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Pile of e-waste

Sustainable IT at Nuffield Technologies: From Eco-Friendly Phones to Repairable Laptops

There’s no easy way to put it. Technology industries have a dire track record when it comes to sustainable IT and the environment.

Each year, individuals and businesses throw away over 50m tonnes of electrical and electronic waste. In fact, e-waste is the fastest-growing solid waste product in the world and, when it’s not recycled responsibly, it can harm the environment and people. The fact that just one-quarter of global e-waste produced in 2019 was known to be recycled is deeply concerning.

What can we do?

We believe it’s in our power as businesses and consumers to make the best choices for our planet. In this post, we’ve outlined the positive sustainable IT steps we take for Nuffield Technologies. We hope you’ll agree that our approach is based on actions and good choices – not greenwashing or empty words.

Here's how we are embracing sustainable IT.

We procure rugged, long-lasting devices from circular tech champions

We are a Zebra Technologies partner because we are confident in selling its high-performing and durable rugged devices. They last much longer than consumer devices, which in itself is a powerful sustainability factor because they will be replaced less often.

Also, it matters to us immensely that Zebra has a solid plan for promoting circular technology best practice and sustainable IT.

Zebra’s Circular Economy Program features three services:

  1. Certified Refurbished Device Program. Zebra resells high-quality refurbished devices to extend their lifespan. This is a cost-friendly solution for consumers and it keeps many more devices in commission.
  2. Zebra Device Buy Back Program. Users can sell back qualifying devices to Zebra. This can offset the cost of a tech upgrade and help reduce a business’s impact on the environment.
  3. Zebra Recycling Service. As part of a free service, Zebra safely recycles devices for all its customers – reducing greenhouse gases and landfill waste.
Fieldwork with durable Zebra ET6x tablets: Supporting sustainability through long-lasting devices and device recycling.

We build sustainable IT into our clients’ contracts

Organisations are increasingly looking for sustainable IT solutions – it may even be a mandatory compliance requirement for many. Our partnership with responsible providers is helping us deliver just that. Here’s an example.

A large defence organisation asked us to procure a sustainable mobile device solution. With a partner, we delivered devices with an expected durability of 10 years. Compare this to the typical lifecycle of a consumer-grade phone – just 3-4 years for an iPhone!

Our solution included:

  • security patches for the whole lifecycle of the device
  • a repair-over-replacement policy – a managed service for repairing and reconfiguring broken or underperforming devices
  • reuse of existing accessories – wherever possible, we ensured supporting tech such as charging cradles, docks, straps etc were compatible with new devices
  • opportunities for green disposal.

We use upgradeable, repairable laptops

If you haven’t heard of the Framework Laptop revolution, we highly recommend you look into it.

Framework champions the right-to-repair movement, by supplying laptops that are easy to disassemble, repair and upgrade, reducing e-waste. This is a radical shift in approach compared to many manufacturers that – allegedly – plan obsolescence into their business model to encourage sales. In fact, Frameworks’ bold mission statement is to ‘fix electronics, one category at a time’.

We fully embrace this sustainable IT philosophy and we’re gradually deploying these brilliant devices across our teams. We recommend you undertake your own research and consider doing the same.

Framework laptop on a desk
Framework Laptops: Upgradeable, repairable, and sustainable, these devices align with our commitment to reducing e-waste.

We care about the details – such as our daily commute

Our business is located in Poole, Dorset. There are probably more suitable and roomy premises on industrial estates, but we have made a conscious choice to pick a HQ that is close to public transport. Many of our employees either don’t drive or prefer not to and this is never an issue in our location, where public transport and cycle routes are easily accessible.

But this isn’t about congratulating ourselves…

We just want to present you with the facts. We’re doing what we think is right from an environmental point of view, but we’re also well aware that there is much more we could do.

In fact, Framework, who we referenced above as our laptop supplier of choice, wrote a bold post headed ‘We are not sustainable – and neither is any other device maker.’

To summarise, the post stated that no tech industry should be self-congratulating regarding its green sustainable IT credentials in an industry that, overall, produces 50m metric tonnes of e-waste each year.

The truth is that there are problems in the overall sustainable IT approach and outcomes across the industry, whatever any individual company states. And too many organisations are happy to indulge in ‘greenwashing’ and sweep poor or underwhelming practices under the carpet.

A Financial Times report revealed around 30,000 tonnes of electronic waste is illegally shipped out of Britain. Much arrives in developing countries where poorly paid workers smelt it down in highly unsafe conditions. Another estimated 87,000 tonnes are fly-tipped or channelled to illegal waste sites across England.

As individuals, businesses and a nation, we must all do better.

Technology CAN be good for the planet

While we’ve highlighted some of the ecological problems with technology, it’s worth pointing out that it can also be a positive force for good.

Technology can boost operational efficiencies, which reduces workloads and the use of precious resources. For example, our own field services software helps technicians get the job right, first time. Using their mobile device, they can check readings, capture on-the-job data and instantly generate reports – all in one visit.

Leveraging technology in the field: technicians can use mobile devices to enhance efficiency, reduce resource use, and ensure accurate, data capture and reporting, all in a single visit.

Using an app that guides technicians through complex maintenance processes ensures they never miss a step and allows them to record all necessary information in a single visit. Previously, with paper-based processes, technicians often had to make repeat visits to verify data accuracy. Additionally, the paper forms had to be typed up into customer-friendly reports. The new system reduces the need for vehicle trips and eliminates the inefficiencies of double handling.

For a more ubiquitous example, the increased use of video meet-ups has had a hugely positive impact on global emissions. The journal Nature reported that moving from in-person to virtual conferencing can substantially reduce the carbon footprint by 94% and energy use by 90%.

To sum up, the goal must be to release the sustainable benefits of technology, while working even harder to minimise or eliminate the negative impacts.

If you have any suggestions about how we can improve our sustainable IT practices, we want to hear from you. In the meantime, we continue to audit our performance and search for even better sustainable IT methods and outcomes, because there’s still a long way to go…

Nuffield Technologies can help you find the right devices for your sector that meet your sustainable IT requirements. We work with clients across all industries – from logistics and manufacturing to hospitality and fieldwork. We can procure devices and create plans that take a responsible approach to device lifespan, repairs, refurbishments and disposal. Contact us to start a conversation.

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