Saving the Australian environment: what IT leaders can do

While climate change remains a politically contentious issue in Australia, it’s getting harder to make a credible case that it’s nothing to worry about. As temperatures climb ever higher, so do the costs for the Australian environment and those who depend on it. This means more floods, droughts, heatwaves, and ocean warming.

As a look back at Australia’s climate shows, the country has had an almost unbroken run of scorching summers over the last quarter of a century. The summer that just passed was the hottest on record. In late 2018, a survey from the Australian Institute of Company Directors found that the nation’s corporate powerbrokers nominated climate change as the number one issue they wanted the Federal Government to take action on for the first time ever.

For IT leaders who acknowledge the reality of climate change, there is a middle path between resigned fatalism and chaining oneself to an old-growth rainforest tree—simple changes in how you select and dispose of equipment can make a profound difference.

The sustainable business revolution

Fortunately, it is possible to preserve the Australian environment and enjoy the benefits of modern civilisation and our miracle economy. In 2018, the Commonwealth Bank was rated as Australia’s most sustainable business, and this is partly due to the bank’s commitment to its branches using renewable energy.

Loggers are traditionally unpopular among environmentalists, but even they are now winning green plaudits. West Australian timber producer Westpine Industrieshas invested in state-of-the-art technology to ensure every bit of every log it cuts down is used. For instance, sawdust and chips of wood that would once have been discarded are now being used to make particle board.

In most cases, making a business more environmentally friendly isn’t rocket science. As explains, it’s a matter of assessing the nature and extent of the harm your business is doing to the environment and then introducing procedures to minimise or, ideally, eliminate this harm. It’s also a good idea to have a system in place that monitors whether the business is actually reducing its impact over time. Any business doing these things can reasonably claim to be a sustainable business that’s working to protect the Australian environment.

What you can do

On a per capita basis, Australians punch well above their e-waste weight. We collectively generate around 700,000 tonnes worth of discarded printers, computers, phones, TVs, and electrical appliances every year. Then there’s the 18 million eminently recyclable, empty printer cartridges we send to landfill in Australia every year. Plus, there’s all the electricity—most of it sourced from coal-fired power plants—that work devices guzzle.

So, what can a time-poor but planet-loving IT business leader do to detoxify their IT environment? Piggybacking on the efforts of eco-friendly suppliers such as HP is one option.

Want to make sure your business is buying devices that delicately sip power rather than gulp it down? No worries. HP has a plethora of energy-efficient printers. Want to make sure you’re buying devices that maximise your use of recycled materials and can be recycled at the end of their lives? Well, HP’s an industry leader when it comes to remanufacturing programs and closed-loop recycling.

Lying awake at night wondering what all that plastic, metal, ink, and toner in your business’s discarded printer cartridges is leaching into the water table? You can sleep soundly if you sign up for Cartridges 4 Planet Ark. They’ll collect those spent cartridges (or direct you to a nearby collection spot) and then use their constituent parts to make fences, flooring, and pens.

On top of all that, HP also provides funding for planet-preserving initiatives such as TechCollect, a free national e-waste recycling service.

Take action now

Will it cost more to buy a printer from an environmentally responsible company than a corner-cutting operator who is solely focused on maximising sales and profit margins? It could, but averting an eco-apocalypse isn’t going to be entirely cost-free.

But if you can summon the resolve to make a solid case in the boardroom (or your boss’s office) for a greener IT environment—and encourage all your IT business leader peers to do the same—you can hold your head high knowing you have done your bit for the Australian environment and sustainable business.