Green4Good: Stopping Climate Change One Computer at a Time (Finalist)
Green4Good is designed and managed by Compugen Finance Inc. and supported by Earth Rangers, and other Canadian organizations that focus on environmental impacts of human activities. Among participants in the program is TD Bank.
What it Does
Green4Good achieves environmental and social benefits by secure refurbishment and re-use of IT assets (desktops and notebooks) that would traditionally have gone to long-term storage or been recycled while raising money for charities through the proceeds of the asset resale.
The environmental benefits are related to deferral of manufacturing of new equipment (the productive life of the asset may be extended by years in the hands of end-users with no need to purchase new equipment every two to three years). Manufacturing of new computers has huge environmental costs.
Technology and Social Ecosystem
Who needs to dispose of these assets? Canadian enterprises that manage hundreds or thousands of desktop or notebook computers. As a rule these enterprises apply refresh cycles for their equipment that correspond to their asset depreciation schedules as well as addressing their need for consistency in hardware profiles—its more efficient to manage and maintain a large class of identical assets than it is to manage a very heterogeneous environment. Once the assets are due for a refresh, they need to be removed from circulation and, until Green4Good, were often warehoused as a way of keeping any private data they contained out of the wrong hands and avoiding the unreliable grey market in used IT equipment.
With Green4Good, secure, efficient asset refurbishment and ultimate resale has become the preferred method of passing these decommissioned assets out of the enterprise environment, safely into the ISO-certified configuration environment of Compugen where they are wiped, cleaned, given legal, licensed operating systems, and warranted, mostly for consumer end-users. Only about 10 percent of assets are found to be irreparable and only these are destined for environmentally responsible recycling. Equipment never goes to landfill.
Thus Green4Good serves both the market for responsible end-of-life asset disposal and the environmental concerns of a growing number of non-profits, charities and Canadian for-profit businesses. For example, Green4Good has major sponsorship from Hewlett-Packard Canada and Sims Recycling, and strategic partnership with World Wildlife Fund, Friends of the Earth , Earth Rangers and Air Miles, which are all Advocates of Green4Good.
The benefits are local and global, in terms of the climate change impact from reduced GHG emissions and the opportunities afforded businesses to donate the proceeds to a charity of their choice.
Supplementary Report on Innovation
One of the most innovative components of the program, and one that speaks to the need for creative partnerships, is the ability of individuals purchasing refurbished equipment to acquire Air Miles for their purchase. It is noted elsewhere that Air Miles has done email campaigns to raise awareness of Green4Good; it is a powerful marketing agent in this effort through its unmatched ability to reach consumers, to understand their behaviour and to provide excellent incentives.
Also on the theme of marketing and the need for creative partnership, we plan to promote Green Days with the corporations participating in Green4Good in an effort to engage their employees to "empty their closets , basements and garages" of their old technology. We will provide a bin at the employee’s office on a particular day to collect and take away all of their aged IT assets. For many people who have acquired numerous personal computers over the years, this will be a true boon. A nominal donation will be asked of the employee that will go to a charity.
Working with our environmental partner Earth Rangers we will provide resources to help them discuss the G4G program when they visit the schools across the GTA, thus educating children on the benefit of re-use over recycling.
Addressing Climate Change
According to a 2003 UN study (pdf), the manufacture of one desktop computer requires 22 Kg of chemicals, 1.5 tonnes of water, and 240 Kg of fossil fuels—about 10 times the weight of the computer itself. (In contrast, new refrigerators and cars require approximately their own weight in fossil fuels.) Further, by one estimate, four fifths of the energy consumed by a computer over its lifetime is associated with its manufacture. Extending the life of a computer, thereby deferring the manufacture of a new one, is good environmental stewardship.
Green4Good is promoting re-use, not recycle.
Since inception, Green4Good has directed about 135,000 computers into reuse that were mostly destined for recycling. A conservative estimate of fossil fuel reduction achieved would be 2,400,000 Kg (or 2400 tonnes), resulting in signficant reduction in GHG emissions.
