It Takes a Village
Throughout the 1990s, corporations across the U.S. handed out laptop and desktop systems to nearly every employee. We cringe when we think back to a time when our companys salespeople werent able to log on from their hotel at night or even place an order electronically from a clients office.
Now companies pass out computer hardware like grandma gives out Halloween candy. However, the end-of-life issues of Halloween candy are easy to swallow, end-of-life issues for computer hardware arent. What do you do with computers when they die?
Some assertive and responsible leaders within major corporations are readily recognizing the numerous risks involved with computer disposal and are taking action.
Surprisingly though, U.S. corporations have generally been slow in planning and implementing formal internal policies on how to dispose of or recycle their IT equipment, now commonly referred to as e-waste.
It is estimated by our own National Safety Council that, in 2005, there were more than 300 million obsolete computers in the U.S. Does your IT staff keep track of what happens to your e-waste once it is out of their possession? How many requests do you get for donations to churches, schools and even charities that want to deliver the outdated hardware to developing countries?
When these organizations run into technical problems and support is not readily available, the machines usually end up on the scrap heap, potentially becoming an environmental hazard. This also means they could be a corporate liability, with a potentially hefty price tag, for you.
By keeping the entire employee base well informed of the need and requirement for proper computer disposal, you can actually create a rallying point for those with the most passion and diligence for avoiding any negative environmental impact.
Be proud to shout your organizations initiative and achievements from the top of the next corporate newsletter. Local media outlets are often interested in promoting the efforts of proud environmental stewards.
Next, what about the possibility of a security breach? We work so diligently to keep our data protected while our employees are using the systems, so why in the world should we ignore security after we are done with them?
Old equipment is often handed over to a third party with very little thought to the serious risk that critical and confidential data may be recoverable from the hard drive. It is just as important to protect your data when systems are headed to the recycling plant as it is when they are installed at workstations in your office.
And, finally, you can save money by planning for IT disposal. Upfront planning and outsourcing for e-waste disposal can lower the total cost of technology ownership for most organizations.
Most company executives, especially those with an eye on corporate reputation or those responsible for regulatory compliance, have long understood the financial risk that comes with the disposal of bi-products required for a company to run. A CIO, CTO or IT manager that is actively engaged in creating and fulfilling best practice guidelines for appropriate disposal of e-waste must now join those ranks.
Engaging numerous stakeholders across the entire corporation can be accomplished by ensuring that each department understands the potential risks and costs associated with mismanagement of electronic waste.
Whether its finance, legal, marketing, communications, IT or even sales; these independent work groups can help you safeguard company equipment to insure that disposal is handled appropriately, legally and without incident.
Jonathan Zigman is a senior vice president for CSI Leasing, one of the largest independent IT leasing companies in the world.