From grey to green, and everything in between

Softcat business development director Al Wynn on what the next decade may hold for the UK IT channel's sustainable transformation

clock • 4 min read
From grey to green, and everything in between

Sustainability is now seen as a top 10 priority by many organisations, meaning it's an ever-growing factor in projects, strategies, procurement decisions and supply chains. For me, sustainability boils down to three key words:

  • efficiency - using and managing assets and processes sensibly;
  • responsibility - doing the right thing for your people, customers, partners and the community; and
  • opportunity - the carbon footprint of technology is significant, but the opportunity and part it plays in climate change is enormous

Action is essential, and pace and urgency is critical. We've all seen and heard what the world could look like in the next 50-100 years and it's not a sight any of us, or our children, want to see. Wildfires, floods, and unpredictable weather is on the rise year on year, and many countries and communities are at serious risk. The world needs our attention and everyone has a part to play -  personally, at work and in the community.  

2020-2030 was dubbed the decade for action, and many people talk of the ‘race to zero', but this is certainly not a race we can finish alone. For the majority of organisations out there, some quick, but significant wins can be made by focusing on the elements within their direct control: to become carbon neutral with offsets; to move to renewable energy; to replace combustion vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs) and to replace any energy hungry assets with more efficient innovations.

However, the bulk of the impact for most is in their value chain and that's where we all need to come together and collaborate. We need to share data, experiences, learnings and insights to manage and minimise impact, maximise and measure improvements, and reach the net zero finish line, together. We can deliver a better, sustainable future for us all, and generations to come.

I long for the day when we start to see free-flowing positive changes across the IT channel and there are so many areas that need focus and attention in what I dub ‘the move from grey to green'. Within the workplace we'll start to see organisations focus more on energy and efficiency - lighting, heating, machinery, vehicles, travel, IT, etc. Supply chains will transform with responsible packaging and logistics, supplier governance and measurement, more regional supply and distribution hubs and consolidation of supply chains as customers aggregate spend with the most sustainable suppliers.

Data should be more accessible, visible and comparable to drive customer choice at the point of purchase, whilst also made available at the end of traditional ‘lifecycle' to evaluate second use options. I for one firmly believe that GDPR has scared some to dispose of kit, with possible data breach implications - a challenge we need to collectively solve to give customer confidence.

I for one firmly believe that GDPR has scared some to dispose of kit, with possible data breach implications - a challenge we need to collectively solve to give customer confidence

We should also see more incentives, investment and focus on sustainable products and solutions to promote a more responsible path; and then celebrate the results sustainable projects deliver versus others to encourage others to do similar. We all should be striving towards a truly circular economy - one that has sustainable products and solutions available for customers, one that makes data freely available to drive choice, one that has equal, and arguably more, incentive to select the sustainable option versus others available. I dream of a world that sees products and services delivered responsibly, with sustainable packaging and responsible logistics.

A world where we start to see a truly circular motion - when we deliver 100 devices, a comparable number of units can be recycled and refurbished.  Every device has a purpose after first use, whether that be made available for second use for another organisation to use; helping to tackle digital divide and poverty in the community; or bio-leeching to strip products down to raw materials for reuse. We all have a responsibility and part to play in this circle. That might mean removing obstacles that stand in the way, or accelerating adoption and uptake with data, incentives and marketing.

At Softcat, we're on an exciting path: we're already carbon neutral, we're very close to 100 per cent renewable energy, the remainder of our car fleet will be replaced with EVs in early 2023, we've had our Science Based Targets approved and we're working very closely with many of our customers, vendors, and partners on sustainable action plans.

We're also very excited for the part that our ESG tool, Enexo, can play in helping others on their sustainability journey. 2023 is going to be an exciting, proactive year. If you'd like to talk to us about sustainability or Enexo, please contact us at [email protected]

This article was commissioned by Softcat

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