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Looking ahead to 2021 as Europe attempts to green the recovery

by Jackson B

By Carmen Ene, CEO at 3stepIT

Defined in no small part by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year has seen major social and economic disruption, global lockdowns, and economic recession.

Yet however difficult, the pandemic has given the environment some breathing space, with temporary improvements in air quality, lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduced noise pollution providing a silver lining in a year that couldn’t end quickly enough for most. 

This has fuelled the demand for businesses to act more sustainably and to provide the solutions to the climate crisis continues as part of their corporate responsibility. 

Alongside the immediate, post-pandemic business priorities, such as accommodating a new flexible workforce and investment in mobile IT, businesses are focussed on greening their operations as a key part of future business resilience. 

Against this backdrop, Carmen Ene, CEO of Technology Lifecycle Management provider, 3stepIT and BNP Paribas 3 Step IT, shares her top three predictions for the New Year.

  • Technology waste to outstrip current predictions
  • Refurbished is the new new
  • Remote working (and learning) is here to stay
  1. Technology waste to outstrip current predictions

In 2017, the UN Global E-waste Monitor predicted electronic waste volumes would rise to 52.2 million metric tonnes (Mt) by 2021. This year, the same survey showed volumes in 2019 had far surpassing expectations, already reaching 53.6 Mt.

With nearly a third of desktop PCs being left abandoned in offices across Europe during the pandemic, and businesses worldwide rapidly upgrading to mobile tech, this crisis is set to accelerate yet again. In our current trajectory, it is highly likely electronic waste volumes will outstrip the 74 Mt estimated by the UN for 2030.

The circular economy will play a crucial role in tackling this issue. Consumers, governments and businesses all have a role to play in greening the recovery, by backing the circular economy and attempting to capture the €1.8 trillion in untapped value that it holds for the European economy

ESG investments are already skyrocketing as global banking giants throw their weight behind green and circular investment opportunities. Black Rock, BNP Paribas and Citigroup all made serious plays in the market during 2020, with more expected to follow suit in 2021.

  1. Refurbished is the new new

Global lockdowns gave the public pause for thought about technology consumption habits, with purchasing habits starting to shift towards environmentally-conscious choices.

Rising costs and growing awareness of the environmental impact of technology will see consumers and businesses consider second-hand IT in the mix – a trend that has already taken hold in other sectors, such as fashion. 

The global market for refurbished computers and laptops is projected to more than double – from $2.1 billion USD in 2019 to $4.9 billion USD by 2027.

Not everyone needs or can afford the latest model. As the refurbished market moves into the mainstream, we could see a breakthrough in attempts to close the digital divide by providing access to technology to those who need it most. 

The latest technology can be a crucial competitive advantage for businesses, and these companies can play a significant role here. Considering the full IT lifecycle at the point of purchase and choosing to refresh devices sustainably and responsibly can make a significant difference to the supply-side of the second-hand market and lower a business’ environmental impact at the same time.

  1. Remote working (and learning) is here to stay

News of a vaccine has sent waves of hope for some return to business-as-usual in 2021, but the home office looks set to remain, with data showing most employees are in favour of hybrid between remote and office working

60% of businesses plan to allow employees to continue to work from home post-lockdown, as the stigma of the unproductive remote worker has been challenged and many unforeseen benefits of a mobile workforce have been realised.

The challenge will be how businesses foster creativity and collaboration in the long-term.

Technology will have a big part to play in this. Digital transformation is no longer on the company wishlist, it has become a reality, with our research showing that immediate priority purchases for businesses over the next 12 months focus on facilitating mobility and flexibility – specifically laptops, software, and cloud systems.

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