Good for the Environment but Also a Wise Business Choice

The environmental motivation for refurbished devices is a no-brainer. What is equally compelling, though, is that there is a strong business benefit. Gone are the days when buying refurbished meant sacrificing reliability. Certified refurbished devices are typically 20% – 50% cheaper than new devices with the same specifications and the same standards of reliability.

Environmental sustainability is front of mind for many organisations. As our understanding of the threats and costs of Global Warming deepen, more and more corporates and non-profits are using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to guide their actions and priorities.

With rising global incomes and our increasing dependence on technology there is a proliferation of devices, which are often thrown out long before they need to be. In the technology sector, we see big brands like Microsoft, Apple, Dell, HP, and Lenovo taking a real stand. Microsoft has committed to become carbon neutral by 2030. Apple has made the same commitment and reduced its carbon footprint by 4.3 million metric tons in 2019 alone through design and recycled content innovations. Dell, HP, and Lenovo now all produce laptops that are manufactured, in part, from bioplastic tree waste, ocean bound plastics, and other recycled content.

But to make a real sustainable difference, more is required. We must tackle the problem from multiple angles. As Dr. Lucas Joppa, Chief Sustainability Officer at Microsoft says, “It’s what we all do together that will make a difference.”

The Global eWaste Monitor reports that in 2019 we generated 53.6 metric Tons of eWaste globally. This is an amount equivalent to 22 of the Worlds biggest container ships full to capacity of eWaste. This is a vast amount considering that most of it goes into landfills or finds its way to the bottom of the oceans. Only 17.4% of this was reported to be formally collected and recycled. Here in Africa, only 0.4% of eWaste is formally collected and recycled. Although this number is likely to be higher given our informal recycling sector.

Regardless, what this means is that in addition to the innovative product design and manufacturing of large technology brands, it is critical that we extend the life of our devices in order that less goes into landfills and less needs to be manufactured. Most technologies that deliver environmental benefits come at a higher cost. Think solar panels and electric vehicles. Until such time as we can achieve meaningful volumes in the manufacture of these technologies, they will remain more costly than their heavily polluting alternatives.

The real beauty of certified refurbished hardware is that it is more cost effective than alternatives. Here, the barrier that exists is user trust, and reasonably so. In the past, refurbished hardware was likely not refurbished at all. It was a broken device that an inexperienced, and likely not entirely honest, techie had restored to flog as a “good deal”. Invariably “good deal” is not what it was.

Refurbished technology has come a long way. The best refurbishers only work with the top hardware brands that produce robust devices that are manufactured to last. They avoid sourcing damaged devices from insurers, and rather secure them from large corporates that depreciate their assets every 3 years or offer buy-back programmes to their customers. They fully refurbish each device, which involves dismantling the device, cleaning it thoroughly, checking all functionality, replacing worn components, wiping all data, restoring factory settings, and installing the latest versions of operating systems and updated software. They stand by their products by offering warranties that are equivalent to warranties on new devices. And they provide professional and responsive specialist advice and after sales support.

This represents a huge opportunity for businesses, non-profits, and educational institutions that want to make their money go further. Certified refurbished devices are typically between 20% and 50% (depending on age) cheaper than new devices with the same specifications and the same standards of reliability. In Europe and the United States, organisations are increasingly choosing certified refurbished devices. Microsoft, for example, supports the refurbishment of 2 million devices in North America each year.

For many compelling reasons, some of which we’ve discussed above, certified refurbished devices will continue to become increasingly mainstream as organisations try them out and are convinced of their benefits. If you’d like to open your organisation up to the possibility, please get in touch – we’d love to help you define what the opportunity might be for your business.

Julia Wedgwood, Director, Founder Unboxxed and 072 387 5628

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