Why IT asset management should include sustainability
Incorporating sustainability into asset lifecycles is a natural way for organizations to reduce e-waste, support environmental mandates, and save money.
Today’s CIOs and their teams must examine ways to help reduce costs and meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. One area that can help them do both is IT asset management (ITAM) that helps teams consider costs, features, and other factors. Taking a sustainability approach to IT asset management can help reduce tech junk and other negative weather effects caused by frequent upgrades.
The e-waste problem
In 2019, global e-waste generation was 53.6 metric tons, according to the “Global Transboundary E-waste Flows Monitor 2022” report, published by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.
Only 17% of the disposal of electrical and electronic equipment was done in an “environmentally sound manner,” the report noted. Additionally, the fate of 83%, or 44.3 metric tons, is unknown, meaning those devices and assets were likely thrown away, burned, traded, or recycled without meeting compliance standards.
Enterprise technology is a huge source of e-waste, with 89% of companies recycling less than 10% of their IT hardware, according to the 2021 report “Sustainable IT: Why It’s Time for a Green IT Revolution”. of Your Organization” from research and consulting firm Capgemini.
This low figure may be the direct result of not having create a green IT culture.
Forty-one percent of responding organizations provide sustainability awareness training to their employees, while 31% incentivize employees to adopt more sustainable behavior in the use of IT services, according to the Capgemini report.
Pressure is building for these numbers to improve.
CIOs and IT leaders will need to get on board with sustainable IT asset management, if they haven’t already, for a number of reasons, said AJ Witt, an industry analyst at The ITAM Review, an online community for IT professionals. ITAM. First, customers want to do business with companies that follow sustainability best practices. Employees also want to work for sustainable organizations.
“Also, if we’re headed into a recession, the first thing we do is start cutting costs,” Witt said. “You have to deal with those costs, and one way to do that is by making sure you buy a sustainable kit that doesn’t get replaced every couple of years.”
6 ways to achieve a sustainable ITAM
Here are six ways IT leaders can achieve sustainable IT asset management.
1. Keep in mind the end of life
Every IT asset purchased by an organization will have a specific useful life, and IT leaders must anticipate when that will happen, even at the time of purchase.
IT leaders must think about the final stages of the life cycle of IT assets during the acquisition, said Carmen Ene, chief executive of 3stepIT, a Helsinki-based technology lifecycle management provider.
“Usually [people] they think about the acquisition, and they look at how cheap or expensive it is,” said Jan. “A lot of times, they don’t start planning their IT acquisition [by thinking about] what will happen next.”
Specific concerns should guide IT asset investments before making a purchase, Jan said. Some of those questions might include the following:
- How will I dispose of these assets?
- Where will these assets ultimately end up?
- Before redistribution or deletion, how will I ensure that the data on these assets is deleted correctly?
This last point is important if companies want to avoid financial and reputational damage, Jan said. For example, in September 2022, the US Securities and Exchange Commission fined financial services company Morgan Stanley $35 million. of dollars for improperly disposing of devices containing sensitive customer data.
2. Automate IT asset tracking
Achieving a sustainable ITAM is impossible if you don’t know where all your assets are.
CIOs and IT leaders need to establish processes to accurately account for assets, Witt said. The following could be part of an asset tracking checklist:
- location of the asset, such as what network it is on and what desk it is sitting at;
- who is using the asset;
- warranty date and duration of useful life; Y
- overall repair history.
Gathering this data can be more difficult in a hybrid work model, he said.
“The challenge may be, in this new world of remote work, maintaining the same level of visibility,” Witt said.
However, ITAM tools have begun to take hybrid and remote work models into account, he said.
Good data from hardware manufacturers is still lacking, Witt said. When businesses deployed CRT monitors, it was easy to determine if they were Energy Star compliant thanks to the TCO certification label on the unit.
“To have that level of data in our tools to know that this laptop [from ABC manufacturer] is 10% more efficient than laptop [XYZ manufacturer] It really allows you to make informed purchasing decisions,” Witt said. “Your purchasing team can think about not just how much it’s going to cost me per unit in terms of money, but the total cost.”
3. Extend the life of IT assets
A sustainable approach to IT asset management implies maximize asset life cycles.
One of the first things organizations can do to become more sustainable is to control device usage and use them longer, said Benjamin Alleau, group sustainability initiative leader at Capgemini Group and co-author of the “Sustainable IT” report. .
Three years is the average life of a device in many organizations, Alleau said. Extending that period to four years significantly reduces the carbon footprint. On the other hand, replacing devices less frequently can present challenges. For starters, it can be difficult to maintain performance and efficiency as devices need ongoing carrier support and software updates.
For GEP, a Clark, NJ-based supply chain and operations consulting firm, taking control of maintenance has been critical to a more sustainable ITAM.
GEP has increased the life cycle of laptops from three to five years, said Ramachander Raja, the company’s global chief financial officer. This process is possible because his team oversees the repairs and manages its depreciation, especially near the latter part of its useful life. The company works with an IT asset decommissioning service provider to redeploy laptops in schools.
Ramachandra RajaGlobal Finance Director, GEP
“We also work with specialized suppliers who, for different types of equipment, can make sure they are maximizing [the] recovery of the material so that as little as possible ends up in a landfill,” Raja said.
GEP will also redistribute older laptops to temporary employees, such as summer interns who spend only two months with the company.
Extending the useful life of assets can be difficult or even impossible if vendors force obsolescence. However, that is starting to change.
In the past, extending the life cycles of IT hardware was difficult because vendor support expired, on average, after three years, Raja said. These days, providers have become more flexible.
“We can buy slightly more sophisticated hardware that allows for a much longer life, [while remaining] to the level of performance we need through software upgrades,” he said.
Lobbying suppliers to support better environmental practices is key to sustainable ITAM and other areas.
“We have to make sure that together, with the suppliers, we can achieve [sustainability]said Alleau of Capgemini Group.
4. Get buy-in from employees
Shiny new devices are exciting to people, making the concept of a long lifecycle for IT assets challenging.
But getting buy-in becomes less of a problem when technology teams can keep devices running at the level of performance required for employees to do their jobs, Raja said. Employees, especially members of the younger generation, are support for of sustainability efforts.
Employee buy-in also increases when companies communicate the rationale behind initiatives like sustainable IT asset management, Raja said. When handing out used laptops to interns, for example, each worker receives a note explaining the following:
- The machine may have a scratch or odd dent, but it is set up to run like new.
- The device is part of the organization’s overall sustainability strategy.
- The company thanks employees for their role in contributing to its green effort.
“They understand, they are happy to be a part of this and they appreciate the bigger goal,” Raja said.
5. Address IT device hygiene
He hybrid work model has many employees working remotely, so IT teams need to train workers on how to use and care for their equipment to make it last longer.
Employees receive instructions when they receive their work-from-home technology, Raja said. An accompanying guide provides tips such as the following:
- Do not leave laptops in direct sunlight for long periods of time.
- Unplug laptops during lightning storms to prevent power surges on the unit.
- To extend battery life, please run the laptop battery down to 30% and then plug the machine back in.
“Part of the journey is taking good care of these assets, and [employees] I understand this is critical,” Raja said.
6. Consider the cloud
Proactive IT leaders can look for new ways to minimize hardware purchasessuch as investments in cloud services.
When acquiring technology, Raja’s team weighs whether they need hardware or cloud services, which may be more sustainable and more appropriate for the use case, he said.