Changing The Game On Sustainability Through Circularity

By Amy Zuckerman May 14, 2023

Only together can we address climate change and lessen our impact on the earth – for people, for the planet, and for our mutual prosperity

Changing The Game On Sustainability Through Circularity
Businesses have enormous power and opportunity to make a measurable difference in our world, and ESG is a vehicle for that mission.

Sustainability is now an integral aspect of India’s highly competitive corporate landscape. The latest Union Budget supported this by identifying ‘green growth’ as one of the top seven priorities for ushering in a green industrial and economic transition. It will promote renewable energy efficiency, water conservation, and environmental sustainability. Consider all the global challenges we face today: our climate crisis, the depletion of finite natural resources - these issues are demanding attention, and organisations need to be sustainable for the long term to remedy them.

Now, companies are expected to lead the way in addressing ESG challenges the world presents. Businesses have enormous power and opportunity to make a measurable difference in our world, and ESG is a vehicle for that mission. ESG evaluates organisations on two things: first, their ability to have a positive environmental and social impact, and second, to be well governed and sustainable for the long term. That means that organisations must strengthen their internal commitment and external transparency regarding ESG performance. They must also work in association with other companies to set standards, strengthen compliance, address carbon emissions and environmental impacts, and hold each other accountable.

For the public, this shift calls for accountability and collective efforts to drive positive change across all industries – but also a mandate to collaborate. We must fully engage the entire ecosystem of technology stakeholders to achieve sustainability goals and ambitions. Only together can we innovate and elevate society’s overall sustainability commitment. This calls on the value chain of manufacturers, suppliers, customers, governments, associations, and numerous external partners working toward common goals. We need to work collectively to set standards, to strengthen compliance, address carbon emissions, and to hold each other accountable.

For products and services, this means enlarging the circular economy by developing a comprehensive sustainability portfolio. Consider target-setting for carbon neutrality and business process alignment to increase the sustainability of the company’s operations, products, as well as products’ use and end of life.  Priorities such as lowering greenhouse gas emissions in operations, designing products to use fewer of the earth’s finite resources, and taking back old products for reuse and materials recycling are a strong start. 

In the storage industry, for instance, tens of thousands of drives at minimum are destroyed each year. Today’s widespread of HDD shredding is contributing to higher carbon emissions and expanding landfills. As the totality of data in the world keeps expanding at a great pace, the demand for more bytes grows and more drives are produced. At the same time, thousands of drives are reaching the end of their useful life every year. In North America alone, 22 million hard drives age out of data centres annually. A truly “sustainable datasphere” requires a new mind set, and circularity is key.

 The current linear, or “take-make-waste" consumption model is unsustainable, continuously consuming the earth’s finite resources and generating waste. By contrast, in a circular economy, products that have reached the end of their useful life and are otherwise destined for landfills can be repaired, refurbished, and resold. Extending a product’s life in this way is the most sustainable path to take. If that isn’t possible, then parts and materials can be recovered and reintroduced into the supply chain. Circularity, therefore, is the crux of sustainability that also includes addressing greenhouse gas emissions; conserving use of rare-earth minerals, water, and power; limiting waste, and more.

Of course, for the circular economy to work, it needs to be profitable. The good news is that sustainability and profit need not be mutually exclusive. A wealth of research supports that companies with a dedication to making ESG progress reap financial benefits. In addition to caring for the planet, a circular economy also has business benefits, such as curbing the usual disruptions associated with unidirectional consumption, operational efficiency, product stewardship, time to market, compliance, total cost of ownership savings, social impact, company reputation, and business longevity. 

Please consider joining with industry colleagues in a commitment to lowering our collective environmental impact. We must engage the entire value chain of suppliers, manufacturers, customers, civil society, and government to achieve the common goal of a sustainable future. Only together can we address climate change and lessen our impact on the earth – for people, for the planet, and for our mutual prosperity.

(Amy Zuckerman, Director, ESG and Engagement at Seagate Technology.)