Enterprises guilty of unnecessarily discarding devices despite sustainability goals

SOTI global research finds enterprises are lured into adopting the latest hardware with up to 69% of IT leaders believing that devices are replaced prematurely

Enterprises across the world are disposing of electronic devices, including rugged devices such as handhelds, scanners and barcode readers, prematurely despite placing bigger emphasis on reaching sustainability goals, global research from SOTI has discovered.

Nearly 7 in 10 (69% globally/ 50% UK) ) of IT leaders of international corporations believe devices are being disposed of unnecessarily, with laptops and tablets the most common prematurely disposed of electronics. This is despite (59% globally/ 56% UK) of IT leaders having clear targets for reducing e-waste, and (55% globally/ 53% UK) working towards corporate social responsibility (CSR) key performance indicators (KPIs) around sustainable device management. Additionally, (54% globally/ 59% UK) have dedicated Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) strategies to maximisze their usage of devices, but clearly are failing to reap the full benefits of EMM solutions in extending their mobile device lifespans.

These findings have been detailed in SOTI’s inaugural sustainability report, Reduce, Reuse, Rethink: From Discard Mentality to Tech Sustainability. The report also highlights that more than half of IT leaders (52% globally/ 52% UK) believe tablets and laptops are unnecessarily replaced according to their ‘expected lifespan’, while (44% globally/ 46% UK) believe mobile phones and printers (43% UK) are also replaced for the same reason.

Despite having sustainability targets in place, and (60% globally/ 56% UK) of IT leaders agreeing that device management is an important environmental issue, (62% globally/ 59% UK) believe that having the latest mobile technology hardware at their disposal makes their organiszation more attractive for workers. These results uncover an acute need of enterprises to identify viable models of operation that would enable them to marry up these seemingly contrasting aspirations.

Contributing Factors to E-Waste

Worryingly, there are many factors contributing to the unnecessary disposal of devices.

Of the IT leaders surveyed, (39% globally/ 39% UK) agree they replace mobile phones when a newer model comes out, while (45% globally/ 43% UK) replace tablets and laptops for the same reason and (25% globally/ 25% UK) replace printers. And if requested to do so by users, (38% globally/ 34% UK) will replace mobile phones, (44% globally/ 41% UK) will replace tablets and laptops and (27% globally/ 25% UK) will replace printers too.

Further exasperating the negative sustainable impact of e-waste, (32% globally/ 31% UK) of IT leaders replace mobile phones when the warranty expires, (36% globally/ 36% UK) replace laptops and tablets and (29% globally/ 31% UK) dispose of printers for the same reason.

In addition, (39% globally/ 37% UK) of IT leaders say their organisation replaces mobile phones whether they are working or not, while (42% globally/ 38% UK) do so with tablets and laptops and (28% globally/ 28% UK) also replace printers whether they are functional or otherwise, too.

The Financial Implications

Not only are sustainability targets being impacted, but enterprises are also wasting money by disposing of electronic devices prematurely.

While the financial resources for the replacement of devices are considerable, very little of companies’ budgets are dedicated to extending the lifespan of devices. For example, organisations commonly tend to relate the end of a battery’s life to the life of the device itself, when in many cases with rugged devices such as handhelds, scanners and barcode readers, batteries are changeable, and the hardware can live on. More than 9 in 10 UK IT leaders (91% UK) said the devices used by their organisation have replaceable batteries.

Stefan Spendrup, VP of Sales in Northern and Western Europe at SOTI, said: “Devices aren’t thrown away accidentally. There is always a decision made, and it shouldn’t be as simple as seeing a newer version on the market, seeing the battery die or just ‘expecting’ it to need replacing soon.”

“There are more cost-effective, sustainable ways to monitor a device’s lifespan and to subsequently elongate it. This is even more critical in an era of IoT, where organisations feel even more compelled to stay at the very forefront of new hardware launches or upgrades. Carrying on the attitude of negligent device replacement is only going to continue to impact the world’s sustainability efforts and potential. Diagnosis and repair is a far more effective way to ensure proper device management.”

SOTI’s inaugural sustainability report, Reduce, Reuse, Rethink: From Discard Mentality to Tech Sustainability, can be downloaded here.

Report Methodology

SOTI’s research was conducted online between February 17 and March 2, 2022 via interviews with 2,500 IT decision-makers (at specialist/professional level and above) who work for companies comprising of 50 or more employees. All respondents were aged 18 and over, and the research was spread across eight countries. These included Canada (250), U.S. (500), Mexico (250), UK (500), Germany (250), France (250), Sweden (250) and Australia (250). As well as seeking to present global, overarching trends, the research was also broken down into demographics according to country, company size, decision-making authority, job role and vertical/sector.

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