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How channel partners can help spearhead the sustainability charge

by Christina Klein, Head of Global Solution Partners at Lansweeper, the IT asset management software provider

Organisations have been slow to adopt and integrate meaningful sustainability practices. But as pressure from consumers increases, organisations are recognising the importance of sustainability to their operations and prioritising it as a key business initiative.

One in three people in the UK have stopped purchasing certain products/brands that had sustainability-related concerns around, according to a Deloitte survey. However, as 34% said a lack of information was the primary reason for not choosing to buy from more ethical businesses, clearly more needs to be done.

With continued demand, regulators and governments have, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm, sought to bring “reduce, reuse and recycle” to the forefront.

Now we see sustainability moving up the corporate agenda, not only because consumers are demanding it, but also because it makes good business sense. The only thing that’s unsustainable is ignoring or overlooking it.

Around 54 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated in 2019, with that figure predicted to be 74 million metric tonnes by 2030. Less than 20% of this was reported to be correctly processed using the reduce, reuse, recycle model with the rest likely dumped, traded, or recycled in a non-environmentally sound way.

With these figures in mind, it comes as no surprise that a large number of technology vendors, including the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Dell Technologies and HPE, are taking measures to reduce the carbon impact of their products and improve their sustainability. Many of them have published targets to become carbon neutral in their own businesses.

Customers are starting to look for evidence of sustainability when it comes to making purchasing decisions, and employees are making career decisions based on the environmental credentials of potential employers.

The weakest link

This zeal for carbon neutrality is spurred on by increasing regulation and by heightened customer awareness, but ultimately the risk to reputation remains a powerful driver of sustainability efforts.

While IT vendors may be the largest part of the technology chain, they are still only a part of it. Once the equipment has been acquired and installed by customers, responsibility for the sustainability of the technology shifts to them.

Unlike technology vendors who are focused solely on the environmental credentials of their products, their customers have a much wider range of IT equipment products from multiple manufacturers to account for. That can prove to be a troublesome task.

The channel has a similar multifaceted perspective when it comes to sustainability as partners are rarely constrained to a single supplier. Distributors, solution providers, managed service providers and value-added resellers usually build their solutions around several vendors to meet the differing demands of customers.

Channel companies do not have the option of sitting on the sidelines any longer. With vendors applying more sustainable policies to their businesses under pressure from legislators and customers, companies involved in the supply chain will need to fall into line with those demands as well.

Partners that wish to be part of the supply chain will need to conform to those policies to satisfy vendors and their customers.

The good news is that it is becoming much easier to find channel partners who value sustainability policies and objectives and provide a much closer match to the business model of their customers. It’s this similarity which they should be highlighting and taking advantage of to help customers manage their sustainability requirements.

Making Sustainability attractive

Vendors are already starting to acknowledge the role channel partners can play in promoting sustainability.

Neil Frodsham, Global Director of IT Asset Management Services at SHI, explained his experience of working on sustainable practices with customers, “Our customers trust us to not only make recommendations to improve business efficiency but to also make recommendations that align with their corporate objectives – sustainability being a requirement,”

One organisation aligning their corporate objectives with sustainable practices is Hewlett Packard, who recently launched Amplify Impact – an assessment, resource and training programme for partners aimed at environmental and social sustainability. The scheme is voluntary but, in a sign of how significant HP believes it to be, the vendor hopes half of its global partners will sign up to it by 2025.

“Sustainability makes smart business sense as the ultimate goal of effective IT asset management (ITAM) is to reduce waste and risk while maintaining the most efficient and optimised environment,” Frodsham went on to say.

These types of programmes are welcome, but at heart they are not necessarily using the full capabilities of channel partners, seeking instead to mobilise them to monitor the sustainability of the vendors’ own products after they have been installed at the customer organisation.

The first step to improving sustainability by measuring the impact of a company’s technology on the environment is to gain an accurate inventory of that technology.

This is where having the ability to gather a full inventory all devices on a network, be those Windows, Linux and Mac devices, printers, routers, switches, basically any network connected device, as part of a comprehensive ITAM strategy fits neatly with the channel partner model.

Most partners are vendor-agnostic and able to provide and support products from multiple suppliers. Using an ITAM technique called agentless scanning – the ability to scan all network connected devices without having to install any software – works well here because it can provide a single central inventory to enable accurate management of assets and devices from all manner of suppliers.

ITAM techniques such as device performance tracking and monitoring idling laptops can help businesses better manage the health of their devices and notify them when devices are reaching their end of life. Accurate asset inventory means businesses are less likely to have devices running on the network they are unaware of for no particular purpose and wasting resources.

The intelligence, analytics and reporting provided by ITAM can help inform business decisions about the lifecycle of devices and when to recycle them most sustainably.

Changing the channel partnership model

Channel partners are well-suited to the role of taking ownership and responsibility for ITAM on behalf of their customers to help improve sustainability. As key links in the technology supply chain, they are in a strong position to become an intrinsic part of the sustainability cycle that follows technology from its origins to end of life.

As the nature of their relationship deepens from the transactional “sell and forget, see you in three years” to ongoing as-a-Service and managed service-based models, sustainability is set to become a natural evolution for partners as their engagement with customers broadens.

Better knowledge and management of assets should help elongate the lifecycle of IT as products and technologies are used more efficiently and effectively. Better managed assets should also be in much better shape and have a greater value when it comes time to move them to a second life outside the organisation.

If older assets retain more value, it creates a righteous circle where they generate more resources for the customer to invest in the new technology that replaces them. Partners have a choice: elect to be part of the circle and help customers become more sustainable inside it or be left on the outside looking in.

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2020