How channel partners can help spearhead the sustainability charge

Organisations have been slow to adopt and integrate meaningful sustainability practices. But as pressure from consumers increases, Christina Klein, Head of Global Solution Partners at Lansweeper explains why organisations are recognising the importance of sustainability to their operations and prioritising it as a key business initiative. 

Around 54 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated in 2019, with that figure predicted to be 74 million metric tonnes by 2030. Less than 20 per cent of this was reported to be correctly processed using the reduce, reuse, recycle model. 

With these figures in mind, it comes as no surprise that many technology vendors, including the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Dell Technologies and HPE, are taking measures to reduce the carbon impact of their products and improve their sustainability. Many of them have published targets to become carbon neutral in their own businesses.

Customers are starting to look for evidence of sustainability when it comes to making purchasing decisions, and employees are making career decisions based on the environmental credentials of potential employers.

While IT vendors may be the largest part of the technology chain, they are still only a part of it. Once the equipment has been acquired and installed by customers, responsibility for the sustainability of the technology shifts to them.

Unlike technology vendors who are focused solely on the environmental credentials of their products, their customers have a much wider range of IT equipment products from multiple manufacturers to account for. That can prove to be a troublesome task.

The channel has a similar multifaceted perspective when it comes to sustainability as partners are rarely constrained to a single supplier. Distributors, solution providers, managed service providers and value-added resellers usually build their solutions around several vendors to meet the differing demands of customers.

Channel companies do not have the option of sitting on the sidelines any longer. With vendors applying more sustainable policies to their businesses under pressure from legislators and customers, companies involved in the supply chain will need to fall into line with those demands as well.

Partners that wish to be part of the supply chain will need to conform to those policies to satisfy vendors and their customers.

The good news is that it is becoming much easier to find channel partners who value sustainability policies and objectives and provide a much closer match to the business model of their customers. It's this similarity which they should be highlighting and taking advantage of to help customers manage their sustainability requirements.

Vendors are already starting to acknowledge the role channel partners can play in promoting sustainability. The first step to improving sustainability by measuring the impact of a company's technology on the environment is to gain an accurate inventory of that technology.

ITAM techniques such as device performance tracking and monitoring idling laptops can help businesses better manage the health of their devices and notify them when devices are reaching their end of life. Accurate asset inventory means businesses are less likely to have devices running on the network they are unaware of for no particular purpose and wasting resources.

The intelligence, analytics and reporting provided by ITAM can help inform business decisions about the lifecycle of devices and when to recycle them most sustainably.

Channel partners are well-suited to the role of taking ownership and responsibility for ITAM on behalf of their customers to help improve sustainability. As key links in the technology supply chain, they are in a strong position to become an intrinsic part of the sustainability cycle that follows technology from its origins to end of life.

As the nature of their relationship deepens from the transactional "sell and forget, see you in three years" to ongoing as-a-Service and managed service-based models, sustainability is set to become a natural evolution for partners as their engagement with customers broadens. 

Better knowledge and management of assets should help elongate the lifecycle of IT as products and technologies are used more efficiently and effectively. Better managed assets should also be in much better shape and have a greater value when it comes time to move them to a second life outside the organisation.

If older assets retain more value, it creates a righteous circle where they generate more resources for the customer to invest in the new technology that replaces them. Partners have a choice: elect to be part of the circle and help customers become more sustainable inside it or be left on the outside looking in.

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