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Illustration by Security Technology; iStock

Resilient Enterprise Tech can Help Boost your Company’s Sustainability Efforts

Businesses around the globe in recent years have shifted priorities towards reducing their carbon footprint and implementing corporate sustainability efforts.

But are these enterprises reducing, reusing, and recycling frequently scrapped technology, such as smartphones, tablets, and printers? Or are they simply unnecessarily discarding them for the latest and greatest devices?

This practice doesn’t mean businesses or IT professionals don’t care about the environment or sustainability. But it does signify that it’s easier to assume devices will stop working or become obsolete earlier than expected. Therefore, it’s faster—and more convenient—to replace them outright versus extending their lifespan or recycling and repurposing them.

This is where the concept of “think global, act local” comes into play. Needlessly discarding a few smartphones or printers doesn’t seem like much, but globally in 2019, 54 million tons of electronic waste (e-waste) was generated. Additionally, just a little more than 17 percent of electronics were known to be properly treated and recycled in 2019. Two years later, the figures did not look much better with e-waste reaching a record of 57.4 million tons in 2021—more than the weight of the Great Wall of China.

So, how can IT departments reduce corporate e-waste footprints and easily integrate Green IT (Green Information Technology) solutions that help keep their technology and devices resilient? Let’s break down what Green IT actually is and why your company should care, based on analysis from a recent survey of 2,500 IT decision makers in eight countries.

What is Green IT?

Green IT is the practice of environmentally sustainable computing. It encourages businesses to take a closer look at their IT departments to evaluate how sustainable their IT strategies and practices are, such as how to mitigate material and energy burdens associated with conventional IT while meeting their business demands, according to the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems.

Green IT has also become part of a movement to raise awareness about the seriousness of climate change and the need to reevaluate the disposal of electronic materials that contribute to a circular and regenerative economy.

This is at odds, however, with what many organizations are doing. In the survey of IT decision makers, Reduce Reuse Rethink: From Discard Mentality to Tech Sustainability, 62 percent said they believe having the latest hardware devices makes the company more attractive to workers. Sixty-nine percent also said that mobile phones are the most common unnecessarily discarded device in their organization.

In the survey, 52 percent of decision-makers said tablets and laptops are replaced according to their “expected” lifecycles, instead of when they actually stop working. Forty-four percent said that their devices contained batteries, but only 33 percent said they had allocated budget to replace batteries.

Regular maintenance and replacing approved device accessories, such as batteries, chargers, docking stations, cords, etc., when needed can save money on unnecessary purchases and keep e-waste, like perfectly good phones and batteries, out of landfills.

According to the survey, batteries are the core component of not just a laptop or mobile phone, but also the gamut of rugged devices that keep businesses ticking along behind the scenes. Critical to the running of supply chains, logistics, warehousing, distribution, inventory, and the new data-driven world, rugged devices are often overlooked but demonstrate the need for improved lifecycle management better than any other segment.

The E-Waste Frenzy

There are plenty of ways to reduce e-waste and improve a mobile device’s resilience as a business matures or employee count increases. Perhaps the most important and logical way to increase the lifespan of mobile devices and their batteries is by implementing regular device maintenance or a device management solution.

But enterprises, today more than ever before, are wasting money by disposing of electronic devices prematurely and failing to run proper diagnosis and repair solutions. In fact, 45 percent of IT decision-makers dispose of “older,” perfectly capable devices that are in good working condition simply because a newer model is available, according to the survey. Additionally, without a device management strategy, companies miss out on reducing the need for constant hardware replacements, saving capital and improving the environmental impact.

An older device doesn’t necessarily mean the device is obsolete. There are ways to increase the lifespan of mobile and IoT devices, often by accounting for how end users and enterprises are taking care of them. As we look into the idea of resilient technology, or a company’s ability to maintain acceptable service levels during severe disruptions to its critical processes and/or IT systems, it’s important to note how maintaining your fleet of devices and increasing their lifespan can significantly boost your company’s sustainability efforts.

Another option to extend the lifespan of your mobile devices is to use devices which are built to last. Rugged devices can last up to five years, compared to the lifespan of an enterprise mobile device which lasts approximately two and a half years. Yet, 60 percent of IT decision-makers surveyed said rugged devices, laptops, tablets, and wearables at their organization were discarded unnecessarily.

Battery failure is also a leading source of frustration among mobile workers, but the solution could be as simple as changing charging habits.

To optimize battery lifespan, IT leaders should encourage workers to unplug once a device has reached 100 percent charge, use battery dashboards to monitor charge cycles, temperature and more, and turn on the device’s battery saver mode. Companies can also determine the most power-hungry apps and close them when not in use or shorten the idle time before the device goes to sleep and/or locks.

Cut Down on Shipping

Aside from preventing damage and increasing device longevity, businesses should also invest in Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solutions for repairs.

The days of walking over to IT to have a device repaired have changed. Since the pandemic, leaders shifted to a more hybrid working model. If workers are scattered across various places or working remotely, getting a device repaired is cumbersome with a lot of back and forth between the user and the IT department.

Traditionally, the end user ships the device to corporate IT. Once the issue is resolved, IT sends it back. Not only is this time-consuming, it’s also an unnecessary burden on the environment with packaging, shipping, and fuel costs.

An alternative way to address device issues involves using a diagnostic intelligence tool. This helps avoid shipping costs, reduces the environmental footprint, and saves time for the IT department and end user.

Is the issue with the device as simple as needing an upgrade, or replacing a drained battery that cannot hold a consistent charge? It’s easier for the IT department and the worker to use a diagnostic tool, assess the situation, and upgrade software or an accessory versus replacing an entire device. A great example of this is the approach we take to vehicle maintenance. When your car battery dies, you do not get a new car—you simply replace the battery.

Repairing damaged electronics is also typically cheaper than replacing them, especially for larger or more complex devices. Americans alone reportedly throw away more than $55 billion worth of valuable tech components every year—which is not only a waste of valuable money, but valuable time, as well. Many businesses fail to account for the company downtime it takes to switch from old to new devices, as well as time spent collecting, data dumping, and wiping devices. On top of that, training workers to learn how to use the new device cuts productivity, and therefore, capital flow.

When possible, mobile device shipping costs should be taken out of the equation. When devices go down, it’s easier, faster, and greener to diagnose this information remotely versus shipping it back and forth.

The Bottom Line

The impact e-waste is having on our environment is a major concern, but corporate sustainability initiatives don’t have to be cumbersome. And as 65 percent of IT leaders surveyed claim to have clear targets for reducing e-waste, and 62 percent said they are working towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) around sustainable device management, it is important to point out the practical ways to do good for the environment and for your business.

Building a resilient fleet of devices across your organization by actively increasing the lifespan of technology and implementing a remote repair solution can help your company not only cut down on e-waste but contribute to the bigger picture—saving the planet.

Shash Anand, senior vice president of product strategy, SOTI, oversees the company’s evolution from a single product centered around mobile device management to an integrated platform that solves challenges around enterprise mobility and IoT management. Anand holds a degree in computer engineering from the University of Toronto and an MBA from the Rotman School of Management.

© 2022 SOTI, Inc