Assuming gasoline as a fossil fuel, the 2400 tonnes of fossil fuel associated with the manufacture of, for example, 100,000 PCs equates to 17,688,000 litres of gasoline (.737 Kg / Litre), which produces by the calculator provided at www.toronto.ca/taf/quant_policy_approach.htm 2.3 x 17 688 000 Kg of CO2 = 40 682 400 Kg. Other fuels would produce worse or better results, and different assumptions would yield varying reductions of CO2. However, the net reduction in CO2 emissions from this initiative must be very substantial, in the millions of Kilograms.
While Toronto is not a centre of PC or PC-component manufacturing, we recognize that the impacts of CO2 on climate change are global and not local. A sustained reduction of CO2 emissions in China or Japan, for example, is as important to climate change as it would be if it took place in Etobicoke or Scarborough.
The Green4Good program is targeting an additional 100 000 computers for the next twelve months. Given current diversion data, that would amount to an additional 90 000 computers diverted from recycling and an estimated CO2 reduction (based on the above numbers) of over 30 000 000 Kg.
We believe that as the program matures and the asset mix changes with addition of new partners (businesses seeking to dispose of assets and others seeking to redistribute refurbished assets) there will be challenges to meet these CO2 reduction targerts: the ratio of refurbish to recycle could change because of the age or condition of the assets; the consumer marketplace could change either beneficially or prejudicially towards refurbished assets. There will be significant work involved in adapting the marketing strategies both at the asset acquisition end and at the disposition end of the process.
We are aware that the novelty of Green4Good may contribute to some of the uptake and believe that consistent communications through the channels already mentioned using a combination of existing and new marketing material will be critical to maintaining momentum. Awards nominations, for example, require resources and matching grants from partners and other sources of funding will be helpful in carrying the process forward. Whether or not Green4Good wins a Gold medal at the Microsoft Canadian Impact Awards later this month, a submission will need to be made to the international forum for Microsoft Partner awards, the Worldwide Partner Conference, which takes place in July each year. A win or honourable mention at the Worldwide Partner Conference would practically guarantee that the program would be adopted / adapted by other Microsoft partners outside of Canada on a scale that could dwarf what Green4Good is doing here. This would be a huge win for the environment globally.
Business Sustainability Model
As described in response to Question 1, above, the program is sustainable and highly successful because it matches environmental and social goals of for-profit donors with needs and aspirations of non-profits. Its greatest exponents are drawn from both sides of this equation.
Through its network of sponsors, advocates and beneficiaries (both for-profit and non-profit), Green4Good is serving to evangelize for green-house-gas emission reductions, and show donors how to make substantial contributions to charities they target for support, be they women’s shelters, educational concerns, international development projects or local initiatives. Charities and projects benefiting have included: Megan’s Walk; Mexican School (CNRL); Outreach Zanzibar; Project Childcare; RCMP Foundation; Reach for the Rainbow; Sick Kids; Bereaved Families of Ontario; Building Bridges; Unison Community Services; Angel Foundation for Learning; Bowmanville Valley Co-Op; CCFAA; Compugen Kids; Earth Rangers; Friends of the Earth; Homeward Bound; Impact Ministries; Massey Centre; Maya Fund. The opportunities are vast as the charities are targeted completely at the discretion of the donors.
Through these same sponsors, advocates and beneficiaries, Green4Good has gained significant presence in the Canadian marketplace. Here are some of the ways in which the program has gained recognition and support:
- Globe & Mail– “Wipe the hard drive and pass it on” (April/10)
- Computer Dealer News – Best Green Solution award
- HP – Eco Preservation award
- Nominated for the ‘Green Toronto Awards’ for Environmental Awareness
- Nominated for Microsoft ‘Partner of the Year’ at the Worldwide Partner Conference
- Computer Dealer News – Green4Good interview
- Computer Dealer News – Top 10 Green Solution Providers
- Green4Good video sponsored by Microsoft
- CIO Magazine – June/11 (HP-sponsored promotion)
Additional coverage continues through web-based and email campaigns such as:
- Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness (CCAA) website and HP-sponsored Video
- Friends of the Earth website
- WWF email campaign (160,000 people) and newsletter
- Air Miles email campaigns to over 2 million people
- Woodgreen Community Services website
Why is Green4Good in the Right Hands?
