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How can businesses decarbonise their IT estates to achieve net zero?

By Steve Haskew, Head of Sustainability and Social Leadership

Large and small businesses alike are finding themselves at a crucial time where many aspire to decarbonise their operations without denting revenue from their products and services. The recent Autumn Statement by Jeremy Hunt announced key initiatives to support businesses wanting to transition towards net zero. The extension of the Climate Change Agreement Scheme gives energy-intensive businesses like steel, ceramics, and breweries around £300 million of tax relief every year until 2033 to encourage investment in energy efficiency and support the net-zero transition. It is incredibly important, and thus reassuring, to see the government investing in their net-zero strategies – helping to build long-term resilience for the nation as we look to decarbonise. Here at Circular Computing, we have seen the immense benefits of decarbonising our operations and have helped other businesses realise the potential of remanufacturing their IT estates.  

However, despite the chancellor’s positive outlook, businesses still encounter barriers that impede their progress on this decarbonisation journey. Recent data illustrates the true extent of such barriers – L.E.K. Consulting report has shown that three-quarters of UK business executives cite funding as a significant obstacle to their decarbonisation efforts. Furthermore, a survey of over 1,200 large organisations reveals that 82% of business leaders believe the UK’s energy crisis is adversely affecting their ability to meet decarbonisation targets, as reported by Schneider Electric.

Outside of funding, given the complexity of this landscape, many businesses, even if they have the right resources, are not sure where to start. Decarbonising your business’ operations should be simple, and there are ways enterprises can achieve this without breaking the bank. One of these ways is looking towards your IT estate and choosing tech that isn’t harming the planet. 

Steve Haskew

The benefits of decarbonising your IT estate

There is a tendency to believe that when pursuing a journey of net zero, your business profitability will take a hit. There’s a perception that reducing emissions in your business is time-consuming and can have long-term financial impact. Despite these assumptions, there is more to gain than to lose through decarbonisation efforts for businesses. UK business leaders within sectors such as industrials, healthcare and energy have said that they have benefited majorly through reducing their emissions in key areas. These areas include energy efficiency and operating costs, where 53% of senior leaders have seen improvements in these areas. Moreover, if businesses of any size neglect decarbonising their operations, it can cost them and the economy in the long run. So much so a report by The Aldersgate Group found that neglecting industrial decarbonisation could cost the UK economy £224bn by 2050. 

The obvious question from this is where businesses can start to decarbonise their operations. The answer is looking towards their IT estates. A study found that 80% of a laptop’s environmental impact stems from its production, not its use, with the IT industry representing 3.9% of the annual global greenhouse gas emissions by building new laptops. Not only is there an environmental case to transition away from brand-new hardware, but there is also a business case. By 2025, 75% of organisations will experience ongoing electricity shortages, accelerating the push for sustainable IT over buying brand new. Because of this prediction, it questions our take, make, use, and replace model that businesses deploy in their IT estates.

The alternative for businesses is a circular economy that invests in the remanufacturing of IT products over buying brand new. Construction giant Balfour Beatty saved over £1 million and reduced their environmental impact by purchasing 6,000 Circular Computing remanufactured laptops. Each time an organisation buys a remanufactured computer, they are guaranteed to see a drop in their CO₂ emissions, with a peer-reviewed scientific study by Cranfield University finding that a remanufactured laptop of ours produces over 15 times less CO₂ compared with an average new laptop. 

Through investing in remanufactured tech, businesses not only help themselves decarbonise their IT operations, but also won’t see a drop in quality. Circular Computing’s extensive 5+ hour Remanufacturing Process and 360-point quality check deliver second-life laptops to clients certified as brand new with no extra cost to the environment. The WWF, through purchasing 560 remanufactured laptops, prevented 281 tonnes of CO₂ equivalent greenhouse gases from being released but were also guaranteed laptops that hadn’t dropped in quality or performance. 

Getting started

At Circular Computing, we urge leaders to inspire others and make fundamental changes at the industry level, not just for their own operations. Decarbonising your business operations is not an easy task, but we wish to help those who want to make a start. 

If you are a business looking to make a greater impact in becoming more climate-friendly, there are some useful tips that make a world of difference. By auditing your supply chains and knowing where your tech comes from, you can better understand whether your IT estate is sustainable for your business. Embracing a model that embraces reusing the whole laptop can allow fewer resources to be used up and one less laptop to be put on the pile of e-waste. Lastly, collaborating with third parties to measure your business carbon footprint can put you at ease and help you know if you are going in the right direction, in terms of decarbonising your IT estate. 

To some businesses, it can be a mountainous task to reduce emissions, and each company across the UK has varied roadmaps towards the destination of net zero. It can be overwhelming to see other organisations within or outside of your industry making great strides in this area while you may be lagging behind. Yet, through businesses asking for help and supporting each other, as enterprises, we can help each other and make this transition to net zero easier and more efficient. 

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