Channel partners may in the near future be assessed and rewarded based on how closely they conform to the social and environmental sustainability values of their vendors.
That's a view held by several onlookers we spoke to ahead of the launch of the CRN Tech Impact Campaign and Awards this week.
HP broke new ground last year when it launched Amplify Impact, an "industry-first" partner assessment, resource and training programme based around environmental and social sustainability. Although the scheme - which had its UK debut last month - is voluntary, HP hopes half of its global partners sign up to it by 2025, with HP COO Christoph Schell stressing it is time for the IT industry "to take bold actions".
Channel veteran Phil Clark - who is now pioneering a sustainability index for MSPs - is among those who expect vendors to play an increasingly pivotal role in driving sustainable behaviour in the channel.
Clark's company, Embedded IT, recently teamed up with environmental management consultancy Green Element to create a report assessing how sustainable IT suppliers are, using an A-G rating.
Talking to CRN, Clark predicted that end users will begin "veering away" from IT suppliers without a sound CSR strategy - particularly in light of the new 10 per cent weighting given to "social value" in government contracts introduced in January.
He also predicted that greater pressure will be exerted on IT suppliers by the vendors they represent.
"If you look at Microsoft and Google, most of their messaging in the last six months has been about going carbon neutral and submerging datacentres. They are big influencers in our world, and if their partner communities aren't tuning into that they are missing a massive trick," the former IBM executive said.
"I think it will get to the stage where partners will probably be assessed on whether they are conforming to the social principles some of the vendors are pushing. We're not there yet, but I think it's coming."
Roger Whittle, CEO of Apple reseller Jigsaw24, billed the prospect of vendors moving to shape sustainable best practice among their channel partners as "an inevitability".
"I've seen it with Apple. They started with their own practices and they are now driving those practices through their supply chain. Inevitably they should be driving them through their partners as well," he said.
Watch below: Clark and Richardson talk about why MSPs should care about sustainability and how easy it is to start measuring it
Of the 23,800 UK IT company websites Clark recently analysed, only 10,800 mentioned environmental or CSR keywords.
"Going forward having messaging on your website is going to be more critical," he said.
Green Element founder Will Richardson argued that becoming more sustainable also makes good business sense. He drew attention to the growing concept of B Corporations - of which there are now nearly 4,000 globally - which balance purpose and profit.
"The companies that perform better have all been more sustainable," he said. "They attract better graduates. We are finding many organisations that we work with are able to pay less to get better-quality people. People now want to work for an organisation in which they believe and trust."
He advised MSPs to "start simple" when it comes to measuring their sustainability.
"You might not start by measuring your datacentres in Alaska," he said. "You might measure your operations in London and build out form there - it's actually fairly simple to do."
If your business is leading the way on environmental and social sustainability, why not enter? There are categories for vendors, distributors and resellers/MSP/IT services providers, as well as ITADs. Categories cover both internal sustainability, customer projects, and non-profit work. With a maximum wordcount of 600, it's quick and simple to enter.
Shortlist to be announced next Wednesday
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