ITAM - best positioned to lead reduction in e-waste?

As the world watches COP26 with bated breath, ITAM Working Group 21 publishes white paper on how IT Asset Management can contribute towards sustainability.

According to a new white paper, ITAM professionals can significantly contribute to an organisation’s sustainability goals, and reduce e-waste, through a sustainability management approach to ICT and IT assets throughout their entire lifecycle.

The new paper, titled “How IT Asset Management can contribute towards sustainability,” authored by members of Working Group 21 (WG21), the ISO Standards Committee responsible for ISO 19770, the international standard for ITAM, aims to inspire (and provide guidance to) ITAM professionals to embrace sustainability into their IT practices. The members of WG21 who contributed to the paper include those from the ITAM Forum, Techbuyer, Iron Mountain and Schneider Electric (full list of authors below).

The whitepaper looks beyond energy consumption and instead focuses on the entire lifecycle impact of IT services, including the raw materials that go into building software, hardware, and cloud services.

The paper looks at the following three areas of sustainable IT:

1.How IT Asset Managers can help with sustainability, building the business case for sustainable IT, and how sustainable IT services start with planning and procurement.

2.The circular economy. Why organizations should embrace suppliers that offer circular business models with a focus on the reuse of finite resources.

3.Prolonging the useful life of IT assets, the pros and cons of reuse and the disposition options available to organizations.

According to Martin Thompson, the founder of the ITAM Forum, a non-profit organisation which champions the ITAM industry, and one of the report’s authors, “While much of the focus on sustainable IT has been on electricity consumption, particularly when it comes to datacentres, the more alarming concern is that IT is an extractive industry. In order to build equipment to satisfy the demand for all things digital, from mobile phones and IoT sensors through to laptops and cloud data centres, a vast array of precious metals are required, such as silver, gold, copper, and platinum.

Despite these precious metals being finite, only 17.4% of 2019’s e-waste was collected and recycled (according to the UN’s E-waste Monitor). This means that gold, silver, copper, platinum and other high-value, recoverable materials conservatively valued at US $57 billion – a sum greater than the Gross Domestic Product of most countries – were mostly dumped or burned rather than being collected for treatment and reuse.”

ITAM can support IT sustainability efforts in a number of ways:

•More intelligent sourcing of IT: E.g., what spec do we really need, what is the TCO of this investment, including the environmental impact?

•Make repairability a criterion for IT purchases: Questions such as “How repairable is it?”, Are parts interchangeable between devices?” “What is the real usable life of the product?” will focus the minds of suppliers on repairability. ITAM can also help to communicate the real long-term value of items that are repairable vs. those that may be cheaper to buy but have a poorer long-term value (in addition to being less sustainable).

•Sourcing from secondary market: Do we really need the latest and greatest? Will a second-hand device meet our needs?

•Redeploying IT assets internally: This is ITAM’s bread and butter, helping to reduce the amount of new IT that is purchased through the effective and efficient use of existing assets.

•Remarket or donate devices: Devices that are no longer usable to the organisation but still have market value should be sold on, and those that don’t should be donated to those who can use them

“The world economy is facing up to the reality of climate change. Slowly but surely, via collective agreements, economies are moving towards taking action to prevent permanent damage to the planet.

While our global leaders are meeting in Glasgow for the COP26 summit, everyone has a role to play in the climate challenge. We hope this paper inspires IT Asset Managers and IT Management professionals to take action and contribute towards this global effort,” concludes Thompson.

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