Digital technology has proven a boon for industry and society in many ways. Still, there’s no question that both companies that build technology and the businesses that use their products could do a better job in pursuing more sustainable tech solutions. Take storage, for example The Circular Drive Initiative, a group of technology companies that promotes the secure reuse of storage hardware, estimates that 90% of hard drives are destroyed rather than wiped and reused.
While there are cybersecurity arguments for taking a zero-risk approach to the disposal of used hard drives, there are alternative, greener solutions that may be an option not only for better managing storage, but also for managing e-waste, powering operations, and supporting other business functions. Below, 20 members of the Forbes Technology Council discuss some technology-related practices businesses and industries could adopt for better sustainability.
1. Moving To The Cloud
A sustainable practice that any business can incorporate is digitizing its assets and implementing cloud adoption for easy storage, access, and security. Not only does digitizing files and moving processes to the cloud cut down on paper waste, but it can also help an organization better safeguard sensitive materials.
2. Adopting Extended Producer Responsibility
The technology industry needs to embrace the Extended Producer Responsibility approach, which seeks to mitigate the environmental impacts of products throughout the entire product life cycle. Full adoption of the approach involves creating industry awareness and education and collaborating with governments, nongovernmental organizations, and other tech waste recycling programs, as well as promoting consumer participation in tech recycling programs.
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3. Providing Education For Employees
Properly understanding the problem is key to solving it. As such, providing high-quality environmental impact education and training for employees is vital. This will enable them to innovate, develop, and follow sustainable practices; understand how to use equipment responsibly; reduce digital clutter; properly manage e-waste; and deliver energy conservation, among a variety of other measures.
4. Establishing Refurbish And Repair Programs
Businesses can establish programs for refurbishing and fixing technological equipment. The life spans of devices can be increased by attempting to diagnose and remedy problems rather than automatically replacing broken or outdated hardware. Such an approach also conserves resources and lessens waste output, all of which diminishes the need for new manufacturing.
5. Switching To SSDs
We encounter two types of hard drives: hard disk drives, which offer slower but economical storage, and solid-state drives, which are a faster and more durable option. As a policy, data encryption is imperative. HDDs are becoming obsolete, and they can be dismantled in such a way that the parts can be sent for recycling. As for SSDs, cryptographic wiping or erasure techniques make them as good as new for reuse.
6. Adding Eco-Labeling For Hard Drives
Adopting eco-labeling and certification for hard drives can help consumers make choices that favor reuse over destruction. By creating a transparent system that rates and verifies the environmental impact of hardware, businesses that sell hardware can promote responsible consumption and customers can make informed decisions, buying products or services that adopt eco-friendly methods that include secure wiping and reuse.
7. Adopting HaaS Models
One sustainability-focused practice a business can adopt is adopting a hardware-as-a-service model. Instead of purchasing and later discarding hardware, companies lease it from providers who maintain, upgrade and responsibly recycle the equipment at the end of its life cycle. This model promotes a circular economy in tech, reduces e-waste, and conserves resources.
8. Integrating Renewable Energy Solutions
Integrating decentralized renewable energy solutions, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and microgrids, can significantly reduce a company’s reliance on fossil fuels and decrease its carbon emissions. These localized energy systems empower businesses to generate clean energy on-site, reducing transmission losses and enhancing energy efficiency.
9. Donating Used Laptops
Businesses should consider donating their used corporate laptops (in a cyber-secure manner) to children who are underprivileged. By refurbishing and securely repurposing used laptops, companies can reduce electronic waste and bridge the digital divide. By employing data-wiping techniques and ensuring robust cybersecurity measures, these laptops can be made safe for use by children.
10. Conducting Technology Life Cycle Assessments
Conducting life cycle assessments of technology solutions helps companies identify their environmental impact from production to disposal. Businesses can choose products and services with lower life-cycle environmental footprints, considering factors such as energy consumption, raw materials, and recyclability.
11. Sustainably Manufacturing Storage Devices And Chips
It’s essential to pursue the usage of sustainable resources in the manufacture of storage devices and chips. The relationship between paranoia and security will never be overcome by sustainability. The best security practice is to destroy storage devices; therefore, the best sustainability practice is to manufacture them to be destroyed. Recycling raw materials and harvesting mechanics would be a good start.
12. Implementing Comprehensive E-Waste Recycling
Implementing comprehensive e-waste recycling programs would involve partnering with certified recycling facilities to ensure the proper handling of electronic waste, including hard drive wiping and repurposing. By embracing sustainable practices, businesses can reduce their environmental impact, conserve resources, and contribute to a more circular economy that promotes long-term sustainability.
13. Looking For Energy-Efficient Data Centers
The way a business stores its data can have a direct impact on the environment. Old-school data centers cost a lot of money and use a ton of electricity (powered by fossil fuels) to stay active. If you want to build a sustainable tech company, look for energy-efficient data centers that produce fewer carbon emissions. You can also use the cloud as a safe and secure way to manage and maintain company data.
14. Cleansing Hard Drives For Reuse
Today, disk shredding is the safest disposal method for ensuring that your data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. However, wiping the hard drive and overwriting the data—when done correctly—allows recovery of data only in near-laboratory conditions. Such drives can then be reused in new computers. Therefore, it’s essential to ensure that drives are easily cleansed in a manner that prevents data recovery.
15. Transitioning To Digital Processes
To drive enhanced sustainability, businesses should prioritize implementing immediate and feasible measures, such as transitioning to digital processes to go paperless. By doing so, businesses can pave the way for the gradual adoption of broader environmental initiatives.
16. Improving Fleet Management
Fleet management can be improved with the help of predictive technology such as artificial intelligence. By analyzing historical data, companies can establish fleet operations that are more efficient and cost-effective through such measures as optimizing resources and fuel consumption based on information from relevant data points.
17. Leveraging Sustainability Enterprise Software
Regardless of the industry, sustainability enterprise software helps businesses quantify, understand, and reduce the emissions and waste they produce in their value chains. Once we deeply understand what stage of our product creation process produces the most waste, we can work on sustainable strategies to decrease it.
18. Creating Incentives For Hard Drive Return And Recycling
There is definitely a market for used hard drives, and manufacturers should increase their efforts to entice consumers to trust their data-wiping techniques so hard drives can be reused. A program that involves the drive’s owner in verifying that the data is wiped, along with financial incentives to return rather than destroy old hard drives, would go a long way toward achieving sustainability objectives.
19. Adopting Energy Harvesting Tech
Businesses could adopt energy-harvesting technologies to power their devices. This involves capturing small amounts of energy that would otherwise be wasted—such as light, vibrations, or thermal differences—and converting it into electricity. This practice can prolong device life spans, reducing the frequency of hardware replacements and e-waste.
20. Crafting A Data Destruction Policy
To promote sustainability, businesses must focus on practices that lead to a circular economy and regular recycling and reuse. For IT assets, secure data destruction practices must be followed—that is, overwriting media following the NIST Clear method and using cryptographic erasure. Crafting a data destruction policy is important; it can include destroying a drive when it has bad sectors that are beyond repair.