The charity initiative helping all sectors achieve their sustainable development goals

The UK’s leading digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation, has developed an initiative that supports all sectors to achieve their sustainable development goals, addressing two of today’s biggest issues: environmental and social. 

Partnering with the Circular Electronics Partnership (CEP), who drive a coordinated transition towards a circular electronics industry, Good Things Foundation asked Deloitte to explore the opportunities for businesses to reuse their IT equipment to fix the digital divide. 

This new research, Circular electronics for social good, highlights a significant opportunity to tackle e-waste and the digital divide. Most barriers uncovered had identifiable solutions that could enable them to overcome any concerns and business leaders are either already putting equipment up for reuse for social good or are keen to take the next step towards it.

The research has led to the development of a circular electronics for social good model which involves the reusing of electronic devices to benefit society as well as the environment. It was widely felt that the model holds the key to unlocking environmental value and bridging the digital divide – but perceived data security and end-to-end logistics concerns must be addressed.

In 2022, Good Things Foundation developed the National Device Bank to accept donations of used corporate IT equipment, refurbishing and distributing the devices, before distributing to people who can’t afford or access their own devices. 

The pilot programme is currently being scaled up, with devices distributed through the National Digital Inclusion Network, over 2,000 community organisations offering digital inclusion services in the UK. One of these organisations commented: “We support a brother and sister [with learning disabilities] and they don’t live in the same home. They both received a device, and the support team were getting them to talk to each other. It sounds lovely, but I can’t relate just how important and how rich that must be for them, to have that ability to connect.”

The project brings together three organisations that are closely aligned with their passion for circular electronics. At the report launch, business leaders were offered guidance from CEP, using their roadmap to help guide industry and stakeholders to transition to circular electronics. Members of the partnership, along with Good Things Foundation corporate partners were invited to participate in the research.

Deloitte is a regular donor of ‘end of life’ technology equipment and closing the digital divide is important to the firm. Deloitte joined the charity to conduct over 20 interviews with sustainability, IT and procurement leaders from a range of sectors including retail, technology, telecoms and financial services.

Helen Milner, CEO at Good Things Foundation said: Bridging the digital divide, whilst also enabling circularity for electronics, is possible. Repurposing IT equipment can enable multiple positive outcomes. It not only overcomes one of the main barriers to digital inclusion but can also help address device sustainability, reducing the amount of e-waste generated. 

“This report shares insights into the IT repurposing landscape, including enabling and inhibiting factors, and details concrete actions that businesses, governments, charities, and civil society organisations can take to work together. If taken seriously, these activities will improve the lives of digitally disadvantaged people and contribute to business goals to have a positive social impact.”

Mike Barber, Sustainability & Climate Partner, Deloitte, said: “The report highlights the benefits of implementing circular principles that focus on environmental impact and social value. It underscores the advantages of forming strategic partnerships with certified charities to dispose of and donate IT equipment safely and effectively. We saw organisations overcoming the barriers to IT donation and disposal, such as cost of logistics and data security when internal IT, procurement and sustainability teams came together to make it work. 

“The Circularity for Social Good Model offers organisations an additional approach to achieving their environmental and social goals. By adopting this model as part of a wider ESG framework, companies can unlock a new avenue for providing social value while contributing to the shift towards a more sustainable electronics industry.”

Carolien Van Brunschot, Manager and Lead Secretariat, Circular Electronics Partnership, said: “There is a clear need for the electronics industry to become circular. To accelerate this transition, we need more investment in responsible, circular business models that not only reduce the environmental impact of the industry and electronic products, but also bring positive social benefits.

The Circular electronics for social good model showcased in this report provides a clear compass for companies and other organisations who wish to tap into this dual opportunity. We wish to see this research and its tangible recommendations support and inspire the CEP community and others to reuse business IT equipment for social good and help close the digital divides”.

The full report can be found here

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