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Hardware makers criticized for eco double standards

Don't penalize resellers for selling refurbished kit, educate shareholders on being Earth's friend

Canalys Channels Forum Hardware makers are currently among the mix when it comes to the problem of environmental sustainability, in part by "penalizing" and competing with resellers that are trying to sell refurbished kit.

"Vendors are claiming their commitments to circular economies and to reducing waste in the supply chain but all of you in the vendor community are still goaled and paid on selling new products," said Alastair Edwards, chief analyst at Canalys.

He was addressing an IT crowd at the analyst's Channel Forum in EMEA, held in Barcelona, which includes brands from across the industry including Dell, HPE, Schneider Electric, and hundreds more, as well as distributors, resellers and other third party providers of technology.

"We see vendors holding back the ability of channel partners to sell refurbished and secondhand IT products by not recognizing those products in compensation schemes and targets. This is creating immense frustration," Edwards added.

Legislation will be a big driver to help change commercial mindsets, with public sector tenders in France requiring government departments and agencies to include refurbished equipment.

"Other countries are going to follow but today channel partners are effectively penalized for selling these products refurbished products," the analyst said. "The other problem is around a lack of standards on IT asset disposal and a failure to agree on data standards on carbon emissions."

Early this month, the Financial Times reported that on the amount of disk drives that are shredded rather than wiped when a datacenter is upgraded. Microsoft, AWS, along with banks, police services and government departments are all guilty of this, the article claimed.

Felice Alfieri, an official working for the European Commission who co-authored a paper on environmental sustainability of datacenter, said "From a data security perspective, you do not need to shred." She advocates "data deletion" over shredding drives.

Edwards at Canalys added: "We see storage devices being shredded rather than reused because of a lack of agreement on data protection standards. And in terms of emissions. The industry is getting better at measuring measuring scope one and scope two emissions but vendors are failing customers and partners when it comes to the most critical scope three emissions which made it measure the complete manufacturing and supply chain process."

The British Computer Society said last year that the most pressing concern for a proportion of its members was cutting electronic waste, and vendors' relentless product upgrade cycles were part of the problem.

"Rather than being dependent on new devices as soon as we have a failure, the 'right to repair' legislation should be starting to make it easier for people to extend the life of their devices. If the starter motor failed on your car, you would go to the garage and get a new part, rather than chucking the car away," Alex Bardell, chair of the BCS Green IT Specialist Group, told us.

Edwards at Canalys told the vendors at the Forum:

"Reward your partners for selling refurbished products rather than trying to compete with them. We absolutely recognize the challenges this creates for you in the vendor community. Your shareholders want you to sell new products but that's not an excuse. You need to start educating your shareholders today about what this means tomorrow."

Vendors need to start reporting sales of refurbished product and the numbers of product they are taking back, Canalys thinks.

It is estimated the IT industry will account for 11 percent of global energy consumption by 2025. "In other word, the need for sustainability is more than just an ethical argument, it's an economic necessity."

The sustainability spotlight should also shine on the channel, he said, and in addition to tying to sell the sustainability message, they also need to look at their own business and the role they play in energy usage.

"We are just the start of a sustainable tech revolution which will create lucrative opportunities for all of you in this room," he said. "But to be credible to your customers, you need to be a more sustainable business yourselves as partners." ®

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