With climate change increasingly making headlines around the globe, it’s never been more important for all of us to do our bit to help protect the environment. For businesses, there are several measures which can be taken in order to reduce their impact on the planet. From moving to a paperless workplace to investing in smart lighting and heating systems that prevent wasting energy, there are now a range of practical applications available to help organisations become greener. For CIOs, adopting a circular management approach could be an excellent move.

What Is Circular IT Management?

Part of effective IT management involves managing IT assets such as hardware devices, and it is here that a circular approach can be adopted. Whilst a traditional linear approach involves making new products from natural resources, using them for a period of time and then discarding them in favour of the latest model, a circular approach takes a more sustainable view. The focus turns to extending the lifespan of hardware and disposing of equipment responsibly when it can no longer be effectively maintained or repaired.

A common misconception about the circular approach is that it simply refers to recycling, although this certainly has its part to play. In fact, there are four key principles, as described by experts at TCO Certified. These four principles are longer usage, refurbishment, re-manufacture and recycle.

Longer usage is self-explanatory and is made possible by upkeep and maintenance of products, product sharing, and service agreements where possible. Refurbishment can include practices such as upgrading existing devices, selling old devices on to a refurbishment company rather than sending them to landfill, or by buying refurbished tech rather than new. Re-manufacture is somewhat similar, meaning to rebuild products from existing parts or buying such rebuilt products instead of newly made devices. Finally, recycling should be carried out wherever possible, through manufacturer “take back” schemes or through properly accredited tech recycling organisations.

Why It Matters

The production of new hardware products such as laptops and other devices is having a disastrous effect on the environment. Natural raw materials are depleted in order to make new devices, whilst toxic waste from IT products is now the fastest-growing category of waste in the world and is responsible for over 50 million metric tonnes of waste per year.

It’s not just the disposal of IT products that is causing problems. Emissions from technology are occurring at every stage from manufacture, through its usage period, to disposal. The carbon emissions from a single notebook computer average 299 kilograms of carbon emissions over a typical four year usage period. Almost 80% of these emissions occur during manufacture, 7% during transit, and less than 1% at its disposal, leaving around 13% of greenhouse gas emissions taking place through the device’s usage.

How You Can Act

Fortunately, a circular asset management strategy means that reducing the carbon footprint of tech devices can be achieved by any organisation. Simply extending the lifespan of a device to four years can reduce emissions by almost 30%. Multiply that by the number of devices across a business, and the carbon footprint soon starts to reduce dramatically.

Procurement has an important part to play, too. Crucially, this doesn’t mean that you should buy new, energy-efficient devices, as the emissions at the manufacturing stage will still cause the greatest environmental damage. Rather, businesses should invest in technology which is easy to maintain, upgrade, and repair (once existing products are exhausted.) Replaceable batteries can make a significant difference to the durability of mobile devices in particular, and to keep the batteries working at optimal efficiency, they should be kept at a 20-80% charge insofar as possible.

The benefits to the environment are clear, but adopting circular IT management strategies will also help your business to save money on energy bills. It really is the smartest approach for any future-thinking organisation.