Helping track a fish's journey from sea to store might not seem like an archetypal reseller project, but it could be a harbinger for how the role of tech providers evolves in the 2020s.
At least that's the view of Andreas Antonsen, director of corporate responsibility at Atea, a Norway-based VAR that has won plaudits for its sustainability credentials.
Talking to CRN ahead of the launch of our Sustainability Hub and Sustainability Summit, Antonsen said that Atea is building on its sustainability track record by increasingly lending its expertise in projects that transform society.
"I think IT will play a crucial role in the next decade to meet the global challenges we have," he said.
"Using technology in a smart way - IoT and AI and so on -will help transform society and play a role in, for instance, meeting climate [commitments]."
Together with IBM, Atea recently used IoT and blockchain technology to help the fishing industry in the Norwegian city of Trondheim track fish from the point they are caught to when they are sold in the store.
"Looking into my crystal ball, I think more of these sorts of solutions in areas such as smart cities will be scaled up. We can see it works in small areas, or different parts of Europe, but it needs to be scaled up," Antonsen said.
With annual revenues approaching £3bn, Oslo-listed Atea is one of Europe's largest resellers.
Last year, supplier sustainability rating outfit EcoVadis ranked it within the top one per cent of suppliers for CSR globally for a third year running.
"Atea is the largest VAR in the Nordics, and I think with that comes also the responsibility to lead the way - and hopefully inspire others as well," Antonsen explained.
Despite his optimism that Atea has a role to play in deploying technology that solves the world's big problems, Antonsen admitted that any reseller approaching the topic of sustainability must first nail more "foundational" issues, including technology reuse.
"We are by far the best in the Nordics for taking back equipment, but even then we only get about 40 per cent back," he said, crediting Atea's 'game of phones' scheme (pictured) for increasing awareness around recycling and re-use.
"Before talking about IT solutions that can help transform society, it's important to get the basics in place. Getting a take-back scheme that works is quite difficult. Also, how do you approach transport in a climate-friendly way? How do you work with the supply chain?"
Atea's dedicated sustainability team - whose tasks include visiting factories in China to assess its supply chain - has around 10 staff, and Antonsen said he foresaw the firm "accelerating our efforts in the coming decade".
"There has been more integration of sustainability into our day-to-day business. It's now an aspect for us when we develop new services, and something we communicate about on a regular basis," he said.
Simultaneous pressure from customers, staff, the media and investors has created a "perfect storm" for sustainability, Antonsen said.
The last two years has seen customers in all of Atea's four markets of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland introduce a sustainability element into public procurements, where before it was mainly just Sweden, he said.
"You can also see it in the media coverage - you, for instance, are planning to have a CSR summit later this year, and university leavers are also now looking to work for companies with a decent approach to CSR.
"We have also seen much more activity from the investor community - they actually rate us on our CSR performance now," Antonsen added.
Check out CRN's Sustainability Hub for more news and views on how the channel can step up on sustainability. Meanwhile, the programme for our Sustainability Summit - which will be held on 6 May - is now live.
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