Transforming sustainably; responsible procurement and disposal

Regardless of industry, digital transformation is playing a major role in business today

It may mean different things to different organisations but it’s essentially about using technology across the business to streamline processes, make staff more productive and improve the user experience. An essential part of this transformation is the technology.

However, with the purchase of new technology comes the disposal of the old. Environmental legislation requires organisations to ‘ensure that waste is recovered or disposed of without endangering human health or causing harm to the environment’ and ‘to reduce waste via reuse of recycling’. However, with IT equipment, data needs to be protected as well as the environment. Whether the technology is recycled or disposed of, any data that it contains must not be recoverable. Otherwise, organisations can be fined under GDPR legislation.

But what should businesses be aware of and how can they guarantee compliance?

WEEE regulations

The UK Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations were first introduced in 2007 with the aim of reducing the amount of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) ending up in landfill. Their main aim is to force manufacturers, producers and distributors of electronic equipment to put in place methods for safe disposal. But any business which purchases IT equipment is responsible for making sure that their technology is treated, recycled, recovered or disposed of correctly.

GDPR compliance

Any organisation that collects personal data has an obligation to protect it in terms of ensuring appropriate security. This includes protection against unauthorised or unlawful processing and against accidental loss, destruction or damage, and using the right technical or organisational measures. In essence, it’s about maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of employee, customer or third-party data.

Therefore, once IT equipment has become end of life, it’s essential to ensure that the data is wiped and cannot be recovered under any circumstances. And it’s not just the obvious technology such as servers and PCs that require this attention. Printers, photocopier and phones can also hold data and need to be ‘sanitised’ after use. It’s the responsibility of the business to ensure that this happens — either inhouse or through a third-party. And whether the equipment is recycled or disposed of as in end of life, a data deletion certificate should be issued.

Managing the lifecycle process

Many businesses may find that they do not have the time, resources or the know-how to manage this effectively and so use a partner to manage the process for them.  This is a great way to ensure compliance in terms of both environmental and security considerations. Nonetheless, managing this with a tech partner who has not been previously involved with the lifecycle management of the equipment concerned, can be a complex process.

A more considered approach is to engage with an IT partner over the whole IT lifecycle — right from procurement, through warranty and finally disposal. Often referred to as ‘total cost of ownership’, this approach can also include additional elements such as financing, storage and implementation.

In addition, financing these elements within the technology lifecycle can often be challenging. This is where subscription and as-a-service models can prove their worth. This approach not only eases the burden of an upfront investment, but it also allows organisations to implement the latest technology while streamlining payments and minimising the risks of deployment.

An example of this working successfully in practice is Coleg Sir Gar, a large further education college. It uses a digital finance solution which spreads the payment over a number of years in order to preserve cash flows, but still enabling access to the latest technology. And the technology partner handles all administrative and logistics procedures, leading to a smooth roll-out programme and a stress-free end-of-life process. In fact, all data deletion, collection, recycling, remarketing and disposal are managed in compliance with the WEEE directive.

Recycling for the future

The EU WEEE directive in place today gives member states the tools to fight illegal WEEE shipments to other countries, disguised as legal shipments of used equipment. As of 2019, it also has a target of 65% of equipment sold or 85% of WEE generated. These targets ensure that around 10 million tons of electrical equipment will be disposed of correctly, therefore ensuring environmental sustainability and data security.

About the Author

Chris Labrey, is UK MD at Econocom. Econocom designs, finances and oversees companies’ digital transformation. With over 10,900 employees in 18 countries and revenue of €3.0 billion, Econocom has all the requisite abilities to ensure the successful implementation of large-scale digital projects: consulting, sourcing and technology management & financing of digital assets, infrastructure, application and business solution services, and project financing.

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