The importance of accurate business visibility in meeting sustainability targets

With Techbuyer committed to supporting UN sustainability targets, including the diversion of five million kilos of technology from landfill, it focused on the circular economy model of consumption. Here, Rich Kenny, group IT director, looks at what the company learnt from implementing a cloud business solution to accurately manage inventory and equipment sourcing.

According to the United Nations, in 2018 electronic and electrical waste reached 50 million tonnes; more than the weight of all commercial airlines ever made. What’s worse, this figure is expected to double by the middle of the century.

However, it’s not just the amount of equipment sent to landfill causing sustainability challenges in the tech sector. Digital transformation is also having an impact on climate change and society. Consumer habits are leading to ever-increasing demands for data, which has a very real energy cost. Many organisations that provide this data, such as cloud providers and non-hyperscale data centres, have inefficient mechanisms in place to reduce their energy consumption and environmental impact. In fact, last year data centres used around 5% of global electricity and accounted for roughly the same amount of emissions, and this is expected to rise to between six and eight percent by 2024. However, this could be reduced simply by better configuration of hardware and effective re-use and refurbishment of existing equipment. Yet, many businesses simply aren’t aware that there are better alternatives on the market that can both save them money and have a significant positive impact of the environment.

As an enterprise IT refurbishment and resale specialist, sustainability is crucially important to Techbuyer and underpins everything we do. Refurbishment of technology is the only way that we as a world can meet the demands of expanding consumer consumption. Contrary to popular belief, recycling is inadequate and re-use must become the norm in all areas to create the required impact. This is why we’re committed to supporting UN sustainability targets, including the diversion of five million kilos of technology from landfill. TechBuyer is focused on the circular economy model of consumption, and in order to help other businesses make the right choice, we need to promote refurbished tech as an easy, beneficial and risk-free alternative.

As a business, we allocate a significant amount of resource and R&D to the promotion of sustainable technology to 2,000 organisations and supporting businesses who want to commit to making a positive environmental change. We have a sustainability lead who looks for opportunities to interact with and contribute to national and international conversations around sustainable initiatives, as well as an internal project team that’s focused on our commitment to the UN global goals. However, to get to this point, we had to review our own technology infrastructure and make some significant changes.

After several years of rapid growth and global expansion, we were facing the challenge of needing to update our systems at the same pace. Where it had once been easy to see everything that needed to be done in the business, as we grew, visibility of processes and opportunities had become blurred. In order to meet our own ambitious targets, we identified three key priorities for international success; to purchase used technology equipment more quickly and opportunistically in key locations, to ensure 99% of orders reached customers the next day, and to keep a more accurate stock inventory of more than 225,000 parts across its main trading regions of Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific.

It quickly became apparent that our ageing Enterprise Resource Planning system was no longer up to the job, and when looking into alternative ERP solutions, we became aware of FHL Cloud Solutions and engaged them to implement a NetSuite-based cloud business solution. FHL understood our businesses challenges and environmental aspirations from the off, and with their extensive experience of NetSuite as our future recommended platform, they quickly showed us how we could work collaboratively with them to realise our growth, profitability and sustainability objectives.

We’ve realised many business process improvements as a result. NetSuite helps us to accurately manage inventory and equipment sourcing so we can quickly and easily offer the best value to customers on cost, availability and response times; all of which are crucial in the fast-paced industry and ensuring we supply as much refurbished and recycled equipment as possible. Even with our 20% increase in orders in the last year, we’re still meeting our 99% next-day customer order fulfilment. It also enables our international growth and allows us to ‘switch countries on’ as we grow and manage worldwide currencies seamlessly, while easily providing data for analysis and group reporting.

Alongside the significant benefits to operations, these real-time insights enable us to measure performance against our sustainability KPIs. NetSuite provides some of the reporting for the UN global goals which allows us to keep on track with our targets and help us align focus to the areas needing most attention.

This visibility shows us that we’re making good progress with our sustainability development goals, which are aligned with the UN Global goals. By 2025, we’re aiming to;

  • Donate 10,000 kilos of technology to education bodies around the world. To date we have donated 868kg.
  • Contribute 5,000 hours to the education of young people about sustainable digital practices. To date we have contributed 306 hours.
  • Achieve £1 million savings for educational institutions. To date we have achieved £208,357.
  • Divert 5,000,000 kilos of technology from landfill. To date we have diverted 635,329.6kg.
  • Promote sustainable technology to 2,000 organisations. We have reached 1158 so far.

We’re incredibly proud of the progress we’re making and addressing our own technology has enabled us to boost profitability across global-level operations, prepare for future expansion, and crucially, improve visibility or sustainability targets. With the ongoing support we’re receiving from FHL, we’re confident the value gained from our investment will continue to increase so we can achieve our own goals and help other businesses realise the value of second-life tech.

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