should be focusing on reducing their e-waste, and eventually, in the long term, removing e-waste from all devices. Channel partners can help their customers when trading in their old or end of life endpoint devices, which leads to them reducing their carbon footprint.

The channel already has some schemes which focus on environmental sustainability. Programmes such as Tech Data Renew work together with channel partners and their consumers who would like their unwanted, old or end of life devices to be recycled, refurbished, or reused.

Using these programmes, the trade-in process from start to finish is streamlined and works to make sure that there are no obstacles throughout the process, even if it is one device or an entire fleet which is being given a second lease of life. As such, issues regarding regulatory compliance and complete data erasure are overcome. Through these schemes, devices are collected and cleaned, all data is wiped, and certifications are then shared with customers. Next, each unit is graded, with the majority being classed as grade C. Finally, the device is either resold or put onto a pallet to sell.

Leveraging these services, they all work to ensure a reduction of the amount of e-waste dumped globally. By the end of 2022, at least a million devices will have been recycled using these schemes, according to recent data from Tech Data.

Environmental sustainability and green initiatives continue to be an ongoing priority for the channel even after Earth Day. Sustainability is no longer a buzzword; it has inspired change across the channel. Businesses have already taken steps to improve their sustainability, but more can still be done. Due to the regulatory issues, many businesses may have been hesitant to go through the device recycling process. However, with the availability of these schemes in the channel, they can help partners and their customers streamline this process and make it easy to navigate.

David Nelson, Sales Director Trade-In Services – EMEA at Tech Data is responsible for creating and delivering the commercial annual plan for Trade-In, aligned to strategic initiatives and fiscal goals. He has over 10 years of experience working in this sector, previously serving as Services Director UK&I at Tech Data.

Visit David’s LinkedIn profile here