In today’s age, it’s hard to deny the impact humans are having on the environment. It’s nearly impossible to refute the evidence of climate change. Being socially aware and responsible is no longer the work of scientists and environmental groups, but rather a growing expectation for both individuals and companies.
There is a difference between following environmental laws, heeding best practice suggestions, and volunteering to be a leader in social responsibility. In recent years more and more companies are adhering to the laws, following suggestions, and striving to be industry innovators in regards to social responsibility and sustainability. Consumers and employees are a major driving force in corporate social responsibility (CSR). According to a Forbes article, more than 88 percent of consumers think companies should work to achieve business goals while improving society and the environment. In the same article, it was reported that 65 percent of employees would seriously consider leaving their job if their company harmed the environment.
We see examples of these changes in all sectors. Even McDonald’s, who has been targeted by environmental and animal rights activists as a significant offender, is working towards change. According to McDonald’s website, they list the following as their 2020 Aspirational Goals: decreasing carbon footprint, commitment to deforestation, supporting sustainable production, and improving energy and water efficiency. They state, “Through our diligence in technology, innovation, supply chain and operations, we are making strides in environmental management around the world, and gaining momentum across our industry.”
This is a hot topic, and a necessary one. Recently, we’ve heard about California farmers decreasing water usage by 25 percent, Walmart asking its suppliers to improve treatment of animals and avoid usage of antibiotics, and even famous directors at Cannes agreeing to come together to eliminate the environmental impact of film production. Some industries have had to confront environmental and socially ethical issues for years, and some are just coming on board now. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Over the coming months and years, it will become even less acceptable — to employees, customers, and investors — for business people to stick their heads in the increasingly hot sand on this issue.”
How does the electronics industry fit into social responsibility? Disposal of retired equipment and materials is big business in the field for many reasons. In a 2014 ITAD Trends report conducted by Blumberg Advisory Group and Arrow Electronics, Inc., environmental issues ranked high in importance to companies, just after data security. Adoption of industry-recognized compliance standards ranked as a key factor in choosing a 3rd party provider.
Let’s have a closer look into what electronics companies reported in terms of their commitment to “green” issues around ITAD:
1) How important are the factors in motivating the creation of your current end-of-life IT asset disposition strategy?
95 percent responded that it is very important that "green" business and IT practices be part of a company’s commitment plan, which ranked second after concern about data security (99 percent).
2) Does your company budget for ITAD?
63 percent responded yes in 2012 and 87 percent responded yes in 2014.
3) Does your company have a formal corporate social responsibility or sustainability program in place?
70 percent responded yes, with 28 percent saying they will have something in place before the end of 2015 or in the near future.
4) Do you report the progress of your corporate social responsibility or sustainability program?
89 percent responded yes.
5) Do you include the impact of your IT asset disposition program in your environmental reporting?
82 percent responded yes.
Also unveiled in the report was that companies believe that R2 and/or e-Stewards are the “most important standards related to ITAD.” A large amount of respondents (88 percent) shared that they think it’s important to have stewardship standards combined into one standard. The clearer the expectations are, the easier it will be for people to met them.
With the massive flooding and drought we’ve seen in the news, and hurricane season upon us, our impact on the environment is very much in the collective consciousness, and good practices related to social responsibility is something consumers, employees, and some lawmakers are demanding of businesses. As seen in the report, electronics companies are already invested, and plan to continue to be innovators.
Kate Lee is Director of Research and Strategy for Fronetics Strategic Advisors