01/24/19
Brice Bunner
Finance

How sustainability can be constructively disruptive for your business

    

Image ©: Eberly & Collard Public RelationsWe hear a lot of talk about disruptive business and disruptive technology, only it usually leads to something about innovation or forward-thinking—and often at the expense of other, more traditional businesses. But, in our industry, we’ve seen how holding to simple truths in an ever-changing business landscape can be just as disruptive as coming out with the next new thing. But classical disruption isn’t destructive, it’s actually better for all businesses.

Why disruption is a buzz word

One side-effect of technology is that it forces culture into a future-minded orientation. Meaning: as technology progresses, all eyes are on the next best thing. And when everyone is looking forward, things like traditional systems and products are discounted or even derided. Calling something old is tantamount to saying it’s worthless.

In this line of thinking, then, anything that can be so forward so as to unhinge a traditional methodology suddenly becomes the public’s favorite. Cellular phones serve as a great example of a disruptive technology since, within a decade of their arrival, traditional land-line users began canceling their service. Before anyone could react, the trillion-dollar infrastructure of phone lines and switching stations was made obsolete. The same thing happened with record stores when MP3 players hit home, or video stores in the wake of Netflix and Redbox. That was the archetype of disruptive: completely decimate that which isn’t moving forward.  

Deconstructing destructive disruption

The truth is, however, that to disrupt something—as far as business is concerned—should only involve getting the common thought to shift from one program to another. Mobile phone use was shifting everyone’s thought from home-based telecommunications to with-you-at-all-times interconnectedness. If it weren’t for the fact that it took miles and miles of copper lines to connect the homes, there wouldn’t have been that much destruction from the shift.

But there are other “revolutions” of thinking that can take place even today which will allow us to upset the balance without “unloading the cart,” so to speak. I’m speaking, of course, about sustainable ITAM and ITAD.

Sustainable thinking about technology, believe it or not, is actually calling on the kind of mindset that was common in pre-industrial-revolution eras. Before the rise of assembly lines, automated manufacturing, and mass production, the popular opinion was that products had inherent value, and if you could extend the use of those products, you essentially would recoup any costs that went into it in the first place.

The future-focus of classical thinking

Extending the use of an item is a classic thought, to be sure; that a product has a worth attached to it will never go out of style. And when a classic idea emerges from the chaos of this break-neck race to the future that we all seem to be in, it has the same effect as what we talked about earlier; it disrupts things.

But the classic idea of extending the life of things lands in a unique position of being a disruptor that actually encourages existing businesses, rather than displacing them. In other words, it is constructive disruption.

Ok, let’s unpack this for a moment: technological progress encourages—or even demands—that consumers continually reach for the next best thing. Unfortunately, upgrading like this has become a treadmill that creates waste and discontentment. Reuse, or extending the use, then, breaks the upgrade cycle and forges a singular path of sustainability. A path which can be taken to any length, all the way back to the manufacturer (as in the case of circular economics).

So, what does this look like for your business? How can constructive disruption play a part in taking your company to another level? We have actually created two special programs at Sage that we use to disrupt the technology treadmill through reuse: the Employee Purchase Program (EPP) and the GoodTogether program.

Constructively disrupting your company culture

An Employee Purchase Program can be used to help shift the mindset of your business’s culture from throw-away to extended use (a valuable effect when you think about how important the ESG rating is for your brand equity). When your employees see that they can purchase the laptop they used last year for their own use this year, the wheels start turning toward sustainability.

But an EPP is not the only way to be disruptive. Reuse, when extended to others, leads to donating devices, as in the case of our GoodTogether program. Taking the value that exists around a device out to those without access—or to organizations that can’t afford devices—is about as disruptive as you can get. And all that disruption happens without putting anyone out of business.

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