BNP Paribas In Joint Venture For IT Recycling

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The move to send many employees to work from home has stranded a lot of desktop PCs, lonely and unloved on desks in nearly empty offices. Their future intrigues BNP Paribas, the French bank, which has partnered with 3 Step IT to expand the Helsinki-based company’s IT recycling program across Europe.

The company, formed in 1997, refers to its model as circular: “3 Step IT was founded, as the name says, on 3 steps of IT lifecycle: acquisition, management and replacement,” its blog explains. It has grown to over 350 employees and 4,000 customers and operates in 10 different countries. The new partnership with BNP Paribas will extend its sustainable services across Europe.

The IT disposal numbers are staggering. “Over 53 million metric tons of electronics were dumped in landfill in 2019, and new research commissioned by 3stepIT has shown this problem could worsen as home working leaves office tech gathering dust.” The waste is the equivalent of throwing away 1,000 laptops every second. Covid-17 and work from home (WFH) will probably increase the flow of discarded IT equipment.

On the flip side of that problem is opportunity — firms will be replacing those abandoned desktop machines with laptops, notebooks and tablets, a replacement effort that will strain budgets and opens the way for leasing, rather than buying computers, presumably an opportunity for BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions. The joint venture as announced the appointment of Carmen Ene as CEO. She has held senior positions at IBM leasing including general manager of global financing Italy and vice president of global financing in northeast Europe.

Ene said that the majority of office desktops (45%) are replaced every three to four years, and about 20% are replaced every one to two years.

“The rapid rate of tech innovation and development has made keeping pace with change a significant challenge for businesses as technology lifecycles have essentially shortened. Businesses are often seeking better, faster tech as soon as it enters the market, as it clearly provides a competitive advantage, increases productivity and can even improve employee satisfaction.”

Intel, unsurprisingly, has often promoted regular replacement for more efficient processing, lower power consumption and better security in each new range of processors. Employee satisfaction may be hard to measure exactly, but people will chafe at having to work on technology in the office that is a generation or two behind what they and their kids have at home.

The IT lifecycle management firm found that dealing with obsolete IT equipment was not a top priority at many firms.

One in 10 still dump or destroy devices, a quarter lock them away in storage and five percent have no asset disposal police at all, according to 3 Step IT.

Information security is a major concern, in recycling IT equipment, especially for financial services firms. Ene said the joint venture complies with stringent European data privacy regulations.

“The collected devices go through an ISO27001 accredited data destruction process and all data is erased to infosec 5 standard. The service also includes a data destruction certificate,” she said in an email. “Almost all hard drives are securely erased, with just a small percentage being broken when it is stipulated in the contract. When this is the case we shred the hard drives into small pieces that are recycled into new material, another example of how we are trying to eliminate waste.” Processing of old equipment is done in the Nordic region, despite the relatively high cost of labor there, to ensure high quality controls and reduce the operation’s carbon footprint.

Looking ahead, BNP Paribas expects continued growth in recycling and replacement.

“From recent research that we commissioned on European businesses and the IT market, a big shift is underway with desktops PCs being retired in favor of more mobile technology, such as laptops and tablets – quickened due to the global pandemic and a large amount of the global workforce working from home.”

Even in the office, social distancing policies will make portable computers the device of choice so staff can move easily.

“Our recently commissioned research showed that just over half (51%) of banking and insurance firms in Europe are planning on investing more in laptops over the next 12 months,” she said. “To me, this says that a lot of these organizations were caught flat-footed by the Covid pandemic and are having to undergo rapid and unplanned transitions to new ways of working. This can represent significant capital outlay that business can ill-afford at the moment. That’s why we’re seeing over half of all businesses surveyed looking to move towards new models of asset acquisition, such as financing, over the next two years.”

She expects that many of the laptops used in finance will be tethered to large flatscreens to handle large spreadsheets.

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