For many industries Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is just a buzz word encouraged by marketing departments to appear socially aware. It’s up there with raising some money for charity at Christmas, or encouraging clients not to print out emails for the sake of the environment.
While little gestures do help, companies working within the IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) industry have a lot more responsibility than most when it comes to CSR. Such responsibilities include the health and safety of workers (both in-house and within the supply chain), and the many ways in which ITAD can potentially affect the environment.
The most obvious way of helping the environment is by way of reusing and recycling. However, when it comes to recycling IT assets, it’s not as straight forward as bringing bottles to the bottle bank.
For a start, in order to reuse parts as efficiently as possible, your ITAD provider must have a good knowledge of the global market for as ‘new’ parts. In practise, this means that only the correct parts are selected to re-sell on the basis that there is a global market for them.
Furthermore, your ITAD provider must be a trusted source of such parts by the leading IT manufacturing companies in order to sell into this lucrative market.
Socially Responsible Donations
Parts which cannot be re-sold, yet are in full working order face two options. Firstly, they can be re-used within the client’s organisation, or secondly, they can be donated to charity. Yet before they can be donated, they must be sanitised in order to remove outstanding data and prevent a data breach.
For example, Wisetek have partnered with the Deng Forest Community in Thailand, which is currently out of reach of the national electricity grid. In order to power the solar panels used for lighting, water pumps and electrical appliances, they needed at least 350 deep cell batteries, which were prohibitively expensive.
By donating 400 batteries in co-operation with Thai authorities, Wisetek has helped the community to live off-grid, and when the batteries are no longer in use, they will be returned for responsible recycling.
Toxic Electronic Waste
As harmless as old IT assets look, they potentially contain many toxic components such as lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Monitors and circuit boards contain considerable amounts of lead, and if they are not disposed of properly, such lead can leach into the groundwater, or if incinerated, create air pollution.
Inevitably, there will be IT components which will have to be destroyed. At the very least, your ITAD provider must have a zero-landfill policy in place which ensures that non-functional and obsolete assets are converted to reusable components of commodity grade materials. This ensures that they can be reused in new products.
Depending on your jurisdiction, there are various levels of environmental laws and regulations which govern e-waste. For example, in Europe there is the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE), yet there is the temptation for unscrupulous to export their e-waste to developing countries.
Shipping unwanted e-waste to African countries where there are less regulations governing its disposal plays havoc with the health and safety of workers and the environment.
A recent UN study showed that over a quarter of 60,000 tons of electronic waster shipped to Nigeria in 2015 and 2016 was potentially toxic illegal waste.
Oftentimes, children are hired to destroy the assets and are exposed to the hazardous components, before the e-waste is burnt, thus adding to air pollution, or dumped in landfills. Ethical ITAD providers have signed up the Basel Convention, an international treaty, which aims to prevent the transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less-developed nations.
Electronics Disposal Efficiency (EDE)
A method to enable companies to achieve ethical e-waste disposal is for them to calculate their Electronics Disposal Efficiency (EDE) percentage rating. EDE was developed by the Green Grid, a non-profit organisation, to calculate the percentage of decommissioned IT electronics and electrical equipment that is disposed of through responsible entities.
In order to achieve a high percentage, companies have to know the ultimate destination of equipment when it leaves their control, thus putting the onus on the organisation to make sure there are no unethical practices downstream.
When choosing an ITAD provider, it’s important to ensure they are independently certified and comply with ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 18001, the Responsible Recycling (R2) standard and the WEEE Directive, among others.
In particular, the ISO 14001 is vital as it’s an internationally agreed standard setting out the requirements for running an environmental management system, thus helping companies improve their environmental performance through the reduction of waste, among other processes.
So, when it comes to choosing your ITAD provider, make sure their CSR is actually social and responsible, and not just tokenistic. Afterall, you only want to destroy your old IT assets, and not the health and safety of workers, and the environment.