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Jun 23, 2021 | Gross-Gerau

Access over ownership: How sustainable IT conserves valuable resources

• End-to-end IT management offers significant potential for saving resources
• Circular economy model provides a significant competitive edge
• CHG-MERIDIAN’s technology center refurbishes nearly a million IT devices a year for remarketing

Companies must adopt end-to-end IT strategies if they want to remain competitive, according to experts at a press briefing at the digital #CHGsummit2021 on June 23. Dr. Adriana Neligan, Senior Economist for Green Economy and Resource Economics at the German Economic Institute, and Matthias Steybe, Group Sustainability Officer at the international technology management specialist CHG-MERIDIAN, discussed how the ongoing digital transformation can be made more sustainable.

#CHGsummit2021

Both agreed that there is still a lot to do in this area. “We have to use natural resources responsibly for the sake of the environment and the climate. It is imperative that we change our current patterns of production and consumption, moving away from a linear throwaway culture to a circular economy that uses fewer resources, and reuses those resources multiple times or replaces them with more climate-friendly alternatives,” says Dr. Neligan.

This aspect plays a key role in the planning and implementation of IT technology projects and infrastructure, as the digital transformation – a must for any forward-looking company – requires a lot of IT hardware. But due to ever shorter innovation cycles, this hardware is often not used for as long as it could be.

“We are talking about two to three years on average, and that is only a fraction of the devices’ useful life,” says Matthias Steybe. “On top of that, less than 20 percent of decommissioned IT equipment worldwide is currently being refurbished for remarketing.” As a result, the mountain of e-waste is growing rapidly. According to a study by the World Economic Forum (WEF), it amounted to 50 million tonnes in 2018 alone, and is set to continue rising.

“This figure can be significantly reduced by giving hardware a second life,” Steybe adds. CHG-MERIDIAN’s technology center in Gross-Gerau demonstrates how companies can already achieve this on a large scale. Almost a million devices were refurbished here in 2020 alone. Of these, 96 percent entered a second lifecycle, with only 4 percent having to be recycled at the end of their useful life.

“More and more of our customers are pursuing ambitious environmental goals and defining strict standards, not just for themselves but also for their suppliers. Sustainability is increasingly becoming a competitive factor for which companies have to earn their ‘license to operate’. In other words, they have to prove that their business practices are sustainable in the long term and at all levels. The same applies to us, of course. And at the same time we can also help our customers to reach their environmental goals,” says Steybe.

Adriana Neligan

Dr. Adriana Neligan, Senior Economist for Green Economy and Resources at the German Economic Institute, is convinced that digitalization opens up great potential for companies to save resources.

Potential for saving resources by no means exhausted

Another significant advantage of fully integrated IT strategies is that companies that make smart use of digital process and production data can save natural resources and manufacture more efficiently. “One in two companies believes that further potential can be unlocked by making full use of all technological possibilities. According to the companies surveyed, the current use of resources in industry could be reduced by 8 percent. That is equivalent to about €10 billion, or 1 percent of industrial value added,” says Dr. Neligan, who conducted a recent study on the topic on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

The increasing digital connectedness of complex industrial production and process flows is opening up potential for greater sustainability. “However, many companies face a lack of end-to-end digital solutions or cannot afford to finance them, or their existing systems may be difficult to upgrade. They also often find that specialist software solutions are few and far between, or that the level of adaptation required for new software is too high. Many companies are also unsure about the cost-benefit ratio, and overall there are few standards to rely on,” says Neligan.

This is where CHG-MERIDIAN’s lifecycle management comes into play. The non-captive group and its customers rely on access over ownership. “This approach has been part of our DNA for over forty years,” says Steybe, “and it offers many benefits. Thanks to our customized business concepts, our customers always have access to the latest IT devices with a minimum of administrative effort. This allows them to be more flexible, save costs, and run their IT in accordance with the principles of the circular economy.”

Matthias Steybe

Sustainable management is increasingly becoming a competitive factor for companies, says Matthias Steybe, Group Sustainability Officer at CHG-MERIDIAN.

Reuse to combat climate change:

Did you know…

… that the average period of use for IT equipment is two to three years, and for smartphones even less? Only a fraction of the devices will have actually reached the end of their potential lifespan at that point.

… that in Germany alone there are around 199.3 million mobile phones lying around unused, but still usable? If these were refurbished and remarketed after their initial use, research shows that 14 kilograms of primary resources and 58 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions could be saved per smartphone.

… that manufacturing a smartphone results in the emission of five to ten times more CO2 than actually using it? On top of that, the extraction of raw materials requires a lot of energy.

*(Source: Survey conducted by Bitkom, Germany’s digital association, in 2020)

 

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Matthias Steybe

Group Sustainability Officer (GSO)