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IT purchasing can help your company meet both sustainability and profitability goals

Lígia Mendonça

Lígia Mendonça

Microsoft Surface Product Marketing Manager — WE HQ

Read Time, 6 min.

Sustainability is no longer a competitive differentiator — it’s a “business necessity,” according to Forrester [1]. Social, environmental, regulatory, and even customer requirements have made this a permanent state of global industry. For procurement leaders, that means achieving sufficient sustainability through sourcing while maintaining your company’s profitability.

As you look to achieve your sustainability targets, consider your IT procurement practice. Most business leaders don’t realize that their choice of IT products has a considerable impact on the environment. Global data traffic has an environmental impact equal to that of business travel. It’s therefore an ideal area of focus for achieving sustainability goals for your company.

You can be both sustainable and profitable. In fact, successful sustainability strategies reduce operational costs and boost profitability. Sustainability also increasingly aligns with both employee and customer satisfaction. As an issue that affects all aspects of your business, it’s time to take sustainability seriously within your technology procurement function.

Aligning technology sourcing with your sustainability initiatives

Procurement and sourcing leaders often overlook the environmental aspects of their IT investments, focusing only on performance, cost, and longevity instead. This is due in part to misconceptions about the impact of devices on the environment and the availability of more sustainable supply chains.

In fact, “buying gadgets or using any kind of online service consume carbon and energy,” The New York Times[2] describes; so much so, that “the environmental and climate costs of the technology we use are stunning.” How these products are used and how they perform are important factors. Equally important are what resources have been used and will be used to achieve that performance.

To ensure sustainability is a real factor when purchasing IT equipment, aspects such as hazardous chemicals, energy consumption, manufacturing conditions, distribution, and lifetime CO2 emissions must factor into the procurement decision-making process.

How can you tell if your IT procurement practice is sufficiently sustainable?

You can start by identifying suppliers who provide sustainability insights about their products. Ideally, these insights begin with manufacturing and distribution and then continue throughout the devices’ operation until they are recycled. These insights should include elements that have the greatest negative environmental impact, as well as benefits compared to alternative products. In this way, you can factor those pros and cons into your own sustainability initiatives.

Key factors in a successful supplier sustainability agenda include:

  • ensuring sustainable design
  • minimizing hazardous substances
  • ensuring responsible production
  • ensuring recyclability of products and byproducts

Adult female inside sitting on couch using Surface laptop

What are the factors of sustainability to consider in IT procurement?

Meeting the targets of this agenda means measuring key aspects of the production, distribution, operation, and retirement processes. The most noteworthy factors include:

  • Product carbon footprint (PCF): PCF is an established method for determining the impact of a product throughout its entire lifecycle. The products’ materials, manufacturing processes, distribution, and even packaging all contribute to carbon emissions, to varying degrees.
  • Total energy consumption (TEC): As the world’s manufacturers continue to rely on fossil fuels for energy, TEC is a critical consideration in both the procurement and operation of new equipment and devices. Smart design choices minimize TEC, for example, as do longer lifecycles for the products themselves.
  • Use of harmful chemicals: We often fail to consider the dozens of chemicals required for the production and operation of our PCs, tablets, smartphones, and IT products. These chemicals are often harmful and difficult to recycle. Procurement leaders must consider how these chemicals impact their sustainability goals and the humans who use these technologies.

What will be suppliers’ sustainability best practices moving forward?

Procurement teams should begin seeking out suppliers who provide these types of data — a benefit that likely will become a best practice in the near term. For example, Microsoft studies in detail the composition of materials in the production of its Surface computers so that it can phase out substances of concern throughout the manufacturing process. This is one way Microsoft repeatedly factors in environmental and equity aspects at every stage of its products’ lifecycles.

Supporting profitability with green technology

Fortunately, sustainability increasingly aligns with profitability, employee and customer satisfaction, and better business in general. As Supply Chain Dive[3]describes, “Cost reduction and a focus on social responsibility are driving sustainability in the supply chain… now, the green alternative is frequently the low-cost alternative.”

Sustainable practices often streamline supply chain operations, for example, such as in the reduced price of power from sustainable sources and the lower risk of liability by avoiding the use of harmful chemicals. Tightening regulations that impose costs on companies mean sustainable sourcing now will ensure profitability in the future. For employees who value companies with sustainable practices, Forrester’s research shows that a “great employee experience reduces employee turnover and improves productivity” as well.

Two adult males looking together on a platinum Microsoft Surface Laptop

What are the factors of profitability to consider in sustainable IT procurement?

Some key factors of a successful sustainability agenda that contribute to profitability include:

  • Greater health, safety, and security for end users
  • Improved device performance
  • Extended product lifetimes

For example, Microsoft’s Surface computers are built for extreme mobility and meet the highest performance standards for employees — they also satisfy the most stringent sustainability requirements.

Your next steps for sustainable IT procurement

Ensuring you procure the tools that you need while aligning with lasting sustainable best practices may seem difficult. But you can take simple steps today to ensure you meet these goals, including:

  • Review your preferred products “eco profiles” and compare them to your sustainability goals.
  • Check alternate suppliers’ websites for both performance and sustainable labels or certifications.
  • Calculate potential savings through such factors as reduced energy consumption and recyclability.
  • Ensure undesirable chemicals and materials are actively excluded from production processes.
  • Ensure products, such as Microsoft Surface devices, have been manufactured and distributed with equity and with respect for human rights, the environment, and human safety.

Microsoft sets new sustainability targets and Surface devices reinforce that position

Microsoft intends to be carbon negative by 2030, and to have removed all the carbon that the company has emitted, either directly or by electrical consumption, from the environment by 2050. The company is also launching an initiative that will see it use its own technology to help suppliers and customers around the world to reduce their own carbon footprints. Surface and Windows 10 play a key role in ensuring that we achieve those aims.

Microsoft Surface takes sustainability seriously:

  • No plastics in our packaging.
  • Lowest possible chemical tax.
  • Recyclability of 99% for Surface devices.
  • One of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry – you’re welcome to compare us with other manufacturers.
  • One of the most energy-efficient devices on the market – you’re welcome to compare us with other manufacturers.
  • Bulk packaging for commercial partners – it benefits the environment
  • Devices with a long useful life.

Discover how our new, high-performing and highly mobile Microsoft Surface suite of devices aligns with emerging sustainability best practices, helping us eliminate all the carbon the company has emitted by 2050 as well.

 

Notes

1. Forrester, “Rethinking Sustainability In The Middle Of A Pandemic”, August 2020

2. NY Times, Tech’s Environmental Impact and What You Can Do About It – The New York Times, November 2019
3. Suply Chain Dive, Sustainable sourcing is more cost-effective than you think | Supply Chain Dive, December 2017

eBook: Increased sustainability and improved profitability with green IT purchasing

An essential read for any business that wants to save money while saving the planet

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