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IT end of life management still critical a year after WEEE

Tier 1 : 26 June, 2008  (Technical Article)
Tier 1 is increasing its co-operation with industry and IT companies for handling the environmental aspects of IT Asset Management
A year on from the WEEE regulations coming into force in the UK, it still seems not a single day goes by without ICT industry executives facing a salvo of emails, trade editorial comment and popular press coverage about environmental issues. Increasingly, this legislation has resulted in the gaze being firmly fixed on how the IT sector responds to its role in responsible business practice.

With distributors still in a state of flux about how they are going to cope with handling the like-for-like return of end of lifecycle equipment they are replacing, and pressure from all angles on companies to buy the latest, greenest new products, a clear opportunity has emerged for IT asset management organisations with an established ethical stance.

Jon Selby, Marketing Manager at Manchester-based Tier 1 Asset Management has found his company partnering a number of leading distributors, as well as collaborating with Toshiba in their laptop Trade In programme in taking the WEEE-induced returns burden away from these businesses.

"The WEEE regulations essentially focus on re-use, and that is manna from heaven for us," said Selby. "Traditionally, our clients have been our corporate end-users of IT and our business model is based around our ability to resell and therefore generate revenue back to the client. We're now seeing a number of re-sellers seeking to utilise our ability to handle redundant stock, generate revenue for themselves and their customers and as a value added service, provide priceless, measurable corporate social responsibility activity connected to the environment."

Credible end of life specialists are also able to provide the necessary audit trail and relevant certification that WEEE legislation requires. Don't forget that businesses must keep documentary proof that their WEEE has gone down a compliant and approved route, and this too provides an opening for the asset management companies to unencumber the IT re-seller from this regulatory yoke.

With advances in technology meaning that older equipment can still command reasonable prices, asset liquidation is an attractive proposition for the business looking to generate revenue from its end of life equipment. The remarketing ability of any asset management company is therefore a vital attribute for anyone looking to outsource redundant IT collection, but what of the equipment that is not necessarily of the specification or condition to generate a significant revenue return, yet still falls under the WEEE umbrella?

This, says Selby, is where businesses should really begin to benefit from the enhanced CSR that an IT asset management partner should be able to provide.

"Companies should be realistic about the value of its used assets. Consider the value of old desktop PCs, for example. Often, the costs of collection, secure data erasure and refurbishment can exceed the market worth of such items. In this type of situation, consider whether your end of life IT partner has links with Charity who can give a PC a second lease of life in the developing world. Look for a cost-neutral solution meaning businesses can donate IT equipment without incurring the remarketing and secure data erasure costs. Our charity partner Digital Links have enabled 1.5million underprivileged people to have access to IT donated from corporate sources, and they are well and truly embedded into our processes to allow us to be able to offer this zero cost solution . At a time when legislation makes it impossible simply to donate IT equipment, unchecked and potentially full of company and customer information, this angle on re-use is extremely important."

Selby is adamant that achievements based on solid principles can provide a socially responsible company in the current ethically-aware climate with a distinct competitive advantage.

"I've never met a Chief Exec yet who has not seen the mileage they can get out of the positive PR associated with green IT.

Whilst many in the IT channel already have strategies in place and have grasped the environmental and socially aware message, it may seem to them that the WEEE Regulations have turned up at the cricket match at the tea interval, having missed much of the first innings action. However, businesses that have planned and put in place a considered and ethically-led structure for IT disposal, often in conjunction with a specialist, outsourced partner, will find themselves in a far stronger bargaining position, even when and if WEEE, the environment and green themes are no longer 'buzz' issues in the popular and business press.
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