This interview appears in CRN Sustainability Report
"I find it very interesting and I've got myself in deep in terms of understanding what we're doing, our point of view and some of the external narrative and I then share that in conversations I have with the senior management of our customers," explained Marc Waters, HPE's MD for the UK, Middle East and Africa, on his advocacy for sustainable IT.
Waters found himself becoming more engaged in the issues around environmentalism after attending an event in South Africa last year, which has daily blackouts in order to avoid destabilising its national grid. It opened his eyes to energy consumption as he got used to unplugging his devices when not in use and realised there was no reason not to continue the habit when he returned to the UK.
He has since found himself introducing the idea of green IT in conversations with customers and engaging in public speaking on the topic.
"I'm privileged enough to do a job where I lead a really large organisation of technologists and people want to listen to my opinion on it, and people will then change their behaviours. When you start to see that happen, it becomes a really positive aspect of the culture of a company," he said.
Waters said it is "very rare" now that he doesn't talk about sustainability in conversations with customers, as many organisations become aware of the benefits to be reaped from the circular economy and asset life cycle management.
"We will probably see more happening in the market around transformation of technology environments, building out edge environments or building out AI environments. People increasingly want to look at consuming those types of platforms as a service," he explained.
"A big part of what makes that so compelling is the asset life cycle management that sits underneath it. Not only do you make the overall running of that consumption service more economically viable, you can also produce detailed, auditable reporting for that organisation about where its assets are going and that aligns to their sustainability strategies."
The biggest challenge facing the mainstream adoption of circular IT in the channel is the "cultural adjustment" of moving from traditional capital models to consumption models, according to Waters.
"This requires a mindset and process change, but the UK channel is incredibly adaptive," he said.
"We've got a lot of forward-thinking channel partners who are picking the components of sustainable IT that best work for their customers and are driving that change."
A lot of large organisations that dispose of their old IT kit in a non-environmentally sound fashion do so out of years of habit and lack of awareness about modern IT recycling capabilities, explained Waters.
He cited a conversation with his team last year regarding a large hedge fund customer. He asked his team if they had brought the circular economy into the conversation with the customer. He was told that due to the value and sensitivity of the customer's data, its kit had to be destroyed and buried for security reasons and couldn't be recycled.
Waters met with the CEO of that company and outlined the benefits of circular IT and it transpired that the destruction process was just something the customer had always done but wasn't actually required to do it. The CEO subsequently committed to joining HPE's circular economy.
"We're taking materials out of the ground, using them and then we're destroying them and putting them back in the ground - why is that?" he said.
"A lot of this comes down to security and how we think about technology assets. Organisations need to be aware of those clear concerns around security, but [those destruction processes] have been ingrained over many years and are not necessarily looked at in the light of the capabilities that now exist to be able to reuse some of that technology."
Taking part in the circular economy from a vendor and reseller perspective is a "massive opportunity" as it both appeals to a customer's business sense and their company values, he added.
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