Published 3 years ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Vitaly Sacred/Unsplash
Partnerships and closer collaboration between organisations are critical if we are to build new, more sustainable ecosystems. One key to the success of any
collaboration is that the partners have complementary strengths to exploit.
When we see the effects of our collective behaviour on the environment, it is
clear that as a society, we need to do better. Individuals have a role to play,
and consumer choices encourage change in companies and governments. But to go
beyond greenwashing, businesses and organisations need to implement a
sustainability strategy to deliver real change at scale.
Organisations usually start small with simple initiatives. It is a more certain
way to deliver early success. A move to sustainable energy may be a
straight-forward switch change to make; a remote working policy could help cut
carbon by reducing employee journeys to work (and it might improve their
motivation, too). Going further usually requires policies, plans — and, in many
cases, partnerships — to handle the new challenges.
There is a limit to what one company can achieve on its own. Partnerships and
closer collaboration between organisations are critical if we are to build new,
more sustainable ecosystems. The United Nations recognises the general
challenge; one of its Sustainable Development
Goals is to ‘strengthen the means
of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable
An example of this in practice is the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which
exists to accelerate development of a more circular economy. Its
network provides a pre-competitive space to learn, share knowledge, and build
new collaborative approaches. It is for global businesses that understand that
the circular economy must feature in their strategy if they are to remain
competitive. The network brings together businesses, innovators, cities and
governments, universities and thought leaders to collaborate and work on
pre-competitive opportunities. Success requires significant individual effort,
as well as collective work, to build new markets.
One key to the success of any collaboration is that the partners have
complementary strengths to exploit. The new joint venture I am involved in, BNP
3 Step IT,
combines an exceptional technology lifecycle-management solution from
3stepIT with the financing strengths and European reach of BNP Paribas
Leasing Solutions (which is also a CE100 member).
A survey that 3stepIT carried out last year found that many organisations plan
to integrate sustainability into their IT
This has potential to reduce the typical 300- to 400-kg carbon footprint of a
laptop over its life; and as most organisations discard obsolescent devices,
they also contribute to the growing mountain of
This is society’s fastest-growing waste stream, and today we produce e-waste
equivalent to the weight of 14 Eiffel Towers every day. It is easy to understand
the sustainable IT challenge, but much harder to work out how to get obsolescent
devices reused consistently, rather than dumped.
The lifecycle service we offer helps to reduce the cost and improve the service
level an IT team delivers. The service is built on circular principles, so we
ensure that most devices are reused; and, if that is not possible, salvaged for
parts. In the end, we recycle less than 3 percent of obsolescent devices. When
devices are reused, the manufacturing element of their carbon footprint — around
70 percent of the total over its life — is spread over two users. And as reuse
displaces the manufacture of a new device, e-waste is nearly halved. Our service
helps IT teams provide a better service at lower cost, and improves their own
As we were planning the joint venture company, the synergy and complementary
goals became clear. 3stepIT’s solution had evolved in Nordic countries, with
their historic interest in cleaner technologies. Beyond its Nordic and Baltic
stronghold, 3stepIT only traded in the UK and wanted to expand in Europe.
In an almost perfect mirror image, BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions has a
formidable sustainability record (the parent bank is listed in the top 100 most
sustainable companies) and wanted to build its portfolio of sustainability
solutions. It was clear we could use its reach and financing expertise to break
out of Northern Europe and bring the technology lifecycle-management solution to
clients across Europe, with only an overlap in UK operations to resolve.
We are delighted to have earned Solar Impulse Efficient Solution
certification — a rigorous, independent
assessment of the claims we make. Our service builds sustainability into
technology use and should have a place in any plan to provide a more sustainable
IT service. Buyers can take this further by choosing products with environmental
factors designed in from the start. In technology, TCO certification, for
example, rewards products that make it easy to reuse parts and materials when
the device is finally beyond refurbishing.
Plans to become more sustainable will always be based on incremental
improvements. When planning the sustainability journey, some steps will be
managed in isolation. Others require local collaboration, perhaps helping
colleagues with an app to share lifts to work. Partnerships will build the new
ecosystems that deliver larger leaps in sustainability, and here customers have
a big role to play: building circular economy and sustainability criteria into
their purchasing decision process will help novel, more sustainable services to
Although the challenges society faces are daunting, new solutions exist that
combine business and eco logic. Even if climate change didn’t exist, they would
make sense and offer clean growth, rather than the dirty status quo we have
Published Feb 21, 2020 1pm EST / 10am PST / 6pm GMT / 7pm CET
Chris Stalley is the CEO of BNP Paribas 3 Step IT. He is responsible for an ambitious plan to open branches across Europe, and build it into a multi-million business.