Compugen Inc. through its complete enterprise-level IT lifecycle services, and Compugen Finance, through its IT leasing and recycling capabilities, both have strong relationships with large Canadian enterprises that are good stewards of their IT assets, so that when these assets come up for renewal they have significant residual value. Traditionally, large enterprises have been concerned with security and privacy, so have not been willing to part with decommissioned assets, but have preferred to store them securely so no private data could ever inadvertently be shared. The costs of storage, while high, were considered less than the cost of privacy breaches or the cost of secure wiping and disposal. Compugen, with 30 years’ experience in the IT business, has audited processes and procedures, and efficiencies in its operations that permit a high level of confidence and major cost savings over other methods of asset disposition. Enterprises thus see a double win in assigning these decommissioned assets to a refurbishment stream through CFI, as the assets have substantial residual value in the context of this Compugen-engineered Green4Good program. Ninety percent of the assets entering the stream are able to be refurbished, rather than recycled. Refurbished assets, properly re-licenced and guaranteed, are typically resold through the consumer market at a significant discount from the price of new equipment.
Compugen was Canada’s first Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher, giving it access to standard Microsoft operating system licenses at reduced cost to the purchaser. Since the value of such depreciated assets cannot show up on the corporate balance sheet, it can be directed to a charity of choice as cash or credits toward acquisition of newer more efficient IT equipment. And, the reduced carbon footprint associated with deferred computer manufacturing—a computer kept in operation is a new computer not built—is of particular interest to Compugen’s partners in the non-profit and charitable sectors with a focus on GHG and its negative impact on climate stability. We all benefit when businesses can find ways, such as through Green4Good, to reduce the environmental impact of their operations, and benefit a number of other social concerns through direct donation of cash or credits to acquire modern, more efficient assets, that they would otherwise acquire anyway but at a higher cost.
Our Local Team
Additional Supporting Information
Green4Good is being positioned for greater acclaim through selective nomination to national and international awards programs, such as Microsoft's Canadian Impact Awards, for which it has been selected as a finalist in the category Sustainability Partner of the Year.
The growth of this program will come primarily through strategic alignment with our business partners. For example, Hewlett-Packard Canada has recently renewed its annual sponsorship of the program and Ingram Micro, a major distributor of computer technology, has partnered with Green4Good to promote the program through their network of several thousand resellers across Canada. In this way the message of Green4Good will reach thousands of Canadian corporations, many of whom have significant footprints in the GTA. Our recycling partners are also recognizing that Green4Good can help divert equipment obtained outside of the Green4Good program from the recycle to the refurbish stream. They are thus becoming suppliers of product into the program for refurbishment that would otherwise end up as plastic and metal for recycling owing to ignorance of its true value.
The project is currently self-supporting, and the climate change benefits can only increase with greater refurbishment uptake by local, regional and national businesses looking both for positive environmental impact and responsible ways of disposing of their retired computer equipment, with a charitable twist!
Supplementary Note about Sustainability
As alluded to above, there is a requirement to keep the communication with existing and prospective partners fresh and compelling. There is no prospect of the marketplace for refurbishment drying up as the stream is steady with enterprise refresh cycles bringing on line a constant supply of systems requiring some form of disposition. It is still the case that the vast majority of systems are disposed of through less imaginative channels than that offered by Green4Good. It is our challenge to find resources to communicate our value from the environmental, charitable and business perspectives. The opportunity is huge and we have just started.