Brice Bunner

Designed Obsolescence Makes Your Business’s IT Procurement a Morality Play


Image ©:  Recycling TodayThis is the crossroads where sourcing as a manufacturing term crosses with procurement from an ITAM perspective. Because whenever an IT professional starts thinking about procuring new technology, someone across the world starts up an earthmover. At its core, responsible sourcing of materials is resource management, not finding the “greenest” products.

Two centuries ago, a German economist first coined the term “designed obsolescence” as a way to counter the effects of economic depression on capitalism. But it was meant to be like nature—taking away waste to make room for new. Only, procurement overlooks how this has led to the destruction of our planet.

The supply chain and procurement

Typically, IT procurement isn’t interested in the supply chain. In the past, purchasing IT for your growing business was an exercise in cost-benefit analysis and ROI predictions. Little if any time was spent on deliberating over where those devices actually came from.

This, as you can imaging, is horribly unsustainable. It ignores the significant evils that have been dealt to our planet by devices designed to be obsolete. The truth is, purchasing any new device has untold consequences on our planet—and recycling is not a viable solution for value recovery.

Even sourcing from “green” electronics companies is a game of smoke and mirrors. Dell and HP and even Apple claim they can harvest devices to return their raw materials back to the manufacturing cycle, but this can’t be true. Between fire-retardant plastics, fused materials, and spent chemical processes—none of which can be recycled—the Procurement path quickly becomes a zero-sum game …Unless you think circular.

Self-made circularity

While we attempt to recover valuable commodities through recycling, this is an incomplete effort with electronics—which results in us depleting finite stores of certain elements to extract virgin material for every new device.  Circular economics is an attempt to stop this process and insert reclaimed materials in place of these virgin materials. Only it comes at the process too late.

Too often the idea of circular economics pushes the concept off to that ambiguous group we call “manufacturers.” When we use that term, of course, we refer to a construct of the companies responsible for making our devices. And while that is as good a term as we have for the consumer cycle, it takes the onus off of us as the consumers—or procurement officials. The circular conversation is never one that directly involves individual consumers.

To address this, Sage’s mission statement is a way of creating circularity with your own resources; to extend the use of electronic devices. By extending uses, or reusing refurbished devices, the circular nature of IT assets can be exploited on an individual level.

Sustainable procurement

Procurement is a sustainable issue when it comes to sourcing electronic devices that take such a vast toll on the planet. But you can avoid the environmental guilt by sourcing devices from reputable reuse shops like ePeat. Or, you could use a sustainable ITAD partner like Sage and gain access to legacy devices or indiscriminate IT funding through reselling your End-Of-Life devices. These are strategies that many of our clients already take advantage of, and that help boost their ESG rating as well as reduce IT spend.

This kind of procurement is the only way to be sustainable with your company’s IT assets. Reuse is the best way to amortize the environmental balance on your ledger when dealing with IT assets designed to be obsolete. Make the most of your investment and extend its life both within your company and beyond (through strategic reuse programs). Doing this will not only make the heavy planetary investment that’s been made a little less significant, but it will also shave costs on your procurement.

Thanks for reading! But there’s more to this story here: it's going to take innovation to deal with our waste

Terracycle And Colgate Make Circular
Economics Out Of Your Most Unrecyclable Trash

--Toothpaste Tubes



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Sage Sustainable Electronics leads the market in sustainable IT asset management and disposition (ITAD) by reusing more and recycling less. Every year, businesses retire millions of used-but-still-useful technology products, creating the fastest growing business and consumer waste stream in the world. We strategically and passionately help companies reuse more and recycle less than anyone else in the industry.

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