Becoming a Sustainable Business | Astrid Wynne on Sustainable Business practices
Techbuyer is a global provider of sustainable IT solutions. It won Sustainable Organisation of the Year at the UK IT Industry Awards in 2021 and Circular Economy Organisation of the Year at the IEMA awards 2020.
In episode two of our podcast series, created in collaboration with the Leader’s Council, our Sustainability Lead and Chartered Environmentalist, Astrid Wynne, talks about what it is to be a sustainable business.
Listen to the podcast below or continue reading for a full summary of what was discussed. Alternatively, access the transcript here.
Why are Businesses Turning Towards Sustainability?
There is little doubt that the subject of sustainability is now high on both the corporate and public agenda. With both public opinion and legislation pushing companies to become more sustainable, many organisations are feeling the pressure to improve their environmental impact.
In the UK, there has been a significant increase in the number of organisations pushing to cut their carbon footprint and move towards net zero goals. However, as awareness grows, simply buying your way into environmental responsibility, for instance through carbon off-set schemes, is not enough. To really make a difference, businesses must change the way they operate to reduce their carbon emissions in-house and throughout their value chain.
The Covid pandemic brought the issue into sharper focus as people were forced into lockdown which heightened their appreciation of the environment.
The Covid-19 Pandemic also had an impact on the Circular Economy and how we purchase and dispose of goods. Find out more here.
Other drivers of this change in perception include that fact that commercially, sustainability is increasingly becoming an essential part of business operations.
For example, there is a growing trend towards ‘green finance’ as investors are concerned about where and with whom they invest their funds; a company’s environmental credentials are now a major consideration for today’s financial backers. Consumers are also showing a preference for sustainable organisations in their purchase decisions.
Employees are taking a company’s environmental outlook into consideration when deciding on whether to work for that organisation, meaning that to attract and retain talent, businesses must show a commitment to sustainability.
Legislation and the Future of Sustainable Business
There is and will be more legislation that forces organisations to adhere to green regulations in every aspect of how they do business.
One positive element from a government legislation perspective is the Right to Repair movement which is gaining traction in the UK, EU and US. This policy is about trying to give people the ability to take back control of their items, and not waste the huge amount of equipment that could be repaired and reused from effectively going to landfill all over the world. Find out more about the Right to Repair here.
The public sees consumer IT waste in a very clear way because of the quantity of materials that people throw away. But that is potentially dwarfed by the amount that businesses are wasting because they do not have the knowledge or expertise or confidence to have that equipment reused, redeployed, repaired, upgraded, or refurbished. Find out more about the sustainable alternatives to recycling here.
In Techbuyer’s case, we made a business out of refurbishing equipment by supplying component level upgrades so that organisations can carry out cost-effective and sustainable product life extension. We’ve had a lot of success with this approach and over the past 17 years have grown from two people to over 290 worldwide.
How can your Business Become more Sustainable?
Taking the first steps towards becoming a sustainable organisation is first reliant on undertaking a detailed analysis of both internal operations and external value chain.
Every business is different, but you must look at the type of business that you are operating and act in a way that makes sense for you.
One useful approach to getting a better understanding of how you can improve your business’s sustainability credentials is to consider the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development programme. The advice is that nobody can make an impact on every single one of those 17 goals, so select the ones that are most relevant to your business and then assess how much of an impact you can make.
Using the Global Goals as a framework, and reporting on goals from both inside and outside the company, is a great way of communicating what you’re doing and why it is important. Find out more about our commitment to the UN Goals here.
Initiatives such as the ISO 14001, which is an environmental management system, can also prove useful. In our case, we use carbon footprinting to analyse the impact that we're having in terms of carbon emissions and then, subsequently, we work to reduce that. We use this in conjunction with the UN Global Goals we have chosen, which allows us to have more people involved in sustainability issues and therefore multiply the positive impact. These initiatives build confidence within an organisation. It has helped us to recognise that what we did was beneficial, and that we could make an impact and gave us confidence to speak on sustainability issues on a much larger platform.
When it comes to reporting on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, another development to bear in mind is the introduction of the Scope 1, 2 and 3 initiatives.
Scope 1 relates to emissions that we directly release into the atmosphere, such as the fuel when running our cars.
Scope 2 covers indirect emissions that are generated from purchased energy; electricity is the most common example.
Scope 3 covers things such as business travel, the manufacturing of purchased products, offsite IT infrastructure, for example data centres, as well as downstream emissions.
Ultimately Scope 3 is about upstream and downstream supply chains, which means that if you are part of the upstream or downstream supply chain for a large company, they are likely to ask for your carbon data for their reports.
As Techbuyer’s Sustainability Lead, Astrid Wynne, points out, the UK was the first country to adopt the Task Force on Climate-related Disclosures methodology for climate reporting and a heightened interest in sustainability is something that we're going to see increasingly in the UK.
Although, in the first instance it is large companies that are going to have to record their carbon emissions, there will be a knock-on effect for smaller businesses too, and they will have to report on Scope 3 sooner rather than later. Whilst smaller companies might not legally have to report on Scope 1, 2 and 3 issues now, they may be asked by their customers to do so. Find out more information on carbon reporting and scope 3 here.
The Circular Economy
Underpinning the push towards creating a sustainable business environment is the development and implementation of the circular economy, the definition of which is a system that's regenerative by design. The bedrock of a circular economy is a move away from thinking of things as incoming product and waste, towards a materials stewardship approach. The idea is to keep products and materials in use as long as possible and recycle at end of life. Businesses should look at ways of using waste as a feed for another product, whether that is in house or with another company.
Companies can reuse equipment between departments. For instance, if a high-powered machine is no longer fit for purpose, that does not mean that piece of technology cannot be used by a department further down the line for recording files. It is about redeploying the equipment within your own organisation and cascading the equipment down the departmental line.
On the other hand, if you have equipment that is redundant to your business but useable elsewhere, donate it to a charity or another organisation. You can also look for secondary market providers that will extend the lifespan of technology and enter your devices into the refurbished technology market. As a final resort for your technology, recycling can be used to extract materials from the equipment, and new technologies that specialise in Critical Raw Material recovery are also under development. Find out more about Critical Raw Materials here.
In the end sustainability in business is all about seeing waste as resource, promoting the circular economy, and minimising the negative impact on the climate and environment that our current way of working has. It is not easy to adopt sustainability as a core element of the way you work but it is crucial both from an environmental aspect and soon from a commercial legislative point of view. You really cannot start on that journey too soon; the time to act is now.
Take your first steps to becoming a sustainable business by improving the environmental impact of your technology. Whether you are purchasing, maintaining or disposing of your IT infrastructure, Techbuyer can help you achieve this in the sustainable way. Get in touch for more information or head to our IT lifecycle services to find out more below: