Feature: Sustainability in the channel

Christina Walker global director – channel at Blancco examines why channel partners should put sustainability at the heart of business.

Globally, how do you see enterprise expectations around sustainability shaping channel response?

Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword. As the climate crisis spirals, the urgency of addressing challenges such as energy efficiency and waste reduction has reached critical mass. Enterprises can’t pay lip service to sustainability any longer, and offerings that deliver sustainable outcomes are now a key differentiator for channel partners. Enterprises are actively looking for channel partners that can help them achieve sustainability objectives that are in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Upcoming changes to sustainability regulations and the way companies report on their impact on the planet will determine the types of solutions that enterprises adopt to ready themselves for future compliance.

But this also goes beyond partnering with the right technology vendors and being able to show green credentials. Investment and commitment to the circular economy is critical. Long-term plans to reduce e-waste and keep devices in circulation will change attitudes to handling device lifecycles and be hugely beneficial to secondary market players.

What is the relationship between data sanitisation and sustainability?

There is a direct link with sustainability because once a device has been appropriately sanitised using a software-based approach, it can be refurbished and redeployed, supplying the circular economy with marketable, reusable devices. This extends device lifecycles and ensures that IT equipment does not need to be physically destroyed. Data sanitisation through software-based erasure removes the risk of data on a device being recovered when it leaves an organisation.

Archaic methods like physical destruction of fully functional devices contribute to landfill and rising levels of e-waste. However, physical destruction is still necessary in some cases. For example, if a device is non-functioning or has no use remaining. In this case physical destruction is valid and some parts can still be recycled. Nonetheless, its use in all instances of data sanitisation only puts greater strain on scarce resources and minerals mined to manufacture new devices.

Additionally, redundant, obsolete and trivial (ROT) data – or data that is unnecessarily stored – consumes energy resources. According to McKinsey, a hyperscaler’s data centre can use more power than 80,000 households. That same article stated that up to 40% of a data centre’s energy consumption is tied to cooling sometimes thousands of servers. Enterprises will want to cut down their data footprint to minimise costs and improve the energy efficiency of their operations.

 What are some of the hidden benefits in more eco-focused tech disposal? 

We’re seeing benefits being introduced by governments, like tax credits and incentives, which will certainly help encourage channel partners and their customers to pay more attention to eco-focused tech disposal. Tech industry leaders are outlining net zero commitments and touting their sustainability goals, encouraging other companies to follow suit. More partners are now embracing sustainability initiatives, particularly in reducing e-waste, by supporting customers with robust digital transformations.

Channel partners are uniquely positioned to assist their clients in approaching sustainability from a variety of perspectives, including how they utilise and reuse data storage technologies. This benefits them not only in terms of consumers and cost savings, but also in terms of recruiting and staff pride in a company that is making clear, visible changes to promote a greener way of doing business.  In a recent survey, Deloitte found that job applicants’ personal ethics influence their career choices with 37% of Gen Z and 36% of millennials surveyed refused a job or task due to personal ethics. Ignoring the concerns of such job applicants may jeopardise the ability to build a forward-thinking workforce and hinder profitability and company growth.

Customers are increasingly more sceptical of companies that do not specify their environmental actions. Companies can employ tactics like data erasure to limit the quantity of new data storage technology they require. They can also establish new income streams by selling off older products that can be reused or further support their ESG efforts by donating to organisations minimising the digital divide in schools and lesser-served communities.

Through more eco-focused tech disposal, organisations will be viewed more favourably, and over time, demonstrate that sustainability will be a key element within RFPs.

How is regulation elevating the channel’s focus on sustainability offerings? 

From now and well into the future, there will be a significant increase in sustainability-focused regulations that will drive change within organisations. To comply with these regulations, companies will hire sustainability roles, from coordinators to C-level executives, with chief sustainability officers playing a critical role in expediting procedural changes. These regulatory changes will also focus on reducing carbon footprints, which will increase the demand for sustainable third-party service and solution providers. Failure to comply with these regulations will see companies fall behind.

As a result of these changes, the role of system integrators, MSPs, and channel partners will evolve to meet the growing and more sophisticated business sustainability market. Partners will be more involved in advising, tracking, and reporting on ESG performance to achieve regulatory compliance. They will prioritise vendors based on sustainability value propositions and use sustainability tracking platforms to collaborate with technology suppliers.

An example of such regulation is the EU’s new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive. It requires companies to report sustainability information under the framework of the European Sustainability Reporting Standards and affects large and publicly listed companies based in Europe, as well as those with subsidiaries or branch offices there. Service providers and vendors will play a crucial role in the sustainability ecosystem by helping organisations quantify results and track performance on Scope 3 emissions.

What are some of the key trends you see influencing sustainability in the channel in 2023?

As inflation and borrowing costs rise, customers are becoming more risk averse. However, channel partners and vendors can turn this challenging situation into an opportunity by focusing on addressing customer priorities. Successful partners will offer more managed services in 2023, providing holistic solutions integrated into an entire policy or platform. They will also shift towards consultancy offerings, which offer a financial benefit without the need for initial long-term hires in an unpredictable economic climate. Channel partners should prioritise end-point security and sustainability as key areas that customers will not defer from.

In today’s business landscape, everyone is more conscious about who they work with. Companies with strong ESG policies and tangible results are highly sought after. Within the ESG policies sustainability and social good should be a priority for channel partners. Although progress has been made, there is still room for improvement through stronger efforts to improve sustainability, recycling, and reducing businesses’ carbon footprints across the channel.

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