Only 24 per cent of end-of-life IT equipment is being sanitized and reused, despite 83 per cent of organizations having a corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy in place, revealed new research launched by Blancco Technology Group, a British global provider of mobile device diagnostics and secure data erasure solutions.
The research report launched this week titled Poor sustainability practices – enterprises are overlooking the e-waste problem, produced in partnership with Coleman Parkes, also revealed that nearly 40 per cent of organizations physically destroy end-of-life IT equipment. In addition, most organizations are keeping unnecessary data in active corporate environments that consume significant energy resources.
The findings of the research underline the role global organizations play in damaging the natural environment.
“Dealing with end-of-life equipment is part of the majority of organizations’ CSR policy (91 per cent) but this isn’t being communicated or properly enacted across the business,” the research report noted.
Nearly a quarter of government organizations don’t have a policy in place that has been both implemented and communicated across the business. The same is true for the transport and advisory sectors, at 25 per cent each.
“Despite the media conversation around climate change ramping up following global fires and record-high temperatures in Antarctica – and the topic taking centre stage at events like Davos – enterprises are not paying due attention to their contribution to this urgent, global issue,” according to Blancco.
The World Economic Forum and the UN E-waste Coalition says approximately 50 million metric tons of e-waste are produced each year—the equivalent in weight to the total number of commercial aircraft ever built. If electronics are improperly disposed of and end up in landfill, the toxic or hazardous materials they contain, such as mercury and lead, can be harmful to the environment, and anyone who is exposed to them.
Talking about cyber landfills, recent research from GreenIT reveals that the digital world in 2019 was composed of 34 billion IT devices for 4.1 billion users—an average of eight IT devices per user. These devices generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day. According to research from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, only about 6 per cent of all data ever created is currently in use, which means organizations around the world are sitting on vast amounts of redundant, obsolete or trivial data they don’t need and that are consuming valuable energy resources.
The findings of the research indicate that an increasing number of organizations are choosing to physically destroy equipment or keeping unnecessary data in active corporate environments as they believe that it is “better for the environment”. This highlights a lack of education, communication and ownership.
In addition, the research highlights that the robustness and lack of regulations globally also plays a critical role here. In the U.S. alone, for example, 22 states don’t have statewide e-waste laws.
“In today’s global climate, sustainability should be at the heart of every business’ strategy,” said Fredrik Forslund, vice-president, enterprise and cloud erasure solutions at Blancco. “Yet, it’s clear from our research that organizations globally are not doing enough. By managing retired IT assets in a more environmentally friendly way, putting them back into the circular economy and removing unnecessary data in active environments – should be best practices for all organizations. Furthermore, by actively looking at the data they hold as part of their data lifecycle management initiatives and regularly and securely removing the data they no longer need, organizations will not only reduce their energy consumption – but also remain compliant.”
To support the circular economy and reduce their environmental impact, Blancco suggests organizations to stop early retirement and destruction of IT assets that could be recycled, reused and resold, consider software-based data erasure to enable the devices to be a part of the circular economy, and recycle responsibly.
“The actual storage drive (HDD or SSD) within devices could possibly be processed in a different way. Erased as a loose drive, the drive can often be repurposed, even if the original system it came from is no longer functional,” Blancco suggests.
Based on a survey of 1,850 senior decision-makers with job titles including the head of compliance, chief information security officer, data protection officer and IT asset manager, the study surveyed enterprises located across the world with over 5,000 employees, including those located in the Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, Japan, India, Singapore and Australia, operating within government, technology, legal, healthcare, advisory, finance, energy, defence, pharmaceutical, manufacturing and transportation sectors.