Six steps to managing e-waste

SPONSORED CONTENT: Praveen Shankar, EY UK&I Technology's media and telecommunications market leader, explains how tech companies can help drive the circular economy by reducing e-waste.

Six steps to managing e-waste

Electronic waste (e-waste) is one of the world’s fastest-growing waste streams. Research has forecast there will be 61.3 million tonnes of global e-waste this year, rising to 74.7 million tonnes by 2030. Consumers are increasingly demanding that companies take responsibility. With the information and communications technology (ICT) sector predicted to account for 14% of emissions by 2040, IT leaders have a pivotal role to play.

Here, we outline six steps to better managing this growing waste stream.

  1. Make reducing e-waste a priority

Waste generation is a significant challenge in the tech sector, with business leaders facing pressure to introduce the latest hardware. Regulations such as the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive (WEEE) address the challenge of increasing e-waste, and further scrutiny is expected, holding businesses to their commitment to recycling, repairing and reusing technology.

  1. Maximise financial value through circularity

Waste reduction is directly linked to efficiency, and thus, cost reduction, assets & liabilities and cost of capital. There are, therefore, sizeable commercial benefits from shifting behaviors towards repairing and reusing equipment. Some organisations are introducing marketplaces where they can trade network materials with others. Creating and driving this circular economy is integral to reducing emissions.

  1. Take a holistic approach

For tech companies to be sustainable, they need to adopt a holistic approach – working with their ecosystem, thinking creatively about how the organisation behaves and ensuring they are operating in the right way to move the dial on circularity. Securing end-to-end visibility of what is driving the creation of e-waste is vital in order to take action to reduce it. Organisations should also monitor ESG performance in their ecosystem to prioritise sustainable suppliers.

  1. Rigorously measure performance

Business leaders must have the right KPIs and the enabling data, processes and controls in place to measure e-waste. Mapping operational data sources across business functions is a key first step in making performance visible, and to align on common data models, processes and controls.This will inform how they can reduce waste through an effective sustainability strategy, and by measuring their progress year-on-year, they can hold themselves accountable for putting a framework in place to make improvements. EY and GSMA’s “ESG Metrics for Mobile provides a starting point for telecom operators on how to measure and report on e-waste generation.

  1. Build trust with stakeholders

Investors, regulators, consumers and employees expect tangible progress. For example, research shows that 85% of investors consider ESG factors in their investments. So, businesses need to start showcasing their commitment to reducing e-waste or they risk compromising stakeholder buy-in. Most critically, waste reduction must be embedded into the culture of the business. To achieve this, organisations should benchmark their objectives and highlight areas for improvement – and drive this through a clear single point of accountability within the organisation.

  1. Enable customers and suppliers to reduce their waste

For business customers and suppliers, tech companies can be the engine driving their sustainability agenda by providing digital tools to support circularity. This means tech companies have an opportunity to create new revenue streams by designing and executing solutions to enable the circular economy for their customers. Examples include remote monitoring for emissions, or blockchain to support carbon ledgers and reduction of e-waste.

So, technology organisations have a dual role to play. They must reduce their own e-waste and make tangible progress in their sustainability agenda, as well as use their role as digital enablers to drive sustainability journeys across their customer base.

The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organisation or its member firms.

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