Canalys Forum EMEA 2022 Expert Hubs: Squaring up to circular opportunities

Canalys Forum EMEA 2022 Expert Hubs: Squaring up to circular opportunities

Partners and vendors consider how channel-wide collaboration can drive the circular economy.


Canalys ran a series of “Expert Hubs” at its Canalys Forum EMEA 2022 The aim was to gather experts within the channel partner community to discuss a variety of subjects pertaining to one of the key event themes: cybersecurity, cloud, managed services and sustainability. The sessions featured a mix of partners, vendors and, in some cases, third-party experts. Event participants were invited to watch the live discussions in-person in Barcelona or online via Canapii. In this series of reports, we summarize some of the key points that came out of these sessions.  

Partner participants: ALSO, TD SYNNEX, Dustin, ConXioN, Egiss, W Hotel 

Vendor participants: HP, Lenovo 

Key points 

As the technology industry faces growing pressures over its environmental footprint, channel partners are working to break away from short device lifecycles and wasting viable device components. The circular economy is integral to this drastic rethink of hardware consumption as partners work to reuse and refurbish discarded IT equipment.

The panelists at the Canalys Forum EMEA 2022 shared their valuable insights into the state of the circular economy.

Partners must record key metrics and share them openly

The Expert Hub panelists agreed that existing circular economy initiatives are often limited by a lack of data. Specific information is needed to accurately track what happens to secondhand components. Figures such as the percentage of processors that are salvaged and reused can provide valuable insights, but this data is often difficult to obtain and share between vendors, distributors and ITAD service providers.

The panel emphasized the importance of tracking metrics such as energy consumption and CO2 emissions throughout the entire lifecycle of devices – including their “second lives” after refurbishment. Naturally, this means vendors should consider the GHG outputs linked to customer use and, eventually, the disposal of devices, as part of their Scope 3 emissions. 

Panelists concurred that while consistently tracking and publishing KPIs is vital, this knowledge must translate into action to decarbonize value chains and minimize e-waste generation.

Certification and regulation are needed to build trust in circular models

A common theme throughout the discussion was that customers need assurance in the credibility and security of asset disposal services. To build customers’ confidence in circular initiatives and ITAD service providers, verification from vendors is essential. 

For circular opportunities to become more widely adopted in the channel, vendors need to certify their ITAD partners so that customers know their discarded equipment will be handled by trusted professionals. This certification reassures customers that their returned hardware will have a decent second life and, importantly, it indicates that vendors’ high data protection standards will be met. Customers cannot afford data breaches, nor the resultant fines and brand damage, so trusting vendors’ approved takeback services is paramount to transitioning to a circular model. 

Vendors, distributors and resellers each have their own roles to play

For the circular economy to function efficiently and equitably, there must be harmonization across the ecosystem. 

Naturally, vendors have the most influential role in the circular economy. Vendors on the panel identified their role as providers of tools and knowledge to help partners adopt circular models, as demonstrated in initiatives such as the HP Planet Partners scheme for recycling printing supplies. Moreover, vendors can support the circular economy by designing devices that are easy to disassemble for component replacement or removal. 

Resellers can buy back customers’ used equipment for refurbishment, but this requires approval from vendors. Panelists recognized the need for collaboration here amid vendors’ concerns of emerging gray markets for refurbished equipment. Additionally, resellers have a duty to push refurbished devices harder so their customers can shift away from the unsustainable “make-use-dispose” model of consumption.

The panel discussed the role of distributors as the “middlemen” between vendors and resellers. With their direct customer access and central role in the ecosystem, distributors can facilitate and grow circular activities worldwide. Distributor participants agreed that supporting the circular economy is already a growing business area for them as they support partners’ sustainability goals. 

The circular economy means disruption – but collaboration can create mutually beneficial outcomes

Across the Expert Hub panel, there was unanimous agreement in the importance of working together and creating an ecosystem built on partnerships. To shape a more sustainable IT industry, growth must be decoupled from the consumption of raw resources, entailing major changes in financial decisions, provisioning processes and logistics.

Between vendors, distributors, resellers and ITAD service providers, the expertise and tools in the channel can build thriving circular economies. But, as panelists discussed, there needs to be better collaboration all round to leverage skills and minimize the waste and emissions of the wider IT sector. Unity across value chains will be essential to addressing the channel’s alarming environmental impact, so compensation schemes must encourage partners to work together toward their common goal – not compete.