Business growth

Two shades of green

There's money in sustainability if the channel can come up with a unified approach, says Billy MacInnes
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11 May 2022

I was reading a report on the subject of the IT industry and environmental sustainability by the Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC) when I came upon the following statement: “There is currently no standard for evaluating ‘green’ technologies.”

In a report all about the industry’s engagement with sustainability and the different initiatives and policies being pursued by the IT sector, including distribution, this seemed like quite an omission, suggesting that green technologies might only be as green as you’d like them to be. At least, until such time as there is an agreed standard to apply to them.

Nevertheless, the report has some interesting points to make about distribution and sustainability. I was struck by the argument that the very nature of what distributors do on a daily basis gives them an inherent capability to develop sustainability programmes.

 

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“Creating environmental sustainability plans that cover a cross-section of countries with different regulations, standards and cultural norms can be complicated,” the report states. “IT distributors deal with those types of complexities every day in their business operations, from meeting compliance and accounting reporting requirements to repackaging and shipping products and solutions.”

While IT distributors have commonly shared standards and measures, they have adopted different approaches when it comes to achieving their environmental sustainability plans. The report highlights a number of initiatives being employed by the likes of Ingram Micro, TD SYNNEX, Exertis International, Esprinet and ELKO Group. They include reducing business travel, moving to electric vehicles, using greener transport companies, only using electricity from renewable sources, hybrid working, moving to smaller offices, tree planting and co-packaging customer orders to reduce materials, waste and transportation.

Communal spaces

The report makes the important point that distributors “are collaborators by design”, as a consequence, they can work with vendors and others in the supply chain “to educate, empower and support the greater IT community”.

Ieva Putāne, assistant to the chief commercial officer with the Elko Group, says that as production has the biggest impact on the IT supply chain’s environmental footprint, it might make sense for distributors to rank vendors by their environmental credentials and use that as a basis to substitute or replace them. It could well be that distributors will select products based on a vendor’s environmental reporting processes and goals and whether it has a code of conduct for itself and suppliers.

In a perfect world, OEMs would display a product’s environmental impact alongside its technical specifications. “That is our dream,” says Giulia Perfetti, investor relations manager & head of group vendor management for Esprinet. “Imagine labels listing carbon and other energy impacts from the production, packaging and transportation of each product and the greener the process and components, the higher their rating.”

Imagine.

The GTDC believes that IT distributors can play a larger role in sustainability and environmental activities, “leading the way by adopting the latest ES strategies, processes, and technologies and educating the masses on the advantages and implementation opportunities for channel vendors and providers”.

Clive Fitzharris, managing director of Exertis International at DCC Technology, says that because distributors control so much of the data that other channel businesses rely on, they have “an opportunity to capture and share information relevant to environmental sustainability and be a conduit to manufacturers, retailers and outsource partners”.

It is quite possible, the report suggests, that environmental collaboration between distributors, vendors and other community members could help in the development of new technology solutions and additional revenue opportunities.

All they need now is a green standard to rally behind.

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