Guest Column | September 27, 2021

Future Proof Your Channel Business By Incorporating Sustainability Best Practices

By Christina Walker, Blancco

Field Service Sustainability

The growing e-waste problem – estimated to be approximately 2 million metric tons per year – is filling dumps and landfills globally. Old computers, smartphones, laptops, and other electronic hardware as well as harmful chemicals used in manufacturing lead to an e-waste increase of 21% from 2014 to 2019. In 2020, e-waste weighed as much as 350 cruise ships placed end to end. Unfortunately, the growth of e-waste is projected to continue, especially in light of the amount of IT equipment purchased by companies to equip their employees with the electronics needed to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The good news is that governments and the business community are flexing their muscles to find solutions for the e-waste problem. In the United States, the EPA’s National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship focuses on developing sustainability recommendations for the federal government, businesses, and individuals. The Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative is another multi-stakeholder platform for designing strategies that address all dimensions of electronics disposal and the circular economy. Moreover, individual companies are integrating sustainability mandates into their day-to-day operations and requiring vendors to meet those standards.

Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword. As a confluence of climate and environmental crises converges, the urgency of addressing these major challenges is reaching critical mass and impacting MSPs as well as channel vendors.

Build A Channel Business Focused On Sustainability

In today’s world, the old “use, reuse, discard” mantra is no longer feasible. The urgency of building more sustainable practices into all facets of business has trickled from the board room to the executive team and down to the third-party vendors that provide IT assets and services. Driven by aggressive sustainability goals and commitments, companies are now seeking channel partners that can help them achieve those objectives.

One way the channel can make a big impact on the e-waste crisis is by partnering with their customers to securely sanitize end-of-life assets of sensitive data before they leave their premise and then recycle IT equipment rather than physically destroying and dumping the remnants. Not only does this protect the environment, but it also reduces climate emissions. According to the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership, 17.4% of the e-waste that was collected and appropriately recycled in 2019 prevented up to 15 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents from being released into the environment. This is not insignificant.

Moreover, leaning into sustainability and supporting their customers’ efforts to build more sustainable businesses also creates an opportunity for channel partners to develop new revenue streams. How? Service providers who build a practice in a growing niche that requires specialized expertise will gain a competitive edge now and well into the future. Demand is already accelerating as more companies come to the realization that building reputations as good corporate citizens and committing to sustainable business practices are good for the bottom line, good for the brand, and, most importantly, good for the planet.

However, before diving into playing a supporting role for customers’ sustainability initiatives feet first, channel companies must be sure they “talk the talk and walk the walk.” Step one for channel organizations is assessing their own business practices and internal operations to make sure they’re following a set of sustainability best practices. Doing so builds credibility and shows they are knowledgeable and well-equipped to assist their partners in reaching long-term corporate social responsibility objectives.

The following best practices can help VARs, MSPs, and other channel organizations establish a successful practice focused on sustainability:

  • Ensure business goal alignment. When building a sustainability program, make sure your goals align with company stakeholders, including the executive team and anyone else who has a vested interest in the company’s success. Doing so is the first step in determining whether they’re completely on board with the new business practice, which may require a 360-degree pivot. Only once the vision, mission, and goals are agreed upon can your team determine the initiatives needed to put a top-notch program in place, including training and certifications.
  • Develop a green resume. Potential customers will want to know if you practice what you preach before rewarding you with their business. One question you’ll need to be able to answer is what is your carbon footprint? Another might be about whether you have the relevant credentials that provide the proof needed to provide the services you promise. And, when possible, build case studies that provide clear data supporting the business results that good sustainability practices can deliver.
  • Build a “dream team.” Sustainability requires buy-in from leadership in all levels – from top to bottom – in every department and location. Equally important is that it also requires an enthusiastic team leader who is dedicated to sustainability and takes responsibility for goal setting, engagement, process, communications, measurement, and analysis of results related to sustainability.
  • Measure and assess. For each initiative, define success metrics in advance. Take the goal of reducing e-waste, for example. Creating specific policies for end-of-life IT assets, such as giving computers, laptops, and other electronics a new life through recycling or equipment donation will allow you to determine how many IT assets entered the circular economy. That number not only serves as a baseline for the next year, it also can be used to further establish credibility with customers.

The Future Is Today

Sustainability initiatives, including those that focus on reducing e-waste, are no longer “nice to haves” but imperatives for many organizations. Customer desires to give their business to companies that support green initiatives, a growing number of government environmental policies and more attention to corporate ethics will drive even reluctant organizations to jump on the sustainability bandwagon.

Establishing sustainability practices is also good for recruiting talent. As businesses across the country deal with labor shortage issues, the ability to secure workers will become a competitive advantage. Without the right talent, channel companies will fall behind. Nearly half (49%) of Gen Z employees surveyed by Deloitte said their personal ethics play a role in their career choices. Ignoring the concerns of future generations could put the ability to build a forward-thinking workforce in jeopardy and compromise profitability and company growth and success as a result.

The bottom line: MSPs and other channel organizations unable to support corporate sustainability practices – both for themselves and for their customers – will find themselves losing business and talent to competitors. Offering service packages designed to help companies meet their sustainability goals and establishing a solid set of processes that use a data-based, analytical approach to prove goals have been met or show where they fall short is a win for channel businesses, a win for their partners and a win for the environment.

About The Author

Christina Walker is Global Director of Channel Sales & Programs for Blancco.